One of the joys of reading old books is that every once in a while you stumble upon a forgotten gem. I was browsing the public-domain treasure-trove oOne of the joys of reading old books is that every once in a while you stumble upon a forgotten gem. I was browsing the public-domain treasure-trove of the Kindle store, and picked up Old Rose and Silver (published 1909) because it looked rather interesting from a few reviews. From the very first pages, I knew I was going to love it.
Rose Bernard, at age forty, has a happy and well-filled life living with her beloved aunt, but still feels the vacancy left by never having known true love. It looks like she may have an opportunity to discover it at last, when her aunt's old and dear friend Colonel Kent and his grown son, Allison, return from abroad to be their neighbors. But heartbreak lies ahead for Rose as she witnesses Allison's growing attraction to her much younger and shallow cousin Isabel. I won't detail the twists and turns of their story, which take directions both tragic and uplifting; I'll leave you to discover this book's delights for yourself.
It's a simply beautiful book. It's filled with vivid, appealing characters, wonderfully romantic, and gorgeously written—every word and every line is meant to be savored. The past and present sorrows woven through the characters' lives make it deeply poignant, yet there is plenty of joy and some delightful humor. Rose's aunt, Madame Bernard, is an utterly charming, wise and tender elderly lady whom you can't help but love, and a pair of supporting characters, a wildly unconventional young twin brother and sister named (believe me!) Romeo and Juliet add a large dose of quirky fun, yet are also responsible for some of the plot's most significant twists. It's a wonderful read, definitely one of the best books I've discovered so far this year....more
4.5 stars. I'd been meaning to try Rhodes' Westerns for quite a while, and my interest was further piqued by the chapter on him in Agnes Morley Cleave4.5 stars. I'd been meaning to try Rhodes' Westerns for quite a while, and my interest was further piqued by the chapter on him in Agnes Morley Cleaveland's memoir No Life for a Lady. If all his books are as entertaining as Copper Streak Trail, I think I'm sure to enjoy more of them. The story concerns a shrewd, good-humored old-timer, Pete Johnson, and stalwart young Easterner Stanley Mitchell, who together have found a rich deposit of copper, and must get hold of the necessary capital to develop it into a mine. Certain other parties, though, are bound and determined to block their efforts and track them to the location of the mine so as to jump the claim. On the basis of recurring, odd misfortunes that have befallen Stan since he came West, Pete suspects that he has an enemy back east who is employing their local enemies in Arizona. After Stan is framed for a crime, Pete heads east himself to sniff out the truth and take steps to checkmate the unknown enemy.
It's a simple enough story, largely enjoyable because of the way it's written. Rhodes' dialogue in particular is a riot. "The speech of the educated man, in Mr. Zurich, was overlaid with colloquialism and strange idiom, made a second tongue by long familiarity," he observes of one character, and that goes for many of the people in this book. It makes even a plotting scene between three villains, usually a rather wearing kind of conversation, a real hoot to read. I'd almost draw a comparison to O. Henry's style, except that on occasion Rhodes seems to go a little over the top. (One suspects he had as much fun writing it as it is to read—later in the story he gets hold of a character who has a Scottish accent you could cut with a knife, and the gude auld mon gets to talk on for about three pages, for no particularly vital reason.) There are a few spots in the second (eastern) half where he goes off on a bit of a tangent, expounding his opinion on one matter or another, or lengthens out a bantering conversation that doesn't truly affect the plot (but is no less entertaining). The little twist in the final pages surprised me—it's something clearly involving the notion of a code of fair play that crops up in one form or another in many Westerns. In retrospect, I kind of sensed something of the sort would happen based off a bit of foreshadowing in the very first chapter, but it didn't take the form I expected....more
Nicola Ferris, an English girl who works at the British Embassy in Athens, is hiking in the White Mountains of Crete when she stumbles across Mark LanNicola Ferris, an English girl who works at the British Embassy in Athens, is hiking in the White Mountains of Crete when she stumbles across Mark Langley, a young Englishman suffering from a gunshot wound, who won't tell her much, but is apparently still in peril from persons unknown as a consequence of accidentally witnessing a crime. Continuing on to the tiny seaside village where she is to spend a holiday with her older cousin Frances, Nicola finds herself even deeper in the mystery, stepping carefully to try and find out who in the village knows what and to find information to help Mark and his companions.
I enjoyed this book a lot. Stewart's writing is marvellous, her characters' emotions are very real and her descriptions of the exotic Cretan setting are entrancing. The dialogue in the lighter scenes sparkles with wit—the one scene where they have to keep translating English slang for the benefit of a Greek character really had me laughing, and a couple of the action scenes at the very end are hysterical too. I like the fact that it's not purely a romance; the romantic element is a light touch, like just the right amount of a spice to the suspense and adventure that forms the main course. It's perhaps a trifle edgier than Nine Coaches Waiting, with just a bit of swearing and innuendo, but not enough to make me really mind it. I had to give it the full five stars just because I had such fun reading it....more
4.5 stars. The sole reason for subtraction of a half-star is mixed feelings about some of the story's magical themes. Otherwise—well, the writing is s4.5 stars. The sole reason for subtraction of a half-star is mixed feelings about some of the story's magical themes. Otherwise—well, the writing is simply lovely, the setting of a quaint English village delightful, and the characters absolutely charming and endearing. Elizabeth Goudge is just as good as E. Nesbit at writing from children's perspectives in a natural and hilarious way. (When I opened the book and saw it contained a Robert, I thought it would take me a little while to dissociate him from Nesbit's Robert in the Five Children series, but this one asserted his individuality from the first page). Unlike Nesbit, though, the adult characters play a vibrant part—Uncle Ambrose is simply a marvel. There are some unexpectedly touching moments, too; the bit with Nan's parlor almost brought tears to my eyes. The magic element in the story is small but definite, treating the spells of a village witch as real and effective, and the undoing of them by "good" spells the crux of the plot. I don't think I'd give it to a child or read it to them without a careful caveat about its being make-believe...but as a grown-up I can wink at that and simply enjoy the delights of the book....more
The wild tide of battle runs red, - dashes high, And blots out the splendour of earth and of sky; The blue air is heavy, and sul'phrous, and dun, And th
The wild tide of battle runs red, - dashes high, And blots out the splendour of earth and of sky; The blue air is heavy, and sul'phrous, and dun, And the breeze on its wings bears the boom of the gun. In faster and fiercer and deadlier shocks, The thunderous billows are hurled on the rocks; And our Valley becomes, amid Spring's softest breath, The valley, alas! of the shadow of death.
