2.5 stars. I might have liked this a little better if the ebook I got from Internet Archive hadn't been a very poor scan job, almost entirely illegibl...more2.5 stars. I might have liked this a little better if the ebook I got from Internet Archive hadn't been a very poor scan job, almost entirely illegible in places—rather like watching a very blurry film or listening to a radio with lots of static. Then again, I might not have.
Aunt Huldah of the title is a widow who keeps a makeshift boarding-house in a small Western town, takes in orphans, serves as resident angel of mercy to the sick and unhappy, and can find a good word to say about anybody, even the outlaws. The mostly episodic plot follows her through caring for her orphans and lending a hand in the various problems and romances of friends and neighbors, with the separate threads of story wound up individually in the last few chapters. I can't say I disliked the book; it just didn't impress me as much as others have—the dialogue and writing sometimes seemed a bit overly quaint, and few of the characters besides Aunt Huldah herself were very well-drawn or interesting. Those things aside, it is a lightweight and moderately entertaining take on a more domestic side of the West than is usually seen in books.(less)
I read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm when I was younger, along with Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and all the other girls' classics, but somehow nev...moreI read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm when I was younger, along with Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and all the other girls' classics, but somehow never got acquainted with any of Kate Douglas Wiggin's other works until recently. I never realized what a wonderful writer she was! These three short works (longer than short stories; I'd call them novelettes, perhaps), two stories of sweet courtships between Americans abroad in England, and one rather humorous one about romance deferred by stubborness, are perfect light reading for a summer day. I loved the references to Jane Austen's Persuasion in "A Cathedral Courtship," and the description of morning and breakfast on a Maine farm at the beginning of "Huldah the Prophetess"—much like the descriptions in Wiggin's Rose O' the River—just made me want to be there!(less)
The Prince and Betty may come as a bit of a revelation to those who know P.G. Wodehouse mainly through the escapades of Jeeves, Wooster & Co. It's...moreThe Prince and Betty may come as a bit of a revelation to those who know P.G. Wodehouse mainly through the escapades of Jeeves, Wooster & Co. It's unquestionably humor, but it's humor with heart. The romance is sweet, and the principal characters' subsequent brushes with difficulty and heartbreak are very genuine. Wodehouse was a master of the English language, and he could turn his gift with words to more serious purpose, too, when he wanted.
The fact that this was originally two stories woven together can certainly be felt a little, in the way that character of Smith seems to take over the narrative at times, and how decisively Mervo and its inhabitants are left behind after the first section of the book for the streets of New York. But with P.G. Wodehouse as a guide, plenty of fun is guaranteed in any location. I particularly loved the scenes of the royal arrival and the "revolution" in Mervo. Wodehouse also seems to have a more natural touch with American characters than other British authors I've read. I've read a bit more of his early work besides The Prince and Betty, too, and I certainly enjoyed the slightly different style enough to look forward to reading more of the same.(less)
I don't know what it is about Nevil Shute's writing that is so absorbing. It's the very essence of simplicity and understatement, filled with careful,...moreI don't know what it is about Nevil Shute's writing that is so absorbing. It's the very essence of simplicity and understatement, filled with careful, seemingly mundane details of his characters' lives. Perhaps that's what makes it so lifelike. His characters are very human, very ordinary and yet interesting. The main plot of Pastoral also seems simple: a romance between a young R.A.F. bomber pilot and a girl from the W.A.A.F. signalers on his post. Their initial attraction and friendship and the uncertain progress of their courtship is so honest and natural, and ultimately touching and romantic. But their relationship is also intricately intertwined with the routine and protocol of everyday life on an R.A.F. post, and the mental and emotional strain on the pilots flying bombing raids over Germany (raids depicted in a couple of riveting scenes in the book) and on the personnel who wait for them to return, and chalk up each night's casualties. I found it very hard to put down once I'd started, and finished it in a couple of sittings.
