Posts Tagged ‘wwI’

h1

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.

h1

The Great Impersonation

January 3, 2014

I haven’t read all that many E. Phillips Oppenheim books, but I’ve read The Great Impersonation three times. I worry that no other Oppenheim book will measure up to it, but if none does, that’s okay. I enjoy rereading it even though I know exactly what happens. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

The Double Traitor

December 31, 2013

So I finally read The Double Traitor, by E. Philips Oppenheim, and I’m not surprised that it’s Evangeline‘s favorite of his books, because it’s awesome. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Tam O’ the Scoots

February 13, 2012

When it comes to early 20th century thriller writers, Edgar Wallace is easily my favorite, in spite — or perhaps because — of the fact that his books are mostly ridiculous and terrible. But Tam O’ the Scoots is not terrible at all. Tam O’ the Scoots doesn’t know what terrible is.

It is kind of ridiculous, of course, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Young Hilda at the Wars

January 17, 2012

So, this is an odd book. Young Hilda at the Wars is the story of the first ambulance corps in Belgium in World War I, with a focus on Hilda, an American girl who joins the group, and its scatterbrained visionary leader Dr. McDonnell, in London. She and an English lady named Mrs. Bracher establish a nursing station almost on the front lines, along with a Scottish nurse known as Scotch. The book  manages to maintain an almost juvenile-adventure-story tone most of the time in spite of a) lots of dead people, b) lots of maimed people and c) little interludes where the author leaves the story and just writes about dead and maimed people. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

The Kingdom Round the Corner

October 20, 2011

I kind of knew from the first few paragraphs of The Kingdom Round the Corner (by Coningsby Dawson) that it was going to push a significant portion of my buttons, possibly in a slightly embarrassing way. And it does, for about the first hundred and fifty pages.

Lord Taborley leaves the army in 1919 and goes straight to London, where Terry Beddow meets him at the train station in accordance with a promise she made when he left in 1914. The promise also stipulated that they were going to go off and get married immediately, but once he’s seen her and talked to her, he knows he can’t take that bit for granted anymore. And before the afternoon is over he discovers the reason: General Braithwaite, formerly Tabs’ valet — something Braithwaite is concealing. And Braithwaite clearly earned his promotions, and is a reasonably good guy — even though Terry’s infatuated with him, Tabs would probably be okay with him if Braithwaite hadn’t left Ann, the parlormaid to whom he was practically engaged, to think he was dead. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

The Tale of Triona

July 29, 2011

So, there’s this girl named Olivia Gale. Her mother married beneath her, her father and two older brothers died in World War I, and now her mother’s died too, so Olivia lets the house to Blaise Olifant, a scientist who lost an arm in the war and wants a quiet place to work, and moves to London. There she meets up with her old friend Lydia, who owns a fashionable millinery. Lydia introduces Olivia to her glamorous friends, and for a while Olivia has fun running around with them and dancing all night and doing whatever else idle young people with disposable incomes do in the aftermath of World War I. But Olivia is our heroine, so she eventually gets fed up with being shallow, and it’s around that time that Olifant comes to London for a visit and introduces her to his friend Alexis Triona. Read the rest of this entry ?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 449 other followers