Posts Tagged ‘1920s’

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The Rest Hollow Mystery

May 9, 2017

When reading a certain kind of novel, it can be helpful to know that there aren’t going to be that many people in it, and that some of the characters who have been referenced are either identical with each other, or will turn out to be related. A dark-haired young man is introduced, but not named. Then someone tells the story of a dark-haired young man who’s estranged from his family. You slot them into one pigeonhole in your head, and that reduces the chaos to the point where you can maintain a tenuous grip on what’s going on.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, The Rest Hollow Mystery is 100% the kind of book that calls for that technique. But there’s too much going on, and too many people involved, for it to work. The first batch of chapters left me completely disoriented, and the next batch introduced more characters than I had pigeonholes for. And then Rebecca Newman Porter threw in a truly excellent twist. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Jane Journeys On

April 7, 2017

I bookmarked Ruth Comfort Mitchell’s Jane Journeys On after reading Play the Game!, but the further away I got from reading Play the Game!, the worse I remembered it being, so my bookmark probably would have remained unread forever if Franziska hadn’t left me a comment telling me it’s full of things I like. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Penny Plain

March 21, 2017

More Anna Buchan: Penny Plain, which is pretty great, although it gave me fewer “I only care about Anna Buchan now” feelings than The Proper Place. Jean Jardine, a 23-year-old Scottish girl, is the main character, but not by a lot. She lives in the town of Priorsford with her three brothers–technically two, but Jean doesn’t like it when people imply that the Mhor isn’t really part of the family–a dog, and a middle-aged maid. The Jardines are poor and literary and happy, and Jean’s chief worry is that their landlord will someday come from London and evict them from their cottage.

Their landlord does come, incognito, but he’s so impressed by Jean’s selfless kindness and the Jardines’ attachment to the cottage that he goes away again. Anyway, his arrival in town is overshadowed by that of Pamela Reston, a 40-year-old society beauty looking for some peace and quiet. She and Jean become good friends, and her newness is a good excuse for Buchan to introduce us to all of the local characters.

I’m not sure Penny Plain knows what it wants to be. Pamela and Jean each get a romance, and there’s some moderately dramatic business about an inheritance, but those feel like afterthoughts, things that Buchan put in because a book is supposed to have them, or something like them. The heart of the book is the small domestic incidents, and the casual conversations with neighbors, and the little bits of family histories, and people being nice to each other. Not that any of the plottier bits are bad–I was definitely invested while they were happening–but in retrospect I would rather have had more of the Macdonalds and Mrs. Hope and the Mhor. And I think this is going to be a great one to reread, because it will be better with no element of suspense.

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The Proper Place

March 15, 2017

Monday I started Anna Buchan’s The Proper Place. By the end of the day, I was like, “this is my favorite thing; I only care about Anna Buchan now.” Yesterday I didn’t read any of it at all. Today I returned to it, and it turns out I still care about things other than Buchan, and this isn’t my favorite book. But it’s pretty great. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Green Goddess

March 8, 2017

Okay, so, look. This review at Google Books says all that’s really necessary about Louise Jordan Miln’s The Green Goddess. The book is pretty disastrous. The review makes me feel like I don’t need to write one. But sometimes when I really hate a book, I write a lot about it while I’m still in the middle of it. And I’m still angry enough at this one to want to be kind of mean about it. So, you don’t need a review, but you’re getting one.

Lucilla Crespin is the daughter of an English vicar. He seems cool, and we spend two chapters with him before Lucilla marries Captain Antony Crespin and leaves for India. Lucilla and her father never see each other again, and I’d say those first chapters were wasted except that they’re substantially less miserable than the rest of the book. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Ruth Fielding Down East

December 10, 2016

It’s been a while since I read a Ruth Fielding book. PG has added a bunch of them over the last few years, and now seemed like a good time to catch up. Yes, I ought to be reading Christmas stories instead, but when the universe tells me to read Ruth Fielding, I read Ruth Fielding.

Ruth Fielding Down East is the first post-WWI one, sort of. The war is still happening, but Ruth and Helen and Tom are back in the US. Tom will go back overseas again for a bit, but the girls won’t, and it’s time for Ruth to transition back into the world of moving pictures.

I’d forgotten how bad W. Bert Foster’s writing can be (this is one of his last few installments in the series) and it’s bad here, but the worst thing about this book is the plot, and that’s presumably Edward Stratemeyer’s fault.

Ruth is supposed to be smart, is the thing. But when her top secret screenplay is stolen, she continues to keep it top secret, even though she suspects the thief will try to sell it to a producer. The rational thing to do would be to get some description of the scenario on record, so that if it shows up she has some proof that it’s hers. Of course, if she did that there would be considerably less drama when the scenario does resurface.

Character-driven plots are nice. Plot-driven characters, less so, especially when the character in question has been pretty well established through fifteen books. There’s no reason for Ruth to act like this, other than to make the plot work.

So, yeah, I found that infuriating. But somehow, Foster won me over. I think it’s the bit where Ruth stays level-headed during an emergency, saving her friends and getting back her self-confidence. Or the way everything gets wrapped up exactly the way you think it will, and it’s so ridiculous that it’s sort of nice.Or that the random bit about someone lost in the woods turns out to be thematically relevant. Or that Foster is going for something as complex as a theme at all. Mostly I think that Ruth Fielding, as a character, shines through the worst things her writers can do to her. She remains my favorite Stratemeyer product.

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The “Polly of the Hospital Staff” series

April 27, 2016

Do you ever realize, halfway through a book, that you’ve read it before? That happened to me this week with When Polly Was Eighteen, by Emma C. Dowd. I assume that means I’d also read Polly of Lady Gay Cottage and Polly and the Princess before. Probably I raced through them just as fast last time, and that’s why I don’t remember.

Let’s backtrack. I talked a bit about Polly of the Hospital Staff when I first read it. It’s a totally average story about a sunny orphan making a home, except that it’s more than averagely enjoyable. It’s also got the most typos I’ve ever seen in a Project Gutenberg text, so, you know, be warned. It’s followed by Polly of Lady Gay Cottage, which covers Polly’s transition to life as the adopted daughter of Dr. Dudley and his wife. She gets to meet some of her biological family, but her found family turns out to be more real. Dowd is a little bit obsessed with adoption, but in a nice way.

Next comes Doodles, the Sunshine Boy, which isn’t a Polly book, but has Polly in it. I didn’t read this one last time around, I’m pretty sure, but I dug deeper this time. I don’t really know what to say about Doodles. He can’t walk. He can sing. His family is poor, and various nice things happen to them. Another average but enjoyable book.

Doodles also appears in the next book, Polly and the Princess. There is no princess; the book is about Polly’s involvement with a nearby…I don’t know what to call it. A home for women without any outside means of support. It’s a particularly satisfying book, in that certain characters are victims of injustice and then eventually they’re vindicated.

When Polly Was Eighteen skips ahead about five years to find Polly home from college for the summer, and wrestling David Collins’ jealousy. David is one of Polly’s oldest friends, and was always the obvious future love interest. Emma Dowd does a good job of laying the groundwork for his jealousy in the earlier books, and of showing how unromantic it is in this one.

So, yeah. I like this series a lot. There’s very little you wouldn’t expect, but Dowd makes a virtue of predictability–call it trustworthiness. If you like orphans and found families and an improbable number of disabled children learning to walk again, I thoroughly recommend her.