My only quibble would be some mild language throughout, some of a distinctly British variety—that's the funny thing about being an American reading a British novel; sometimes you're never quite sure if someone is swearing or not.(less)
3.5 stars. None of these short stories pack quite the same punch as Nesbit's full-length children's fantasies, but there are some fun ones in here. Mo...more3.5 stars. None of these short stories pack quite the same punch as Nesbit's full-length children's fantasies, but there are some fun ones in here. Most of them deal with mixing magic into the everyday lives of the child characters (I'd say "Kenneth and the Carp" and "The Mixed Mine" were a couple of the best), but there are also some cute almost-parodies of the old-fashioned fairytale—I particularly liked "The Princess and the Hedge-Pig." There's also one non-fantasy story which strayed in there somehow, "The Related Muff," which is good and very Bastable-like.(less)
4.5 stars. Thoroughly enjoyed this one! In many ways it's vintage Dickens, and yet there's slightly different elements to it too. The various threads...more4.5 stars. Thoroughly enjoyed this one! In many ways it's vintage Dickens, and yet there's slightly different elements to it too. The various threads of plots seem a little bit more loosely connected than in some of his other books, the intertwining of characters' lives a bit more haphazard. I found it interesting that the existence of a big secret is actively suspected by Arthur Clennam almost from the beginning of the book, instead of coming as a surprise somewhat later on. And this is one Dickens novel where the hero and heroine actually deserve the titles! Arthur Clennam and Amy Dorrit, the two people at the center of the story, are well-developed characters and people you can sympathize with and cheer for.
Among the supporting characters, one of my favorites was Mr. Pancks—I wasn't sure what to make of him at first, but he grew on me as the story went on, till I was ready to give him three cheers at his final scene. The ones that had me laughing out loud more than once were the perpetually comma-less Flora and her "legacy," Mr. F's Aunt. Mr. Sparkler's Venetian courtship via gondola was hysterical too. I guessed where the Merdle plotline was going long in advance...partly because it reminded me of similar characters in another book, (view spoiler)[the Melmottes in Trollope's The Way We Live Now(hide spoiler)] And I was waiting for a long time for the come-uppance that I knew had to be coming to one particularly dastardly character, but I must say the shape it took was unexpected! The satirical portrait of the Circumlocution Office is a painfully acute as well as funny depiction of politics as we know them all too well...some things never change. And the character of Amy's father, and how he does not change with his change in circumstances, is similarly maddening and yet marvelously done, so that I couldn't help feeling Dickens must have particularly enjoyed sketching out all the nuances of Mr. Dorrit.
In short, if you like a good Dickens novel, you ought to like Little Dorrit.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
3.5 stars. This is one of those occasional cases where the writing style is really the most notable and entertaining thing about the stories: the dead...more3.5 stars. This is one of those occasional cases where the writing style is really the most notable and entertaining thing about the stories: the deadpan narration and dialect, and the way humor is derived from every variation of crook and "character" on Broadway and around the racetracks—mainly by serious, almost naïve-sounding understatements regarding their tempers and pursuits. (Once you've read a certain amount of these stories, you'll find yourself thinking in present tense.) Some of the situations in these short stories are honestly very funny, but on the other hand (or at least when you've been reading a steady diet of them for a while) some feel a bit forced and trite; once in a while the narrator's dialect gets a little too involved and repetitive for his own good.
Among my favorites in the collection were "A Story Goes With It," "Butch Minds the Baby," and "Breach of Promise." "The Bloodhounds of Broadway" and "Palm Beach Santa Claus" were pretty funny too. Classic film fans will recognize the original stories for "Little Miss Marker" and "Madame La Gimp" (filmed as the charming Lady For a Day); but from what I know of it, I don't think "The Lemon Drop Kid" has much in common with the Christmas movie of the same name.
Whether the stories are good or middling, there's almost always some phrase that'll give you a fit of giggles—I got a real kick out of the bit in "The Lacework Kid" where a man borrowing money gives "his Kathleen Mavourneen, which is a promise to pay that may be for years and may be forever."(less)