Posts Tagged ‘edgarjepson’

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Catching up

December 17, 2015

I’ve been reading a fair amount, I think. Some of it’s been re-reading–the usual suspects: The Amazing Interlude, Pam Decides, etc.–but I’ve also read a few new things, and I don’t think I can remember what all of them are.

Anyway, here’s a roundup of the things I can remember, so I can get caught up and back to writing actual reviews.

The Loudwater Mystery, by Edgar Jepson. 1920.
From my Edgar Jepson phase. This is sort of the most English of English mystery novels, but not in a particularly interesting way. I didn’t like any of the characters very much. I would prefer to have Jepson stick to books about precocious children. Still, I always enjoy it when he describes his characters in extremely specific art historical references.

Jan and Her Job, by L. Allen Harker. 1917.

I enjoyed this story of a young woman going to India to take care of her sister’s children and eventually returning home with them, but I sort of wished Jan’s job had been more, you know, job-like. The nephew and the love interest are both very appealing, and I enjoyed the villain’s unrelenting awfulness.

Tenant for Death, by Cyril Hare. 1937.

I think I really liked this, sort of, maybe. It took a while to grow on me. It’s a very technical, measured mystery novel, sort of in the tradition of R. Austin Freeman. If you like the drier kind of golden age detective fiction, you will probably like this.

The Obsession of Victoria Gracen, by Grace Livingston Hill. 1915.

I think I get Grace Livingston Hill now? She can get caught up in stuff you don’t want–like, this is obviously an author who doesn’t know what’s appealing about her own work–but there are things she does really well: materialism, hitting villains when they’re down, finding people their proper places in the world. And when those things are mixed together in the right proportions, she’s pretty great. This one was a little heavy on religion and inexplicably light on Victoria Gracen’s nephew in comparison to the other boys, but it’s very enjoyable.

 

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Lady Noggs

October 23, 2015

For whatever reason, I’m having trouble reading anything that’s not by Edgar Jepson. So let’s follow up the two Tinker books with the two Lady Noggs books. (There may be a third, but I think it’s another case of different titles for different markets.)

So far I have observed that Jepson’s books always include the word “truculent,” someone calling someone else a sweep, and someone’s appearance — usually the main character’s — is described with reference to the history of Western art. Lady Felicia Grandison is about ten, and she looks like a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which is somehow all the description you really need.

Lady Felicia (a contemporary reviewer points out that Jepson is clueless about titles — he sometimes refers to her as Lady Felicia and sometimes as Lady Grandison) is, like Tinker and Pollyooly, very precocious, but somehow a little more childlike. Also she prefers to be known as Noggs.

Noggs lives with her uncle, the Prime Minister, on his country estate. He’s a nice man, and very erudite, but no match for Noggs in a practical sense. She’s a prankster, but all her pranks come from righteous indignation; she has a very well-developed sense of justice, and the will and ingenuity to enforce it.

Her exploits include getting rid of an adventuress with designs on her uncle, touring the slums with a poor girl she’s taken under her wing, and removing the obstacles that stand in the way of her governess marrying her uncle’s secretary. She isn’t as much of a tiny adult as Tinker, though. Sometimes she doesn’t get the results she intends. Sometimes she doesn’t know how she does get the results she intends. And when she meets Tinker and Elsie, she lets Tinker take the lead.

I like Noggs a lot. When I started Lady Noggs, Peeress I was constantly coming up with unfavorable comparisons to Tinker and Pollyooly, but I’ve come to feel that all of them have their points. One of Noggs’ is that she weathers the transition into adulthood better than the other two.

The first book resolves the governess/secretary situation, and the second, The Intervening Lady, picks up pretty soon afterwards, with Noggs trying to adopt a child her own age. It doesn’t work as well for her as it does for Tinker. In fact, the first half of this book feels geared towards very slightly reducing our expectations of Noggs–not in a condescending way so much as to give her room to grow into someone with even greater strength of character. Which is exactly what happens next. The rest of the book takes place when Noggs is an 18-year-old debutante.

I was worried, because my other experience with a Jepson character growing up is Pollyooly Dances, in which Pollyooly is almost unrecognizable. He does a much better job here. Noggs is recognizably herself, even after acquiring all the trappings of young ladyhood. She saves a friend from a blackmailer, makes and unmakes matches, and is reintroduced to her two childhood protégés: the girl from the slums and the attempted adoptee. She doesn’t short-sheet anyone’s bed, but you get the impression that she would if she thought it would be helpful.

Tinker and Elsie also appear, Tinker in a way that makes me think of Lord Peter Wimsey’s cameo in one of Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell books, and Elsie not as often as I’d like. They are, of course, paired off romantically, as are Noggs and her adoptee, Michael Broome. The romance was probably my least favorite part of The Intervening Lady — I expect Edgar Jepson thought he knew how to write romance, but nothing I’ve read would lead me to agree. For me, the best moments are Noggs’ interactions with other women. I would have especially liked to see more of Susie, who would make a far more plausible grown-up Pollyooly than the one in Pollyooly Dances.

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The Triumph of Tinker/Tinker Two

October 7, 2015

I still don’t like Tinker as much as Pollyooly, but he’s grown on me, mostly thanks to the second Tinker book, variously known as The Triumph of Tinker and Tinker Two. It feels a lot less episodic than the first one–the initial section basically sets the rest of the book in motion, so there’s no more than a couple of chapters that could stand alone as short stories.

