Posts Tagged ‘the south’

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Christmas Stories: A Captured Santa Claus

December 11, 2014

When I was doing my annual selection of Christmas stories the other day, I couldn’t remember why I vaguely disliked Thomas Nelson Page, just that I did. And that’s how I ended up reading a Christmas story about a Confederate soldier and his family. And I guess I’m glad I did.

It’s called A Captured Santa Claus, and it takes place between a Christmas and a Christmas during the Civil War. Major Stafford’s children are disappointed with the homemade presents that are all their mother can afford, but their father, home on a flying visit, promises the younger children that they’ll get what they want next year. For five year old Charlie, that’s a uniform and a toy sword. For his younger sister, Evelyn, it’s a doll with eyes that open and close.

Will Major Stafford be able to buy the gifts? Will he get home to Holly Hill to deliver them? Well, of course he will. But there are complications. By Christmas, Holly Hill is behind the Union lines, and going home without his uniform on could get Major Stafford executed as a spy.

This is basically the story you expect, but there are just enough twists to stop it from being completely predictable. And while Christmas is front and center, the Christmas spirit that goes with it is allowed to function without fanfare.

I did spent most of the story resenting a bunch of children for being Confederates, but, you know, that happens.

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The Annals of Ann

May 9, 2014

Mel was reading this one, and it sounded interesting, but I don’t think it’s for me.

The Annals of Ann is by Kate Trimble Sharber, who a quick google search told me nothing about. But the book itself is pretty straightforward: Ann is a teenager who lives somewhere in the South with her parents and her mammy, and she uses her diary mostly to talk about her various acquaintances pairing off.

The book is one of those teenage girl diary ones where the author is relying heavily on the reader getting jokes that the narrator doesn’t. And that’s worked for me approximately once, in The Visits of Elizabeth. The rest of the time I find it a little irritating and uncomfortable. If you like that kind of thing, I think this is probably a pretty good version of it. I wasn’t tempted to put it down or anything. I just kind of resent it when authors are like, “hey let’s have a joke on the protagonist of my novel together.”

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Queed

August 2, 2013

It took me about a month to read Queed. I read it in bits, mostly during lunchtimes a couple of times a week. And there were days when I chose not to read it because the last bit seemed to signal bad things to come. But in the end, I liked it more for all the tension and discomfort. Henry Sydnor Harrison is so good, guys. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Molly Brown 2/3

June 24, 2013

I’ve now read books five and six of the Molly Brown series — Molly Brown’s Post-Graduate Days and Molly Brown’s Orchard Home. And I think I’m taking a break for a bit. I don’t like anyone anymore. Or care about what happens to Molly.

Here’s what happens in the first two post-college Molly Brown books:

A bunch of people fall in love with each other. Everyone is super jealous of everyone else. Molly and Professor Green are much less entertaining than they were before. Molly’s aunt, for whatever reason, is evil. So is the mother of a girl they meet on their way to France in book six. The kind of people who were redeemable in the earlier books aren’t anymore. The humor is meaner. The friendships are less convincing.

I’m sure part of the way I feel about these two books is about my having run out of patience, but not all of it. So, I hope to come back to Molly Brown at some point and finish the series, but for now I am done.

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Andrew the Glad

October 27, 2010

I really didn’t like Andrew the Glad, which was disappointing. I liked the two Maria Thompson Daviess books I’d read previously, and I liked the ad campaign for this one, but unfortunately neither of those things are actually relevant.

Andrew the Glad came out in 1913, like V.V.’s Eyes, and it’s also set in a city in the South (I think this one is Nashville). Both books deal with the growth of the cities involved,but Henry Sydnor Harrison  was in favor of progress, and Maria Thompson Davies…may have thought she was interested in progress. But the fact is that everything “good” in the world of the book is massed on the side that includes all the available Confederate veterans and their friends, and the way forward is inextricably bound up with feelings of nostalgia; the other side consists solely of corruption and booze. Read the rest of this entry ?

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V.V.’s Eyes

October 25, 2010

V.V.’s Eyes, despite the silly title, is a Serious Novel, with lots to say about the position of women in society, factory conditions, and charitable giving. But it’s also got a dazzlingly beautiful heroine, illustrations by R.M. Crosby (who usually, and more fittingly, illustrated romance novels), and an inappropriately melodramatic ending. I was never entirely convinced that Henry Sydnor Harrison knew what he wanted the book to be. On the other hand, I was frequently impressed by what it was.

Contemporary reviewers seem to have thought that the central figure of the book is V.V. — Dr. V. Vivian, a lame slum doctor — and I suspect that that was Harrison’s intention. But I was never quite convinced by V.V., who was sometimes a Christ-figure, sometimes a child, and every once in a while a (reluctantly) angry idealist. But I was completely won over by Miss Carlisle Heth, who it seems pretty unfair not to call the central character. She gets the vast majority of the available page space, and we spend most of the book pretty deeply ensconced in her head. And it’s time well spent. Read the rest of this entry ?