Posts Tagged ‘wwI’

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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 ?

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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 ?

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The Island Mystery

March 26, 2011

Mark recommended The Island Mystery, by George A. Birmingham, as a silly, fun book. And to be honest, that kind of made me nervous. I feel like I haven’t had a great track record with silly, fun books lately. I’ve been finding them silly, but not all that fun.

The Island Mystery was a little different. I wasn’t wildly enthusiastic about it or anything, but I liked it a lot better at the beginning than I did at the end, and I don’t think there’s anything about it that I’d want to change, except maybe the title, which is kind of lame and would work much better on a different book. Possible one featuring the Boxcar Children.

You know all those Ruritanian romances where the author makes up a small monarchy and plunks it down somewhere in the middle of Europe so that the hero can go have adventures there? The Island Mystery is a tiny bit like that, but really it’s about what would happen if you did plunk an imaginary country down in the middle of Europe. Because, if you think about it, the surrounding nations might be a bit upset by that, not to mention confused. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Trumpeter Swan

December 6, 2010

The more I read by Temple Bailey, the more unsure I am about how I feel about her books. Judy was delightful. Glory of Youth had its moments, but mostly I found it kind of irritating. The Trumpeter Swan is never irritating, exactly, but it’s definitely never delightful, either.

It’s one of those post-WWI novels, where every young man in sight has gone and been heroic overseas, and now they’re home and they don’t know what to do with themselves. And The Trumpeter Swan is a lot more explicit about that theme than a lot of books are, but underneath all of the complaining about how unappreciated the returning soldiers are, there’s not a lot going on. I mean, it’s theoretically a WWI novel, but it’s actually one of those books where an assortment of young people get paired off. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Miss Million’s Maid

October 5, 2010

Well, I’ve found something I like, and it is terrible.

I suspect Miss Million’s Maid is the kind of book written for servant girls and such, although my only reason for thinking that is that the writing feels sort of cheap somehow. And then, Berta Ruck’s portrayal of the actual servant girl character isn’t terribly flattering. But hey, I have no idea what I’m talking about, so whatever.

Beatrice Lovelace and her Aunt Anastasia are the descendants of a ridiculously aristocratic family, but they have no money. And Aunt Anastasia is the snobbiest of snobs, so, because they can’t afford to associate with their own class, she won’t allow Beatrice to associate with anyone at all. The only people Beatrice speaks to are the maid, Million, and the attractive man who lives next door, who Aunt Anastasia insists must be a bounder and a cad, mainly because he lives in their neighborhood. Beatrice really wants someone to die and leave her a lot of money, but when someone in the house does inherit a fortune, it’s Nellie Million.

Million — Beatrice keeps forgetting to add “Miss” a the beginning — has no idea what to do with her money, so Beatrice becomes her lady’s maid, to the horror of Aunt Anastasia. She helps Million buy the right clothes. move to the right hotel, etc., but she can’t stop her from quickly falling in with a bad crowd — vulgar comedienne Vi Vassity, impoverished Irish younger son James Burke, a Jew (horrors!) and various other inappropriate people.

The Honorable James Burke, in particular, is very obviously a fortune hunter, although his personal inclination is more towards Beatrice than her employer. Beatrice, though, has another suitor to worry about — Reginald Brace, her boy next door, turns out to be the manager of the bank where Miss Million has opened an account. He quickly loses the sense of humor I thought he had and develops a passionate desire to take Beatrice away from her offensive surroundings.

Additional complications arrive in the form of a jewel robbery — Miss Million and Beatrice are the main suspects for fairly inadequate reasons  — and Miss Million’s American cousin Hiram Jessup — he has come to England  either to marry Miss Million, or, if that doesn’t work, to attempt to legally deprive her of her fortune. Meanwhile, Miss Million has fallen in love with Jim Burke, who continues to flirt with Beatrice whenever possible. It’s hard to blame her, though — Miss Million, I mean — because it’s very difficult not to like Jim Burke.

It’s a fun read, although the writing seemed lazy at times, and I still don’t understand why a Cockney girl brought up in an orphanage is so much more naive than a girl who has been reared in near-seclusion by a spinster aunt. I have other quibbles, too, but none of them really got in the way of my enjoyment of the book. It’s fluffy and silly, and one of those books that pretend to be enlightened about class issues but aren’t at all, and everyone ends up pretty happy, except for a rejected suitor and some people standing inconveniently in the way of a title.

I’m pretty sure Miss Million’s Maid has no literary merit whatsoever, but that’s no reason not to read it.

