Posts Tagged ‘augustahuiellseaman’

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The Slipper Point Mystery

April 11, 2017

The Slipper Point Mystery is typical Augusta Huiell Seaman: two girls, Doris and Sally, make friends one summer on a town on the New Jersey coast. They find a mysterious room built into a hillside, and set out in search of buried treasure. What they find instead is some local history–but from a recent enough past that someone is around to remember it.

It’s fun, and mostly satisfying, in the way that all of Seaman’s books are fun, and mostly satisfying. It’s a little better than The Vanderlyn Silhouette, maybe, and a little worse than The Boarded-Up House. But it also has what may be my favorite part of any book of hers I’ve read. In one of the final chapters, Seaman switches to a close third person narration from the point of view of Sally’s sister Genevieve, who is about three. Sally and Doris have been carting Genevieve around with them all summer, leaving her with picture books and candy while they hang out in holes in the ground. It’s been clear that Genevieve isn’t too happy about that, but the attitude Seaman gives Genevieve in this chapter is unexpected and amazing. She changes her language a little, and the added formality makes Genevieve seem sort of superior and unimpressed with her elders. Check it out:

True, they had left her eatables in generous quantities, but she had already disposed of these, and as for the picture-books of many attractive descriptions, given her to while away the weary hours, they were an old story now, and the afternoon was growing late. She longed to go down to the shore and play in the rowboat, and dabble her bare toes in the water, and indulge in the eternally fascinating experiment of catching crabs with a piece of meat tied to a string and her father’s old crab-net. What was the use of living when one was doomed to drag out a wonderful afternoon on a tiny, hopelessly uninteresting porch out in the backwoods? Existence was nothing but a burden.

I’m pretty sure Genevieve’s internal rebellion is worth reading the entire 177 humdrum preceding pages.

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The Vanderlyn Silhouette

July 9, 2016

I seem to be incapable of writing a review of Flaming Youth, so here’s another by Augusta Huiell Seaman. The Curious Affair at Heron Shoals was my favorite of her books so far, so to go next to The Vanderlyn Silhouette was a little disappointing. This one is a proper historical novel, set around 1820 in lower Manhattan. Varick and Charlton Streets are pretty far downtown now, but back then the area was far enough north that it wasn’t in the city at all. 13-year-old Dosia Watkins, the central character, lives on the grounds of Richmond Hill, an estate occupied at various times by some pretty important historical figures, including Aaron Burr, who lived there with his daughter. By the time this story starts, it’s passed into the hands of John Jacob Astor, who rents it out as a summer home. Dosia’s grandfather is the caretaker and her mother is the housekeeper. Read the rest of this entry ?

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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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The Dragon’s Secret

June 2, 2011

The Dragon’s Secret is the least good of the Augusta Huiell Seaman books I’ve read, which is a shame, because it started really well. The setting — a seaside resort in the autumn, an empty bungalow — was very much in its favor, and so was the setup — a girl keeping her invalid aunt company meets up with another girl who is there on a fishing trip with her father and brother, and they find an mysterious, ornate, and unopenable (a real word, believe it or not) box buried in the sand — but there’s no follow-through. The two girls do a little sneaking around, but they don’t really figure out anything on their own, and it turns out they’ve just stumbled into someone else’s mystery, which eventually gets explained to them. And because they really don’t know anything about what’s going on until they’re told, there’s not much life to the story. Still, there was something fun and atmospheric about it, so it’s not a total loss.

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The Three Sides of Paradise Green

May 5, 2011

First, here’s where we are with the poll results:

  • 10 votes — Top 10 underappreciated children’s books. I am working on this. It’s going to take a little while, but I do have my list of ten books finalized.
  • 5 votes — Pollyanna. This is going to be part of that list. I figure when you stack up all the people who hate it agains the ones who like it, it counts as underappreciated.
  • 4 votes — The Dragon’s Secret. This is definitely going to happen. For now, here’s another Augusta Huiell Seaman book.
  • 3 votes — Lady Audley’s Secret. This will happen…someday. But if you can’t wait, I recommend The Tragedy of Chain Pier. It’s practically the same thing.
  • 2 votes — Two Little Women and Treasure House. I’m hoping to do all three Two Little Women books at some point. It’s been too long since I’ve written about Carolyn Wells.
  • 1 vote — The Hidden Hand, Mary Jane Holmes, Trustee from the Toolrom. Respectively: someday, hopefully soon, and next time I reread it.
  • 0 votes — The Life and Death of Richard Yea-and-Nay.   :D :D :D

Anyway. The Three Sides of Paradise Green is another Augusta Huiell Seaman book, published a few years after The Boarded-up House, and with kind of a similar setup: Two girls, best friends their entire lives, and a house next door with some kind of history-related secret. Except it’s kind of better.

This time the girls are named Susan and Carol, and they’ve just been asked by their English teacher to keep journals for the coming year. The book mostly consists of Susan’s journal entries, although there are a few third-person-narrated scenes. I’m not sure why. They don’t really add anything. Also, you know who else doesn’t add anything? Carol. She’s kind of a drip. Fortunately, very little of the burden of the story falls on Carol’s shoulders. The main mystery-solver here is Sue’s younger sister Helen Roberta, apparently named after Seaman’s own daughter, and variously referred to as Mademoiselle Héléne, Bobs, and the Imp. The Imp is hands down the coolest person in this book, but she’s also — you know how younger siblings can sometimes be more infuriating than anything else in the world? Yeah, that. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Boarded-up House

May 3, 2011

A month ago I got an email from a reader, Mick, about Augusta Huiell Seaman. Seaman was an author of girls’ books who wrote from around 1910 though the 1940s, and while her early books were historical novels, she soon found herself a very nice niche writing books about contemporary teenage girls solving mysteries with a historical element. The Boarded-up House is the first of these mysteries, and it’s kind of great.

Joyce Kenway and Cynthia Sprague — best friends since they were little — live almost next door to each other. There’s just one building in between: a Colonial mansion that existed before the town that surrounds it, and which has been shut up for as long as anyone can remember. One afternoon, Joyce’s cat Goliath gets into the house — a board covering one of the basement windows has rotted away — and the girls follow him inside. What they find there is pretty weird: not only is the house still completely furnished, the plates from the occupants’ last meal there are still on the table. The girls decide to investigate and figure out what happened, and eventually they do. Read the rest of this entry ?