Posts Tagged ‘annabuchan’

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Blogiversary 2018

March 4, 2018

On this 11th anniversary of Redeeming Qualities…let’s talk about rereading. I haven’t posted much for the past month or two because it’s been kind of a weird time for me, and when it’s kind of a weird time for me, I don’t want surprises. So I’ve been rereading a lot. And I love rereading. Books I’ve read before have always been a staple of my reading diet. But I always thought of it as second best, and lately I’ve been changing my mind about that. Nothing feels like reading a great book for the first time

Edgar Jepson’s various precocious child characters are such a joy to me, always. I’ll probably always love Pollyooly‘s singleminded focus on financial security best, but I’ve come to appreciate Tinker‘s detached politeness and Lady Noggs‘s righteous anger almost as much.

Since I read Mary-‘Gusta, I’m no longer sure what my favorite Joseph Crosby Lincoln book is, but Galusha the Magnificent is still a contender. Lincoln is so good at giving characters who have gone unappreciated for too long the love and admiration they deserve, and Galusha the Magnificent is one of the purest distillations of that. Also I like books that let me use phrases like “mild-mannered archaeologist.”

I recently reread all three of Geraldine Bonner’s Molly Morgenthau mysteries: The Girl from Central, The Black Eagle Mystery, and Miss Maitland, Private SecretaryThe Girl from Central wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it, but The Black Eagle Mystery was a lot better. All three books are solid, and competent, and impressive when you compare Bonner to contemporaries like Carolyn Wells and Mary Roberts Rinehart, who have the capacity to write better dialogue and more engaging characters, but don’t keep as firm a hand on the wheel. And it’s the rare detective novel that really believes that the detecting is as interesting as the mystery.

Anna Buchan gets better on rereading. I’ve been rereading her books so that I don’t get through the ones I haven’t read yet too fast, but I can’t think of one that I didn’t like better the second time around. Suspense isn’t Buchan’s friend — or possibly it just isn’t mine — so knowing what’s going to happen frees me to wallow in the characters and relationships and conversations. I think The Setons improved the most on rereading, but The Proper Place and The Day of Small Things are still my favorites overall. I want to live in an Anna Buchan book, or possibly just a house furnished by her.

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Ann and her Mother

March 2, 2018

You know who’s really, really good? Anna Buchan. Even at her worst, which I expect is what Ann and her Mother is.

It’s a structural thing, mostly: Ann Douglas and her mother have recently moved into a new house, built to Ann’s specifications on some land left to her by an uncle. They’re a little isolated, and there’s not a lot to do, so Ann decides to write her mother’s biography. The book consists of their conversations as they unsystematically recall family history. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Day of Small Things

May 1, 2017

There doesn’t seem to be much point in describing The Day of Small Things. Do you like Anna Buchan? Have you read The Proper Place? If you can answer yes to both, then yes, you should read The Day of Small Things–if you haven’t already. If you answer no to either, then no, you shouldn’t.

The Day of Small Things picks up and continues in the same mood The Proper Place ended in, three years later. The Rutherfurds are the same. Their friends are the same. It’s nice to see them all again, except perhaps for Barbara. The whole experience is very much like catching up with old friends and sharing gossip about shared acquaintance: probably nothing super exciting has happened to anyone, but talking to your friends feels good, and the stories are interesting because they’re about people you know.

 

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The Setons

March 28, 2017

I’ve made myself start reading things that aren’t by Anna Buchan again, but here’s one more from her: her second novel, The Setons. I’m getting to the point where I’ll read something and think, “oh, that’s very Anna Buchan.” The Setons is very Anna Buchan. It also seems to be very autobographical, which is almost, but not quite, the same thing. Anyway, Anna Buchan was a minister’s daughter with brothers who spent at least part of her youth in Glasgow, and so is Elizabeth Seton.

I really enjoyed The Setons, but I haven’t got much to say about it. It’s without much of a plot, in a very natural-feeling way. Elizabeth’s father is sweet and not terribly practical, and Elizabeth has a full time job helping with parish duties and managing her father and the household and her youngest brother, Buff. The mother and eldest brother are dead, and two additional brothers are in India. There’s a visit from a very nice young man, and Mr. Seton has health issues, but these are normal kinds of interruptions.

Then World War I starts, and is a much more significant interruption. One feature of a book that’s very Anna Buchan is that lots of people are going to die in WWI, whether the action of the book takes place during or after it. I don’t know if anything’s ever really made me feel the impact of WWI on the UK the way Anna Buchan’s grieving families have. She makes it feel like sending your sons off to the army and never getting them back is the default, and anything else is a gift. I know that sounds miserable, and it is, a bit. But Buchan has a belief that everything is good and worthwhile in the end, and she makes you feel it too.

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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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Olivia in India

October 31, 2007

I come across many funny things in my reading, but rarely do I find a line as memorable as “John Bunyan, you’re in the sun without your topi.”

Explaining it would only detract from its charm.
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