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The Agony Column

September 29, 2010

It’s really hot in London, and Geoffrey West is coping by going to the Carlton for breakfast every morning, partly because it’s a bit cooler there, and partly because it’s the only place where you can still get strawberries. The American girl who comes in with her father one morning has the bad taste to prefer grapefruit to strawberries, but she shares West’s fondness for the Personal Notices section of the Daily Mail, AKA the agony column. People use it to discreetly send messages, whether they be love letters, “fly at one; all is discovered,” or cryptic remarks about fish. And so it seems perfectly reasonable, if a little unconventional, for West to use it to communicate with the girl, with whom he has fallen in love at first sight. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Bab: a Sub-Deb

September 8, 2010

For the first time, I have a real problem with Mary Roberts Rinehart. It has to do with her spelling.

No one really wants to read a book that’s misspelled all the way through. I mean, if you’re Daisy Ashford and you’re, like, eight, it’s excusable. But basically, unless you’re Russell Hoban, misspelling an entire book is don’t-try-this-at-home territory. And while Bab: a Sub-Deb is cute, Rinehart just…isn’t Russell Hoban, you know? Read at your own risk.

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I’ve Married Marjorie

May 18, 2010

So, that “he/she fell in love with his/her wife/ husband” trope I was talking about a couple of weeks ago? Margaret Widdemer seems to be at least as fond of it as I am. I’ve Married Marjorie is the third of her books that I’ve read, and the second one where the hero and heroine get married long before their happy ending. It’s not as straightforward an example of the trope as The Rose-Garden Husband, but I don’t think that’s the reason that the book isn’t quite successful.

I wasn’t this angry about the book when I was reading it — I do find it easy to let a book’s internal logic take me where it will, and there was all this interesting, half-heartedly psychological stuff that reminded me of Eleanor Hallowell Abbott — but the more I think about it now, the less I like it. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Torchy Again

May 13, 2010

I have now read all of the Torchy books, and realized two things:

1. The bibliography I was looking at is wrong, and The House of Torchy comes between Wilt Thou Torchy and Torchy and Vee, not after Torchy as a Pa. It’s important to know that, too, because if you skip it you go straight from Torchy getting married yo Vee to Torchy living on Long Island with Vee and an infant son and a French cook/gardener, and doing his work for the Corrugated Trust under the auspices of the US Army.

I kind of love it when authors deal with wars by having their series characters reassigned to their usual jobs by the Army.

2. Torchy and Vee are the best early 20th century fictional couple ever. It’s not just that they talk to each other about all sorts of things, that they laugh together, that they like each other as much as they love each other but done always understand each other. It’s also that Vee, the beautiful heiress, wasn’t even the tiniest bit reserved or distant from the beginning. And that Torchy kisses her pretty early on in their friendship (and frequently thereafter), and she doesn’t really get upset. And that they’re always touching each other–they hug, and hold hands, and Vee rumples Torchy’s hair–and it’s almost shocking, because I’ve never before come across fictional characters from this era who were so casually affectionate. It’s kind of great.

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Torchy

May 7, 2010

After I finished The Circular Staircase and The House of a Thousand Candles, I thought I’d continue on a Mary Roberts Rinehart kick. And I liked Tish, one of her books of stories about an eccentric spinster and her friends, but it didn’t make me want to read more Tish books. It made me want to reread Torchy.

Torchy is, like Tish, a character in a long-running series of short stories. But his are better than hers. I meant just to reread Torchy, but once I was done with that, I read Trying Out Torchy, On With Torchy, Torchy, Private Sec., and Wilt Thou Torchy and now I’m in the middle of Torchy and Vee. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Rose-Garden Husband

September 4, 2009

I finally followed a long-ago recommendation from Redeeming Qualities reader Elizabeth and read The Rose-Garden Husband, by Margaret Widdemer. And I love it. It’s so completely up my alley that it’s hard to believe it’s real. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Dangerous Days

September 1, 2008

I first started reading Dangerous Days several weeks ago, and, because it was by Mary Roberts Rinehart, I assumed that it would be a murder mystery. And if it was, it was clear that the murder victim would be Clayton Spencer, and I didn’t like the other characters enough to get through more than three hundred pages worth of them if he wasn’t there too. So I put the book aside.

I picked it up again this weekend, because, after all, I wasn’t positive that there was going to be a murder, and I was in the middle of too many things and wanted to finish one. And I really did like Clayton Spencer, and I wanted to find out what happened to him.

I finished Dangerous Days this morning, and I’m not really sure what to say about it. I liked it, definitely. And I was absorbed almost from the moment I picked it up again, although there were times when I had to put it down, like when Graham Spencer hit Clay’s caddie in the head with a golf ball, or when Audrey Valentine’s husband died, or when Herman Klein beat up his daughter.

Bad things happen to the people in this book. And the characters are somewhat clichéd, and so is pretty much everything else, and the logic of the book backs a lot of opinions I disagree with, but I was completely hooked, and, as Rinehart’s philosophy was internally consistent, I just went with it. Because no matter how clichéd and/or silly some part of Dangerous Days are, taken out of context, it’s honest about where it stands, and it means everything it says. Read the rest of this entry ?