Posts Tagged ‘post-war’

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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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Found Yet Lost

October 12, 2017

I went to a very nice book sale last weekend and…accidentally bought a book I already had. This is what comes of buying books and then not reading them.

Anyway, it was Found Yet Lost, by Edward Payson Roe, and this time I read it immediately. It’s a Civil War story. There’s this girl, Helen Kemble, and two men have been in love with her since they were all children. Albert Nichol is a captain in the Union army, and is presumably everything that is fine and upstanding. He and Helen are not quite officially engaged. Hobart Martine is unspecifically disabled, and therefore is not regarded by anyone as a legitimate love interest.

Nichol is struck by a shell and left to rot in a ditch, and Martine, wanting to do Helen a service, goes South to see if he can recover the body. He doesn’t find it, but he does talk to Nichol’s men and to other soldiers from their town, and impresses everyone with his courage. Then he goes home for just long enough to form a deeper friendship with Helen and her parents before returning to the South to work as a nurse.

After the war, he and Helen get closer, and she slowly falls in love with him. Roe seems to feel this requires an excuse, so: apparently Helen feels things very deeply but her feelings don’t necessarily last. Great. Martine is inclined to think she just pities him, but eventually he’s convinced, and they make plans to get married.

Just before the wedding, he’s summoned to Washington, DC to see a sick cousin. In the hospital, he runs into Nichol, who has amnesia and an unpleasantly altered personality. Come on, you knew that was coming, right? Martine has to decide whether to tell everyone, or pretend he never saw Nichol, but Martine has never done an underhanded thing in his life, so he brings Nichol home with him and does his very best to spare unpleasantness to everyone but himself.

There’s also a short story at the end of the volume, about a farmer’s daughter who comes home after spending time in the city. Her father is worried that she won’t be satisfied with their simple life anymore. She wants to know if her fancy city suitor shows up as well in the country as he did in town. It’s cute.

It’s not bad, this book. But it’s not good enough for me to want two copies. Does anyone want one?*

*I’ll mail it anywhere in the US. I don’t want to make a big giveaway thing out of this. I’ll give it to whoever wants it and if more than one person wants it priority goes to frequent commenters.

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Tom Slade at Black Lake

September 21, 2017

I think you can see Percy Keese Fitzhugh growing as a writer over the course of the Tom Slade series, especially in the wartime sequence of books. Tom Slade at Black Lake comes after the war, but it’s more part of that sequence than the next one, not just because it deals with the consequences of the war, but because Tom is still kind of there in his head.

It seems weird to have a juvenile series where the hero goes off to war and then comes home and picks up where he left off. In another author’s hands it probably would be. But Fitzhugh knows exactly how much he’s put Tom through, and that things won’t be the same even if he does plunk Tom down in exactly the same place, and he takes Tom’s mental health as seriously as the lingering weakness in his wounded arm.  Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Little House

December 14, 2015

It’s that Christmas story time of year again. Well, sort of. I’m writing this in early November. I’m allowing myself a slow start.

My previous acquaintance with Coningsby Dawson comes from The Kingdom Round the Corner, which I liked a lot of things about without actually liking. The Little House is similarly almost-good, and similarly post-war, and also marginally a Christmas story. And it’s narrated by a house, which is sort of important at the beginning, forgettable through most of the middle, and briefly relevant again at the end. It’s almost cute in the same was Dawson is almost good. You know: there’s a lot of that furniture-having-conversations-after-midnight stuff. I want to like it, but I have limited patience.

The story begins during an air raid shortly before Christmas. The titular house is untenanted, and its caretaker has left the front door open in her haste to find a shelter. Meanwhile, a young widow — known to the house as “the little lady” — is passing through the square in which the house stands with her two small children, Robbie and Joan. They see the open door and take shelter, and so, a few minutes later, does an American soldier on his way to the front. They strike up a sort of friendship, but part without learning each other’s names.

A year later (the Unity of Christmastimes!) the soldier returns to the house, minus an arm, and finds that the little lady and her children live there now. They introduce themselves a little more formally, and take up their friendship where they left off before. He takes the kids to the zoo. He takes the little lady to the theater.It;s pretty obvious where this is going to everyone but the two principals.

She expects him to go home and forget about her. He thinks about whether he’s in love with her and decides that he’s not. So he has to change his mind, and she has to swallow her pride, and the structure of the narrative sort of requires that the house somehow make those things happen, so it does.

I almost really enjoy Coningsby Dawson. He has clever ideas. But his execution leaves me unmoved, and his insistence that a woman isn’t complete without a man to take care of her moves me in probably the opposite direction to what he would wish. This is a small, focused story — just two people, a single setting, a brief span of time and an inevitable conclusion. And if you’re going to do something so simple, you have to do it well. To hold your readers’ attention, if nothing else. But I kept getting distracted by the outside things, the things Dawson didn’t talk about. Like the little lady’s family and narrowing social life, and the soldier’s experience of war.

It’s frustrating when something is almost good. I think I would have really enjoyed this story in the hands of another writer. I think it’s going to take a lot to make me try Dawson again.