Auntie Mame is the rollicking story of a boy who when his father dies is sent to live with his flamboyant aunt, the title's Auntie Mame, who has becomAuntie Mame is the rollicking story of a boy who when his father dies is sent to live with his flamboyant aunt, the title's Auntie Mame, who has become an icon of literature, as well as of stage and screen. She's marvelously vital and funny, and Dennis surrounds her with more wonderful characters: her best friend, Vera Charles, "a famous actress from Pittsburgh who spoke with such Mayfair elegance that you could barely understand a word she said"; her secretary, the mousy (and wonderfully named) Agnes Gooch; the Southern gentleman Beau Burnside; and many more. Around the World with Auntie Mame has the feel of an expected sequel and lacks a little of the flair of the original, but it's still pretty funny and definitely worth reading along with Auntie Mame.
And I have to finish by saying that, as much as I like Auntie Mame, I think it's one of the very few (maybe the only) cases I can think of where the movie is better than the book. Rosalind Russell is simply perfect as Auntie Mame, and the screenplay brings out the depth of the attachment between Mame and Patrick that's not quite as evident in the book. ...more
Because of a wish Mrs. Armitage made while she and Mr. Armitage were on their honeymoon, Mark and Harriet Armitage and their parents have a series ofBecause of a wish Mrs. Armitage made while she and Mr. Armitage were on their honeymoon, Mark and Harriet Armitage and their parents have a series of magical, surprising things happen to them, generally on Mondays: unicorns, witches, spells, fairy godmothers, dragons, griffins, and even twenty-three duchesses and a swimming pool full of pink ice cream. These stories were really delightful, and I can't imagine how I've missed reading any of them all these years (probably my fault for tending to avoid short story collections even by favorite writers). They're quirky and fanciful, and I especially love how, in a very Aikenish way, every odd occurrence is simply taken for granted. I'd find it hard to choose a favorite, but the title story, "The Serial Garden", stays in my mind because of its poignant ending....more
Olivia's rebellious, beloved twin sister Violet has died, and Olivia's parents have moved the family across the country to San Francisco to start agaiOlivia's rebellious, beloved twin sister Violet has died, and Olivia's parents have moved the family across the country to San Francisco to start again. Olivia would love to start her life again in a new city and a new school, but her life seems to have been put on hold when Violet died. Then one day, Olivia meets a mysterious seamstress who makes her a dress which grants her dearest wish, though perhaps not precisely as she would have wanted.
I'll say right up front that if I hadn't gotten this from the Amazon.com Vine program and thus felt obligated to review it, I would have put it down after 50 pages or so. The writing is awkward and full of clichés and poor word choices. The magical element doesn't work with the rest of the plot at all; it's just a creaky mechanism to get Violet back and never believable in and of itself. The concept of Violet-as-ghost is potentially interesting, but poorly executed: for example, on one page, we learn that she can't affect anything physical, while soon afterward, she's flipping through a magazine.
On the plus side, the relationships between Olivia and her new friends are fairly well done. She gets in the middle of a breakup, and the angst around that feels real and actually worked better for me than the more fantastical elements of the plot. By the end, I felt as though there was a decent book about grief and moving on trying to get out of Wish, but it's simply buried too deep in the labored writing and the tacked-on magical elements.
If you'd like to read a much better YA book about a girl and a ghost (well, more than one ghost), try Megan Crewe's Give Up the Ghost. ...more
Pauline Manford is a superlative New York hostess and do-gooder, organizing her causes and her social events with equal efficiency and panache, whilePauline Manford is a superlative New York hostess and do-gooder, organizing her causes and her social events with equal efficiency and panache, while taking care of herself by going to a series of self-help gurus. Her daughter-in-law Lita is a child of the Jazz Age, though, and her boredom with her marriage affects all of Pauline's family, until everything might come crashing down on them.
Compared to Wharton's earlier, greater novels, this is overplotted and undercharacterized; I often felt as though the plot was driving the characterization, rather than developing out of it. It's still interesting to see her look at New York society, but she seems out of her depth a bit, lapsing into satire rather than the subtly scathing criticism I love about her best books. I did enjoy the lampooning of the self-help culture Pauline is addicted to, and the flashes of sly humor, but I wish the characters had been deeper and more sympathetic....more
The life of Valentine Arbell, a longtime widow, is turned upside down when she encounters again a man with whom she had a passionate love affair as aThe life of Valentine Arbell, a longtime widow, is turned upside down when she encounters again a man with whom she had a passionate love affair as a young woman. This was an unusual Delafield, I thought. She does show, as usual, the constrictedness of the lives of her female characters (though there are hints of something better in the war work longed for by Valentine's younger daughter), but in spite of the bittersweet tone, the ending is oddly, unexpectedly (at least to me) hopeful. ...more
Ian Bradley is the editor of the excellent The Complete Annotated Gilbert & Sullivan, which I've reread and enjoyed for years. Here, he examines sIan Bradley is the editor of the excellent The Complete Annotated Gilbert & Sullivan, which I've reread and enjoyed for years. Here, he examines specifically the last forty years in Gilbert and Sullivan performances and organizations, or since about 1961, when their works came into the public domain and could be performed by groups other than the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. After devoting a couple of chapters to the currently defunct D'Oyly Carte, Bradley goes on to explore other groups and performances, professional and amateur, all over the world; I was pleased to see references to my local G&S society, the Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Bradley also includes chapters on G&S parodies (very funny) and on G&S fans; here I do wonder if he's overgeneralizing, as I think he may be overestimating the tendency of G&S fans to be male, but perhaps I'm simply also overgeneralizing, based on personal experience. Overall, as one would expect from a Gilbert and Sullivan expert like Bradley, Oh Joy! Oh Rapture! is a fascinating read and well worth adding to the collection of any G&S fan. ...more
Barbara Michaels (who also writes as Elizabeth Peters) is a writer of consistently entertaining romantic thrillers, usually with supernatural overtoneBarbara Michaels (who also writes as Elizabeth Peters) is a writer of consistently entertaining romantic thrillers, usually with supernatural overtones. After reading Someone in the House several times over the years since it was published, I've come to think that it's one of her best.
