Posts Tagged ‘1940s’

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The Curious Affair at Heron Shoals

June 17, 2016

The other day I went to the library and read The Curious Affair at Heron Shoals. It’s from later in Augusta Huiell Seaman’s career than anything else of hers I’ve read — it was published in 1940 — and I think it might also be my favorite. Marty, the teenaged heroine, lives in relative isolation with her grandmother and a mysterious parrot. Twelve year old Ted, a piano prodigy, comes for a visit, along with his father and his music teacher, and his interest in the mystery prompts Marty to start investigating.

I love mysteries, but I also love people not hiding things from each other. I do wish Marty and Ted’s friendship was fleshed out a little more (Seaman tells rather than showing, here) but they have an ease and confidence with each other from the beginning that I really enjoyed. And that would be good in itself, but they also don’t keep secrets from the people around them. Ted’s father, Mr. Burnett, is involved in the investigation from the start, followed by Ted’s teacher and, eventually, Marty’s grandmother. Everyone works together, except for one antagonist who eventually turns out not to have been particularly important. The plot is good, too — a mystery with not too much urgency and proper clues, some exciting weather, and Seaman’s trademark trick of linking the past to the present in concrete ways.

I love everyone working together on a common problem in books almost as much as I’m bored by it in board games. And I love books about nice people who like each other, but I can’t quite love Seaman. Her books don’t tend to be very emotionally compelling — she seems unwilling to devote much time or space to developing relationships — so there’s a level that her books never seem to rise to, and I tend to finish them feeling a little unsatisfied. This one resolved some of the emotional threads nicely, but left more hanging. Still, even if there’s not enough there, what there is is really solidly good. The Curious Affair at Heron Shoals made me want more — more of this story and more of her books. It even made me want to reread things of hers I’ve already read. And that’s a pretty good sign.

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Now, Voyager

July 29, 2011

I’ve read it now. It’s lovely. Why do people use “women’s fiction” as a derogatory term?

I was lucky enough not to remember the movie very well when I read the book, so I came to it with only a vague idea of the plot. Not that the movie isn’t good — I went and found it streaming online as soon as I’d finished the book–but the book is better, as books often are.

Now, Voyager is the story of Charlotte Vale — a dumpy, unattractive, unhappy spinster under the thumb of a wealthy and autocratic mother — and her transformation into a well-liked and attractive woman who has a lot to offer, and knows it. First an extremely intelligent psychiatrist shows her how to change, and then a cruise ticket unwanted by its owner gives her the opportunity to do it. Add a weight-reducing illness and her sister-in-law’s cast-off (but still fashionable) wardrobe, and Charlotte has as much of a clean slate as one could realistically expect. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Top 10 Underappreciated Children’s Books, 3/3

June 4, 2011

Part 1/3

Part 2/3

These are the top three, and I’ve put them in an order, but it’s not an important order. These are some of my favorite books, and I love them too much to be able to judge which I love the most. I have no idea how I managed to write anything about them, or why I thought I could in the first place. If you asked me about any of these three books in person, I would gape like a fish and flail a little bit. This is not speculation; it is a thing I’ve done.

A note on illustrations: All three of these books have illustrations that are inextricably bound up with the experience of reading the books. These aren’t after-the-fact illustrations: Ruth Gannett’s were done by her stepmother. Russell Hoban’s were done by his wife. Jean Merrill gave Ronni Solbert a cameo in the book. So if you decide to go looking for any of these books (do!), make sure you get the original illustrations. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Top 10 Underappreciated Children’s Books 2/3

May 17, 2011

Here’s part two. You may notice that the formatting is unbelieveably horrible. I tried to fix it, but I’ve given up now.

Part 1/3

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Snobbery with Violence

October 26, 2010

I ordered Snobbery with Violence, by Colin Watson, on the recommendation of Cristiane, and on the whole I liked it, but I do have some reservations. Well, a  lot.

Snobbery with Violence is a discussion of some of the most popular authors of crime fiction between, approximately, World War I and the 1960s, when the book was written. Watson’s premise is that an era’s most popular fiction tells you the most about its reading public, and obviously that’s a thesis I can get behind. What bothered me was that most of the snobbery involved seemed to come from the author. Colin Watson may think he likes mystery novels, but my impression is that he hates them and the people that read them. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Next Post

January 17, 2010

I’ve just returned from a vacation, which should explain the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks, but right now I’m looking to excuse what I expect will be a lack of posts over the next couple of weeks. I don’t seem to be able to read anything but Nero Wolfe.

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My Father’s Dragon…

September 20, 2009

…is now available on Project Gutenberg.

Actually, it may have already been there–the “Recently Posted or Updated EBooks” feed doesn’t actually specify which is which. I think it’s new, although UPenn’s Celebration of Women Writers has had a version up for a while.

Any excuse to reread it, though, and a Gutenberg eBook is a pretty good excuse. It’s fully illustrated, and, well, completely wonderful in every way. Read it. Find a kid to read it to. Pull out your paperback copy — I have two — and smile at it, because you just can’t help it. Read the sequels. Be happy.

My Father's Dragon

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