Posts Tagged ‘series’

Elsie’s Widowhood (book #118)

24 October 2011

Martha Finley. No date in my edition, wch looks as if it might be 1920s, but the book was first published in 1880. It’s online.

There is a frontispiece, wch is graphically very dull I think but amusingly and interestingly* shows Elsie sitting on the beach in full mourning. Presumably people did have to do this. I can’t scan it at the moment but will do. *I have Show-not-Tell Fail.

Here’s a description of tea-time before Elsie’s husband dies:

It had been wont to be a time of glad, free, cheerful, often mirthful intercourse between parents and children; no rude and noisy hilarity, but the most enjoyable social converse and interchange of thought and feeling, in which the young people, while showing the most perfect respect and deference to their parents, and un-selfish consideration for each other, were yet under no galling constraint, but might ask questions and give free expression to their opinions, if they wished ; and were indeed encouraged to do so.

Doesn’t it sound terrible?

Here’s Elsie’s son Edward before going to college:

Mother,” he said, ” I think I have a pretty clear idea of some of the temptations of college life: doubtless there are always a good many idle, profane, drinking, dissolute fellows among the students, but it does not seem possible that I shall ever find pleasure in the society of such.

Impossible not to think Prig. When he comes back from college, you’ll be glad to hear that Elsie takes one look at him and knows “that I can believe my boy has come back to me as pure and innocent as he went!”.

I like Mr Embury falling for Molly Percival (who I think is Elsie’s father’s half-brother’s daughter, but I may be wrong) because she is a “cripple”:

“Your very helplessness draws me to you and makes you doubly dear. I want to take care of you, my poor child. I want to make up your loss to you as far as my love and sympathy can; to make your life bright and happy in spite of your terrible trial. … Your love, dear girl, and the blessed privilege of taking care of you, are all I ask, all I want … “

Can we say co-dependency? Also I think it’s odd that he brings his daughters to the proposal, but keeps them out of sight (behind a bush?) until she’s accepted:

“You will be mine? my own dear wife? a sweet mother to my darlings. I have brought them with me, that their beauty and sweetness, their pretty innocent ways, may plead my cause with you, for I know that you love little children.” He was gone before she could reply, and the next moment was at her side again, bearing in his arms two lovely little creatures of three and five.

Speaking of children, this is random, though admittedly from a non-Christian (=bad person): ‘”the heat and threats of yellow fever drove us North. I scattered the younger children about among other relatives, leaving several at your house, Adelaide”‘.

In the second half of the book Elsie’s son and daughter live in a cottage with some friends and do their own housekeeping. There are some interesting menus. Violet is planning

“potatoes, (sweet)corn, beans, tomats (sic – this is dialect from a boy bringing the groceries), cabbage, lettuce, and young beets … ” … “There’s a chicken all ready for the oven – cousin showed me how to make the stuffing and all that. I’ve engaged fresh fish and oysters – they’ll be coming in directly. I shall make an oyster pie and broil the fish. I mean to make a boiled pudding and sauce for dessert, and have bought nuts, raisins and almonds, oranges, bananas and candies besides, and engaged ice cream and cake.” … (they also have) the lettuce, the cold-slaw and bread and butter … the tarts

It turns out that Vi can’t cook well enough, her timings all go wrong (I sympathise) and some of the food is inedible. Elsie has foreseen this (you would have to kill her) and sent a hamper of “a pair of cold roast fowls, a boiled tongue, pickles, jellies, pies and cakes in variety”.


Cherry Ames: Department Store Nurse (book #112)

14 August 2011

Helen Wells, 1956.

Page about the book on the Cherry Ames site.

If you need me, remember my office is right next door

The book is set in New York. Tom and Cherry go “somewhere to dance”: “It was just a small place, with photographs of musicians on the walls, and a dance floor approximately the size of a postage stamp. Only two couples bothered to dance; everyone else sat listening intently to the music of the jazz quintet. Cherry found the coffee here another pleasant surprise. They served twenty different kinds of coffee, from all the countries of the world. Cherry chose Viennese coffee, a big creamy cupful heaped with whipped cream. Tom enjoyed a demitasse of black pungent Italian expresso, [sic] served with a bit of lemon peel.”

The coffee with lemon thing seems odd. Not unique though – here’s a picture of some coffee with lemon in Moscow. I also found this but the writer seems to have invented the recipe.

Unseen Academicals (book #110)

30 July 2011

Terry Pratchett, 2009.

