Posts Tagged ‘wwI’

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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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The Setons

March 28, 2017

I’ve made myself start reading things that aren’t by Anna Buchan again, but here’s one more from her: her second novel, The Setons. I’m getting to the point where I’ll read something and think, “oh, that’s very Anna Buchan.” The Setons is very Anna Buchan. It also seems to be very autobographical, which is almost, but not quite, the same thing. Anyway, Anna Buchan was a minister’s daughter with brothers who spent at least part of her youth in Glasgow, and so is Elizabeth Seton.

I really enjoyed The Setons, but I haven’t got much to say about it. It’s without much of a plot, in a very natural-feeling way. Elizabeth’s father is sweet and not terribly practical, and Elizabeth has a full time job helping with parish duties and managing her father and the household and her youngest brother, Buff. The mother and eldest brother are dead, and two additional brothers are in India. There’s a visit from a very nice young man, and Mr. Seton has health issues, but these are normal kinds of interruptions.

Then World War I starts, and is a much more significant interruption. One feature of a book that’s very Anna Buchan is that lots of people are going to die in WWI, whether the action of the book takes place during or after it. I don’t know if anything’s ever really made me feel the impact of WWI on the UK the way Anna Buchan’s grieving families have. She makes it feel like sending your sons off to the army and never getting them back is the default, and anything else is a gift. I know that sounds miserable, and it is, a bit. But Buchan has a belief that everything is good and worthwhile in the end, and she makes you feel it too.

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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.

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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 ?

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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 ?

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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 ?

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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 ?