Anne and Kevin are English professors, planning to write a textbook together; when Kevin's parents win the lottery and buy a country manor (transported intact from England at the beginning of World War II), he and Anne decide to spend the summer there, writing. Soon after they arrive, strange things start to happen, and Anne begins to feel that there is an inexplicable presence in the house. The story is full of Michaels' signature suspense, romance, and humor, but the utterly unexpected ending is what, for me, lifts this book above many of her others (though I note upon reading reviews at Amazon that my opinion isn't shared by most Michaels fans, so your mileage may vary). ...more
Wharton's writing is every bit as clear and lucid as in her novels, and I really liked the look at her own life and background. I especially liked herWharton's writing is every bit as clear and lucid as in her novels, and I really liked the look at her own life and background. I especially liked her understated wit and her early amazement at becoming a well-known writer, which makes her seem very human and approachable; here's a favorite passage: "I had written short stories that were thought worthy of preservation! Was it the same insignificant I that I had always known? Any one walking along the streets might go into any bookshop, and say: 'Please give me Edith Wharton's book'; and the clerk, without bursting into incredulous laughter, would produce it, and be paid for it, and the purchaser would walk home with it and read it, and talk of it, and pass it on to other people to read!" ...more
I discovered Edward Ormondroyd's charming time travel fantasies, Time at the Top and All in Good Time, years ago when I was eight or nine; then I forgI discovered Edward Ormondroyd's charming time travel fantasies, Time at the Top and All in Good Time, years ago when I was eight or nine; then I forgot about them for a long time until I happened upon a used copy of the first book (leading me on a long search for the second, which was much harder to track down). Upon rereading them for the first time in a few years, I find that they still hold up very well.
Susan Shaw is having a bad day, but when she stops to help an elderly woman with her flyaway umbrella and unwieldy packages, the old woman tells her, "I'll give you three." Three what, wonders Susan. When she takes the elevator in her apartment building up to the top floor and finds herself back in time eighty years, she figures out that "three" means three trips in the elevator to the past, where Susan meets Victoria and Bobbie Walker and their beautiful widowed mother, who are having troubles which only Susan (with the eventual assistance of her also-widowed father) can solve. These are simply charming light fantasies, with wonderful characters, particularly the spunky, clever Susan....more
This groundbreaking 1976 work of feminist literary criticism is exactly the kind of book I like: erudite, wide-ranging, well written, and frequently vThis groundbreaking 1976 work of feminist literary criticism is exactly the kind of book I like: erudite, wide-ranging, well written, and frequently very witty. Moers examines English, American, and French women writers from the eighteenth century (plus seventeenth century Anne Bradstreet) to the present day, seeking to answer the questions of how their gender influenced their work and whether "women's literature" is truly distinct from men's. Along the way, she delves knowledgeably into the work of writers ranging from Jane Austen, the Brontes, and George Eliot to Willa Cather, Colette, and George Sand, showing thematic connections and drawing fascinating conclusions which make me wish I had worlds enough and time to read or reread every book she mentions. (Well, except Mrs. Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, which might cause me to die of boredom if I ever had to reread it; happily, Moers's summary of it is much, much more amusing and instructive.) Literary Women is deservedly a classic of feminist literary criticism; even 30 years after it was published, it's full of learning, energy, and wit. ...more
Reason Cansino has spent her whole life on the run in Australia (the author's home) with her mother Sarafina, escaping her grandmother Esmerelda; ReasReason Cansino has spent her whole life on the run in Australia (the author's home) with her mother Sarafina, escaping her grandmother Esmerelda; Reason's mum calls Esmerelda a witch and tells Reason awful stories of dark magic and sacrifice. When Sarafina has a mental breakdown, though, Reason has to go live with Esmerelda in Sydney; when she steps through Esmerelda's back door and finds herself in New York, Reason must face the truth behind Sarafina's stories and behind Reason herself: she has magic. Magic or Madness is a wonderful combination of vivid characters (especially Reason), excellent sense of place, both in Sydney and in New York, and an original and fascinating magical system (on which I won't go into details for fear of spoilers)....more
The Pythons Autobiography is a funny and fascinating history of Monty Python, by the Pythons themselves: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, EThe Pythons Autobiography is a funny and fascinating history of Monty Python, by the Pythons themselves: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. (Graham Chapman died in 1989; he's represented by excerpts from earlier books and articles, as well as by his longtime companion David Sherlock and his brother and sister-in-law John and Pam Chapman.) Switching back and forth from one member to another, it covers their individual beginnings, their coming together as a group, and their work together and apart, up to the present day. The multiple viewpoints give an occasionally contradictory but always honest and interesting account of the group's ground-breaking comedy work; I particularly liked the sections on The Holy Grail and The Life of Brian. The book is fairly long (though my paperback edition isn't as long as the hardcover, which had many, many more photographs and images), but it's an absorbing read -- definitely an essential for any Python fan. ...more