Tinker and his dad are no longer bumming around Europe, as they did for most of the first book. They’re now established in London with Sir Tancred’s new wife Dorothy and Tinker’s adoptive sister Elsie. Elsie was abandoned in Monte Carlo by her gross uncle in the last book, but now her gross uncle is back and hoping that Elsie’s association with millionairess Lady Dorothy Beauleigh means he can make something off her. He and his associate, the equally beery and vulgar Mr. Oliver Brown, concoct a plan to regain custody of Elsie and then mistreat her until the Beauleighs will pay to get her back, but they fail to take Tinker into account. He and Elsie escape to Germany, picking up a beautiful young Russian revolutionary on the way.

Tinker twists the world around his little finger, as usual, with just enough difficulty to keep things interesting. The wicked uncle and his friend are vanquished, Sonia the Russian Countess gets married, and Elsie drives a car. There’s also an episode featuring Lady Felicia Grandison, the heroine of at least two other Jepson books (of whom more later).

Elsie really comes into her own in this book–or maybe she did it in between the two. When she was first introduced, Elsie was delicate and a little weepy, and didn’t really get better defined before the end of the book, but by the time she appeared in Lady Noggs, Peeress she had established an identity: still delicate and frail-looking, but willing to try anything, and casual about Tinker’s plans in a way that even Tinker himself isn’t. Tinker is apt to decide very seriously that something ridiculous must be done. Elsie acquiesces to his plans in a way that suggests she both takes him very seriously and humors him a little. I find myself liking her more and more.

I still feel like Pollyooly has something to offer that the more privileged children in Jepson’s earlier stories don’t, but Tinker is such a well-defined character, predictable but not too predictable. You’re not always sure how Tinker will respond to a situation, but his response always seems inevitable. Tinker is fundamentally the character who, when introduced to a beef-canning millionaire who can estimate by eye how many cans of beef a cow will produce, will a) learn how to do it just as well and b) apply the same methods to human beings. So, if an angelic looking young boy assessing people by how many cans they would fill is entertaining to you, I think you’ll enjoy Edgar Jepson. If not, I’m not entirely sure why you’re reading this blog.

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The Admirable Tinker

July 17, 2013

So, apparently not every seraphic but practical child protagonist Edgar Jepson creates is going to be wonderful. The title character of The Admirable Tinker, like Pollyooly, is repeatedly described as an angel child and has a knack for attracting improbably large sums of money, but the book lacks whatever it was that made Pollyooly so magical.

That said, I enjoyed The Admirable Tinker. Just not as much as I thought I was going to. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Short story series #2: We’ve been here before

June 20, 2013

Check out the previous post in the series for stuff about short story series you’ve almost certainly heard of, and for my philosophy of short stories, which pretty much boils down to “they’re better when they come by the bookful and are all about the same character.”

These are the stories that I’ve written about here before. They’re in order from least to most awesome, which is not to say that the Our Square stories aren’t pretty good, or that Torchy isn’t a little higher on my list of favorite things ever than Emma McChesney. I mean, I put them in worst-to-best order by accident, and thought I might as well make a note of it. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Pollyooly books

October 21, 2010

So, I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to figure out what’s what in the world of Pollyooly.

First, there’s Pollyooly. Or, to be more specific, Pollyooly: a romance of long felt wants and the red haired girl who filled them. Then there’s Happy Pollyooly,  the rich little poor girl(The American title — in the UK it was The Second Pollyooly Book). That appears to follow directly on the first book. In it, Pollyooly is still twelve, and the Lump is three. A third book, Pollyooly Dances, takes place rather later, during World War I, when Pollyooly is 19, and it seems like there ought to be other stories in between. There are things that need explanations — the absence of the Lump, the absence of Lord Ronald Ricksborough, the presence of other characters who appear to have some history with Pollyooly and the Honorable John Ruffin, and any number of other things. But I can’t find that there was ever any other Pollyooly book.

Anyway, what I have found, with the assistance of Google Books, is three additional stories published in Pearson’s Magazine. They’re consecutive, and appear to follow directly on Happy Pollyooly.

This is everything I’ve found, in order.

Pollyooly: a romance of long felt wants and the red haired girl who filled them

Happy Pollyooly,  the rich little poor girl

“Pollyooly and the Red Deepings”

“Pollyooly and the Lump” (This story has no other title, which is odd, since it’s mostly about the Honorable John Ruffin.)

“The Course of True Love”

Pollyooly Dances

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Pollyooly: a romance of long felt wants and the red haired girl who filled them

October 19, 2010

For the past couple of days I’ve had the name “Pollyooly” stuck in my head. Hopefully now that I’ve finished the book, it will go away. Even if it doesn’t, though, it might have been worth it.

I’m theorizing, on pretty much no basis, that there are three kind of people who write about children: those who think they understand kids, those who understand kids a little bit, and those who know that they don’t understand them at all. The second kind is the best, in general, and the first is usually pretty bad. But there’s something to be said for the people who know that they don’t know, and that’s the category that Edgar Jepson falls into.

Not that Pollyooly is a children’s book, really. But it does center around a child, and Pollyooly, age 12, is a lovely kind of fictional child, smart and serious and essentially unfathomable, but not above making funny faces at people when the situation calls for it. Read the rest of this entry ?