Posts Tagged ‘new york’

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The Girl in the Mirror

January 9, 2018

Every time I try to explain my feelings about The Girl in the Mirror, I get stuck, so let’s start with the premise instead. This sequel to Elizabeth Jordan’s The Wings of Youth opens with Barbara Devon’s marriage and departure for a months-long honeymoon. That leaves her brother Laurie without a guardian (and now wealthy in his own right) for the first time in his life. And that shouldn’t be dangerous: he’s stopped drinking and gambling, and he has friends and a career. But the folks who are worried about him are right to be. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Wings of Youth

January 3, 2018

I tracked down The Wings of Youth after starting another book by Elizabeth Jordan and realizing it had to be the sequel to something. The sketch of Barbara and Lawrence Devon’s adventures given by a guest at Barbara’s wedding made them sound pretty good, but actually they’re fantastic. My only complaint is that The Wings of Youth is a silly title, which makes me not want to discuss the book out loud. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Perfume of Eros: a Fifth Avenue Incident

October 30, 2017

I kept stopping in the middle of Edgar Saltus’ The Perfume of Eros: A Fifth Avenue Incident and asking, “what is this?” I don’t know if I have an answer. The story is contrived. The characters are no more than moderately sympathetic. The point of view is cynical. The prose is kind of delightful.

Royal Loftus is a rich and attractive young man, who seems sort of interested in the beautiful Fanny Price. She definitely likes him, but she would like him to a) show more interest in her and b) stop trying to pick up other girls on the street. Instead, Loftus pays even less attention to Fanny and tricks Marie Durand, the girl she saw him with, into becoming his mistress. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Aunt Jane’s Nieces

June 6, 2017

So hey, I’ve spent much of the last month on the Aunt Jane’s Nieces series, written by L. Frank Baum under his Edith Van Dyne pseudonym. It’s always interesting to me to see how far momentum will carry me into a series, because it doesn’t usually get me all the way to the end. I got bogged down about halfway in, but I pushed through, mostly because I never really want to come back to these books.

I have to wonder if Baum purposely lifted the plot of Aunt Jane’s Nieces from Laura E. Richards’ Three Margarets, which also involves three teenage girls being summoned to meet an unknown relative. When both also involve an Uncle John who initially misrepresents himself, they start to look suspiciously similar. Richards’ book is substantially better, and in fact reading Aunt Jane’s Nieces mostly just makes me want to reread all of the Hildegarde-Margaret books.

Anyway. Let’s talk about the work of someone I like much, much less that Laura E. Richards. Our three nieces are, in age order: Read the rest of this entry ?

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Jane Journeys On

April 7, 2017

I bookmarked Ruth Comfort Mitchell’s Jane Journeys On after reading Play the Game!, but the further away I got from reading Play the Game!, the worse I remembered it being, so my bookmark probably would have remained unread forever if Franziska hadn’t left me a comment telling me it’s full of things I like. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Pleasuring of Susan Smith

July 13, 2016

Yes, this book is really called The Pleasuring of Susan Smith. It’s by Helen Maria Winslow, and it’s a lot less exciting than it sounds.

I mean, it’s not bad. It’s one of those stories where all the right things happen, it’s just that they happen in an unsatisfying way. Susan Smith is a middle-aged spinster from Maine. When the elderly relative she cares for dies and leaves her his money, plenty of people have ideas about what she ought to do with it, but Susan wants, for once in her life, to have fun. She ends up in New York, where she moves in with her young cousin John James Smith, otherwise known as Jack. She then proceeds to solve Jack’s romantic and financial problems, give herself a makeover, casually start in a Broadway play, and find someone nice to fall in love with. And that’s all great, but it doesn’t feel like anything.

Books like this are, to some extent, about vicarious self-indulgence for the reader. Susan is getting to do all these cool things, and triumphing in all the predictable ways, but what’s the point if the author won’t wallow? Just saying what happened doesn’t count. What’s the fun of the shopping spree if we don’t hear about the clothes? What’s the point of telling us that the love interest finds Susan interesting is we don’t get the content of their conversations? Winslow’s got the plot stuff down; all she had to do was make us feel it. The Pleasuring of Susan Smith is cute, but it’s all at surface level.

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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 ?