Now what would I do at this point if I were in a romantic novel? Glenda said to herself as the footsteps died away. Her reading had left her pretty much an expert on what to do if you were in a romantic novel, although one of the things that really annoyed her about romantic novels, as she had confided to Mr Wobble, was that no one did any cooking in them. After all, cooking was important. Would it hurt to have a pie-making sequence? Would a novel called Pride and Buns be totally out of the question? Even a few tips on how to make fairy cakes would help, and be pretty much in period as well. She’d be a little happier, even, if the lovers could be thrown into the mixing bowl of life. At least it would be some acknowledgement that people actually ate.

Anthem for Doomed Youth (book #105)

20 June 2011

Carola Dunn, 2011.

Author’s website.

I suppose I read these out of curiosity to see how the author develops Daisy’s life, and in particular how she manages to keep Daisy working now she’s married with children; and to see how she manages to get Alec (Met detective husband, handy if you make a habit of finding bodies) on the scene this time.

The book is set in 1926. Two words grated on me – OED gives mixed results.

“Reported missing Sunday the sixth, by his teenaged daughter.” The earliest citations for “teenaged” are from 1953, one in a reference book of American sland and the other from the listener. “Teenage” itself is attested from 1921 in Canada, 1935 in America and 1950 in the UK – in an adult novel by Noel Streatfeild I haven’t read (and must now do). I’ve forgotten whether it’s Alec or one of the other police who say this line, but I think in any case I’m voting anachronistic.

“If you’re going to be so – so negative, Lily, I wish you would go away.” This use of negative as an adjective struck me as wrong. The speaker is a middle-aged or elderly middle-class woman. The earliest OED citation in anything like this sense is from 1891, in the Dictionary of National Biography – “His negative bent made him before all things a censor and a critic”. There’s also 1895, the International Journal of Ethics, “one does not like to be entirely negative or pessimistic after so many words”. So I suppose this is just about plausible.

I Shall Wear Midnight (book #103)

23 May 2011

Terry Pratchett, 2010.

Mysterious omens could wait. Witches knew that mysterious omens were around all the time. The world was nearly always drowing in mysterious omens. You just had to pick the one that was convenient.

and “‘there are times when ye should stick your head up a duck’s bottom rather than talk'”.

A book about responsibility, scheduling, and the odd bit of magical happenings.

The songs sung at the Baron’s funeral are: The Larks They Sang Melodious (also known as Pleasant and Delightful and as Charming and Delightful). YouTube. Dance, Dance, The Shaking of the Sheets (link has interesting reference to variant by William Cobbold, 16th/17th century composer). Dull version by Faran Flad here. Down in the Valley. Lyrics. Rather plodding YouTube.

Nemesis (book #92)

3 January 2011

Lindsay Davis, 2010.

“For a workable escape you need a plan, a budget, detailed road maps, a stout stick, proper footwear and a good hat.”

The Body in the Moonlight (book #85)

1 November 2010

Katherine Hall Page, 2002.

This is darker than this series usually runs. I thought that Faith was going to find she was ill, with the references to her mind wandering. Turns out to be emotional stuff of course.

I liked the sound of the books by Veronica Brookside: “a hard-boiled series that featured a foul-mouthed female former librarian turned private detective who could hit a knothole at seventy-five feet while quoting the ruder parts of the Canterbury Tales“.

Also, I urgently need to cook Doughnut Muffins.

Interesting hymm quoted – I Sing a Song of the Saints of God, written by an English woman, Lesbia Scott, in 1929.

Through the Wall (book #84)

20 October 2010

Patricia Wentworth, 1952.

This is one of the most rocking Miss Silvers. She appears fairly early on – page 56 in my edition (a typo-ridden Coronet, 1982). Miss Silver’s niece Ethel and her great-niece Josephine actually appear, in a great domestic scene. There is some good dry humour:

[Miss Silver] did not care for the book they had given her at the library, and she thought [she – typo] would change it. She would prefer a novel in which the characters had at least heard of the ten commandments …

Ethel is “one of those who prefer to read about people whose circumstances as nearly as possible resemble their own”. Miss Silver chooses a library book for her, “hastily looking at the end to make sure that no harrowing incident cut short any of the infant lives, and finding the entire family very happily grouped round a Christmas tree on the last page” – very Pink Sugar. One does wonder how the intelligent Miss Silver puts up with the apparently rather dull Ethel.

