Posts Tagged ‘american’

h1

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.

h1

Mary Minds Her Business

February 15, 2016

Someday I’m going to run out of books from the late 19th and early 20th century about women doing jobs, and then I will be a little heartbroken. Thankfully, we’re not there yet. Let me tell you about George Weston’s labor fantasy, Mary Minds Her Business.

Mary Spencer is the last of a long line of Spencers–mostly Josiah Spencers, who built a large factory complex and brought prosperity to the town surrounding it. Mary is obviously as well fitted to running the business  as any of the Josiahs, but because she’s a girl, no one expects her to step in. Still, she’s interested in the business, and wary of her shifty uncle, and she has an ambition to bake the world a better place.

World War I gives her the opportunity she’s been waiting for. She’s read up on what female workers are doing in Europe, and she starts bringing women into her factory when the men start filtering out to the army. She sets up amenities for them, too–break rooms and nurseries–and has the satisfaction of seeing the factory run just as smoothly with a largely female staff as it did with a male one. It’s a clear success, but then the war ends and the men return, and she can’t not give them back their jobs. And some of them aren’t happy with even a few women working alongside them. That’s when things get really interesting.

There’s the usual labor intrigue, conveniently blamed on foreign Bolsheviks. There’s family drama. There’s romance. But mostly there’s Mary’s vision and stubborness, and her conscience pushing her forward. I’m less sure about the quality of this book than I was a couple of days ago, but while I was reading it I loved it.

h1

Catching up, 2/5/16

February 5, 2016

It’s time for another clearing-out of things I’ve read recently, so I can write at greater length about one or two in particular.

The Phantom Treasure, by Harriet Pyne Grove

This story of an orphan discovering her long-lost family and moving into their home, which is historical and filled with secret passages and things, ought to be great. I just wish it had been written by Margaret Sutton or Augusta Huiell Seaman or someone. Jannet, the main character, gets fried chicken mailed to her at boarding school. She and a friend try on historical costumes in the attic. She finds a stash of notes written by her ancestors when they were being forced to host British soldiers during the Revolutionary War. I just wish the author had felt some kind of enthusiasm about any of those things. But since she didn’t, I couldn’t either.

Carolyn of the Corners, by Ruth Belmore Endicott

Run of the mill story about an orphan softening the heart of a cranky relative, by an author who has definitely read Pollyanna and Little Lord Fauntleroy. Probably other versions of the same trope, too, but those are the ones I’m sure about.

A Poor Wise Man, by Mary Roberts Rinehart

I’ve read this one before, but only once, probably because I’d already sort of read it as V.V.’s Eyes and The Clarion. Still, it’s Rinehart, and if you want to read a book about a rich girl in a growing city falling in love with an idealistic young social reformer, this one’s pretty good. Few authors understand better than Rinehart how attractive it is when a character combines strong emotion with massive amounts of restraint.

This is fun, this catching up thing. It’s better to write a bit about a bunch of books than to sit around feeling guilty about not writing about them, or to write about them at length and then never bother to type up the review, both of which are things I’ve been doing lately.

h1

In search of…

August 3, 2012

…a book I read a few years ago and meant to review. I foolishly neglected to write down the title or the author anywhere, but sometimes I find myself wanting to revisit it.

It was about an older woman who, when the story begins, is living in a home for elderly women. She unexpectedly inherits lots of money and a big house from a relative and relocates. She gets to experience all kinds of luxuries for the first time, but she also brings her own stuff to the table — common sense, mostly. She invites an old suitor to live with her as a companion, and I think she eventually adopts a kid or two. And there’s some stuff about fixing the problems of people in the neighborhood, which may involve her bringing them donuts she’s made. Also I think she buys a car.

It’s an American book, and for some reason I think it was published in 1911. Any help finding it would be appreciated. Recommendations of similar books would be appreciated, too. And if you’re searching for some public domain book and need help finding it, describe it in a comment and maybe someone here will be able to find it.

ETA: Found! I vaguely remembered that the title had a number in it and somehow dug up Drusilla with a Million. Feel free to comment with similar books or things you’re looking for, though.

h1

I and My True Love

December 7, 2010

“It is a pity that so excellent a novel should be handicapped by so inane a title as I and My True Love.”

So says a reviewer in The Arena, and I have to agree, although one of Hersilia A. Mitchell Keays’s other books is called He That Eateth Bread With Me, and that’s…well, far worse. I’m not entirely sure I’d call I and My True Love excellent, but it is really interesting. It’s the story of a divorced couple and their daughter, and although it’s nominally a romance, I felt that it was mostly about the complexity of human interactions, how hard it is to know what’s going on inside other people’s heads, and even your own. And, for a book from 1908, it’s sort of refreshingly frank about a lot of things. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

The Trumpeter Swan

December 6, 2010

The more I read by Temple Bailey, the more unsure I am about how I feel about her books. Judy was delightful. Glory of Youth had its moments, but mostly I found it kind of irritating. The Trumpeter Swan is never irritating, exactly, but it’s definitely never delightful, either.

It’s one of those post-WWI novels, where every young man in sight has gone and been heroic overseas, and now they’re home and they don’t know what to do with themselves. And The Trumpeter Swan is a lot more explicit about that theme than a lot of books are, but underneath all of the complaining about how unappreciated the returning soldiers are, there’s not a lot going on. I mean, it’s theoretically a WWI novel, but it’s actually one of those books where an assortment of young people get paired off. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Reviews at EP: To Have and to Hold

November 28, 2010

My Edwardian Promenade guest post for November is up: To Have and to Hold, by Mary Johnston. It’s much later than usual, I know,  but it’s practically the only era-appropriate thing I’ve read all month.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 423 other followers