The background of Beechenbrook is even more fascinating than the work itself. The author, Margaret Junkin Preston, seemingly little-known now but highly regarded in her day, is an historical and literary figure who has intrigued me ever since I first read about her some years ago. She was the sister-in-law of Stonewall Jackson through his first wife, her sister Elinor Junkin. In 1857 Margaret married Major John T.L. Preston, one of the founders of the Virginia Military Institute and a widower with seven children. She eventually had two children of her own. She witnessed the devastation of the Civil War firsthand, enduring the hardships of home-front life, the invasion of Virginia and the loss of two young stepsons. Although these experiences undoubtedly inspired the trials of the representative Southern family in her poem Beechenbrook, the woman who became known as the "Poetess of the Confederacy" suffered personal ambivalence and conflict before coming to fully identify with the Confederate cause. A native of Pennsylvania, she had family on the Northern side of the struggle as well.
Now, I'm no poetry critic. To me, there are two kinds of poetry: the kind that rhymes and the kind that doesn't. I like the kind that rhymes. I can't intelligently critique Beechenbrook in terms of poetry, but I can say that I enjoyed Preston's style. The language is direct, clear and sometimes surprisingly (for lack of a better word) modern, in contrast to the involved and flowery style one expects from Victorian-era literature. I was particularly impressed by how Preston used descriptions of the changing seasons and weather to highlight events in the narrative, by drawing either parallels or sharp contrasts.
The poem is the story of soldier's wife Alice Dunbar and her family as they experience the war from their Shenandoah Valley home—witnessing battles from afar, exchanging letters with an absent husband and father, caring for wounded soldiers and seeing the destruction of their home. Although the descriptions of impassioned patriotism and nobility may seem extravagant now, the emotion that inspired them is real and palpable; the most poignant moments all ring true. It would be very hard not to feel moved by the time one reaches the end of the book.
The story is also imbued with a strong Christian faith, increasingly emphasized as the one thing that sustains Alice throughout her trials. One particularly compelling scene portrays a service conducted by an army chaplain who exhorts his men to regard the spiritual battle as even more important than the physical....more
Chip of the Flying U, published in 1906, was B.M. Bower's first and best-known novel. It was also my introduction to her work, and even after readingChip of the Flying U, published in 1906, was B.M. Bower's first and best-known novel. It was also my introduction to her work, and even after reading many more of her books it's still among my favorites.
As a sidenote, it surprised me somewhat when I began reading older Western fiction that many of the stories were set near the time they were written—well into the early 20th century, some of them—rather than back in the earlier days of the West. Chip is clearly set in what was then present-day. Young lady doctor Della Whitmore comes West to visit her brother's Montana ranch after graduating from medical school, and the first person she encounters is Flying U ranch hand Chip Bennett. The beginning of their acquaintance is eventful, thanks to a practical joke by the irrepressible Flying U cowpunchers that goes awry, and not exactly promising...and an equally eventful summer follows. When Chip is injured in an accident, Della, to whom falls the task of caring for him, discovers his hidden artistic talent and does her best to encourage it despite their frequent misunderstandings and clashes. It's a sweet, lively and often very funny story, an old-fashioned romance with a delightful cast of supporting characters, and a very realistic-feeling, down-to-earth picture of everday ranch life. There's a a twist near the end that took me properly by surprise on first reading (though a sharp reader might have an inkling if they paid close attention).
I thoroughly enjoyed Bower's writing; although it shares some of the style and sensibilities of the time period it's brisk and readable and doesn't get bogged down in wordiness or too much melodrama as did some of her contemporaries'. Another thing I found refreshing is the lack of a feministic streak in the book, given the time period, the female author and a female doctor as one of the protagonists. The rural folk regard the 'lady doctor' as somewhat of a curiosity, but that's the whole extent of it—Della is not one of those aggravating fictional heroines who feel the need to get a crack about women's rights into every argument....more
Stunning—absolutely stunning. I listened to the audio of the sermons that were transcribed to form this book, and read the chapters for the few whereStunning—absolutely stunning. I listened to the audio of the sermons that were transcribed to form this book, and read the chapters for the few where the original recording has not survived. Lloyd-Jones provides complete, clear answers to the oft-heard questions of "Why is the world/society like it is?" and "Why does God let these things happen?", going straight to the root cause: man's rejection of God and God's authority. He demonstrates with amazing detail the eventual effects this has on a culture, in their morals, politics, arts and even other things you wouldn't ordinarily think of. It's incredible how perfectly these sermons fit today's world, considering that they were preached in the mid-1960s. The question I always find myself asking after reading or listening to Lloyd-Jones is "Why did no one listen to him?"...more