And we get a glimpse of Miss Silver’s underwear:

Miss Larkin [police searcher], being passionately addicted to crochet, became quite warm in her admiration of the edging which decorated Miss Silver’s high-necked spencer and serviceable flannelette knickers, which had three rows on each leg, each row being a little wider than the last. On being informed that the design was original she was emboldened to ask for the pattern, which Miss Silver promised to write down for her.

She’s also good in this book on people* who don’t care about clothes, including probably Miss Silver herself, though clearly she does care enough to add embellishments to her knickers.

*by which I mean women, as obviously men aren’t interested in clothes.

And Randall March’s opinion of Miss Silver is more nuanced than usual: “His feelings for her were those of affection, gratitude, and the deepest respect, with an occasional tinge of impatience”. The author is also faintly critical: “Miss Silver was, perhaps, inclined to describe quite small things as providential. The fact that during this time of waiting she had been able to finish off the second stocking of the pair she was makig for Derek Burkett did undoubtedly present itself in this light”.

We also get Miss Silver’s positive reaction to a sermon, an apparently powerful one that tells us that “‘every single one of us every single day of our lives thinks, and says, and does the things which are the seed from which murder springs'”.

There’s some interesting stuff on love and need too. Marion tells Richard, who is in love with her, that she’s dull: “‘You would soon come to the end of it. Then it would bore you'”. He says that “‘most of the things that really matter … are fundamentally simple. … You don’t get tired of what you need'”.

Also, didn’t know that – as this implies – “I couldn’t agree more” has sometimes been thought not good use of language. When March says it Miss Silver thinks “He had not learned this phrase in her schoolroom, but she let it pass”. Not sure what the issue is about it.

And there is a Scottish cat called Mactavish, whose “orange coat recalled the best Dundee marmalade,” and who makes “a meticulous toilet”. What more could one ask for?

The Attenbury Emeralds (book #83)

17 October 2010

Jill Paton Walsh, 2010.

Well, more Lord Peter and Harriet has always to be a good thing, and this didn’t seem to me to have as many failings as Thrones, Dominations. But really, Lord Peter talking about his mh problems as “throwing a wobbly”? Apart from the fact that him discussing them explicitly, particularly with Bunter there as well as Harriet, seems unlikely …

WordWizard gives some dictionary cites. Looks as if the phrase “a wobbler” can be dated to at least 1942 (the book is set in 1950 or 1951, as Peter is 60 and the Festival of Britain is mentioned), but citations for “throw a wobbler” or “throw a wobbly” are later (1970s). The phrase “throw a wobbly” was among those added to Collins in 1986 (Guardian). I realise that JPW can’t have used slang without thought and that the original Lord Peter uses contemporary slang. But this particular phrase really stands out as unlikely, especially as she doesn’t show him using 1950s slang in general, and as the Guardian link says, this particular phrase reads as later.

I also completely failed to understand the plot – the reason for swapping the emeralds, and the motive for the murders – this doesn’t worry me unduly, as I read for story rather than plot, but it does leave me with a faint nagging feeling.

And Harriet’s happiness in her conservative role at the end is a long way from her days as Bohemian party-goer.

I’m looking forward to nineveh_uk’s review. So far she has said only “Where does one start beyond “someone is wrong in these pages”?” and That a dis-emeralded Rajah has turned up on page 18 probably says all you need to know about its quality. … I keep having to stop to say “WTF?TRY(%HDFNW(HGOAT!”.

Pollyanna’s Western Adventure (book #69)

4 April 2010

Harriet Loomis Smith, 1929.

“Listen, everybody. I’m going to start a circulating library [having discovered there are no books on the ranch]. Spots on the tablecloth will be subject to a fine of one cent for children and five for adults. And we’ll use the money for buying books. And then we’ll all ask our friends to send us the books they are through with.”

“I’ll present you with the text-books I used in college,” offered Dorothy generously. “I’ve finished with them, I hope.”

“They’d be useful to somebody, I don’t doubt, but they don’t fit in with this plan. I want the most interesting books that have ever been written. I know lots of people that will help. Aunt Ruth and Lorraine and Anne and – ”

You’ll have to appoint a censor, won’t you?” interrupted Jimmy. “It won’t do to corrupt the morals of this valley.”

Pollyanna’s hesitation was momentary. “I’ll tell them to send only nice books, of course. There really are plenty of them, though they’re not talked about as much as the others. It’s like the happy marriages. The people who quarrel and fight and sue for divorce get into the newspapers, and the happy couples are never mentioned.”