Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Who is the middle-aged, British gent who says he’s too broke to pay his rent?

The one who looks for someone each night among patrons of Broadway’s theaters and restaurants?


Felix O’ Day by F. Hopkinson Smith

Project Gutenberg ebook #5229. 1915 bestseller #7. My grade: B.


It’s Felix O Day.

The novel of which Felix is titular character is a romance that derives its interest mainly from the Felix’s mysterious behavior.

While Felix is negotiating a loan at a secondhand  shop, he tells owner Otto Kling some of his merchandise is undervalued. Impressed, Otto asks Felix to come work for him.

Otto arranges for Felix to room across the street with Kitty and John Cleary, who own a moving company.

It’s a happy arrangement.

Felix mostly enjoys the work.

He is charmed by Maisie, Otto’s 10-year-old daughter.

He learns to know and value Kitty and the other Fourth Street business owners.

One day an unexpected discovery leads Felix to share his secret with the local priest, Father Cruse. That, and advice from Kitty, lead to a happy ending.

Felix O’Day kept me up past my bedtime. Though the parable of the lost sheep post’s familiar,  author F. Hopkinson Smith makes Felix, with his inbred class-consciousness, sufficiently human to make it feel fresh.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Jaffery is an odd novel in which war correspondent Jaffery Chayne, a character better suited to a graphic novel than a literary one, appears only sporadically.


Jaffery by William J. Locke

Illus. F. Matania. Publisher, John Lane, 1915. Project Gutenberg ebook #14669. 1915 bestseller #6. My grade: B-.


Jaffery arrives back in England, escorting widow Liosha Prescott, just as Adrian Boldoro publishes a novel to great acclaim.

Liosha deals with loose cargo during a storm at sea

Loose cargo in the hold during a storm is no problem for Liosha Prescott

Liosha is Jaffery’s mate in appearance and temperament, but Jaffery is too besotted with Doria Jornicroft to notice her.

Despite her father’s opposition, Doria has gotten engaged to Adrian,  which skewers Jaffrey’s plan to fix Liosha up with Adrian.

Neither Jaffery nor Hilary Freeth would have been surprised had their deceased Cambridge pal, Tom, published a bestseller, but no one expected “precious, finnikin Adrian” to amount to anything.

When Adrian dies suddenly with a new book unfinished, Jaffery sees his chance to win Doria.

Jaffrey’s plan backfires.

Liosha has her own romantic contretemps.

Both sign on as hands on a tramp steamer, returning home in time to tie up the plot.

Liosha quiets a horse while Jaffrey talks to a native.

Liosha and Jaffrey are in the war zone in the Balkans.

William J. Locke packages the novel as Hillary’s memoir. Funny, loving and loveable, Hilary, together with his wife and daughter, provide a common-sense perspective for viewing the antics of others who seem be playing roles they scripted for themselves.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Mary Roberts Rinehart’s  K  blends romance and mystery so satisfactorily that the unlikely plot coincidences aren’t noticeable until after the novel is back on its shelf.


K by Mary Roberts Rinehart

1915 bestseller #5. Project Gutenberg EBook #9931. My grade B.


When their circumstances fall below genteel poverty level, the Page women take in borders.

Newlyweds Christine and Palmer Howe move into what had been the Page’s parlor and back sitting room.

Mr. K. LeMoyne puts his suitcase in what had been daughter Sidney’s bedroom.

Sidney is in training as a nurse, which will eventually bring in a good, steady income.

She finds surgeon Max Wilson very attractive.

Joe Drummond, who loves Sidney, is frantic. He knows the surgeon’s reputation with women and fears the worst if Dr. Max takes an interest in her.

K settles comfortably into the neighborhood, falls silently in love with Sidney, and becomes the man everyone goes to with their troubles.

Who is K?

How did he come by his wealth of knowledge?

Why does nurse Carlotta Harrison fear K so much she risks offending Dr. Max to avoid him?

Rinehart produces answers, lets all the characters learn from their experiences, and pulls everything together so that everyone lives less unhappily ever after.

For boarding-house operators, less unhappily is as good as it gets.

­

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Eleanor H. Porter’s “Glad Girl,” Pollyanna, captivated readers, who clamored for more about the plucky orphan.

Porter obliged with Pollyanna Grows Up.


 Pollyanna Grows Up by Eleanor H. Porter

Page, 1914. 306 pp. Project Gutenberg ebook #6100. 1915 bestseller #4. My grade: B-. 


Worried that her niece will be spoiled by being treated as a “cure” for depressed people, while she and her husband go abroad Aunt Polly lets Pollyanna spend a year in Boston with a rich, miserable widow.

Under Pollyanna’s influence, Mrs. Carew adopts a crippled orphan with the same name as her lost nephew, Jamie, and befriends a shop girl, Sadie.

After the year in Boston, Pollyanna goes to live with with her Aunt Polly and her husband in Europe.

When Aunt Polly’s husband dies, she and Pollyanna return to Beldingsville, where they have a house but no income.

Pollyanna decides to take in boarders, beginning with Mrs. Carew and her entourage. Pollyanna introduces them to her Beldingsville friends, resulting in a web of romantic entanglements.

The plot of Pollyanna Grows Up is even more clumsy and contrived than that of its predecessor.

What’s more, the self-assurance that made the child Pollyanna invulnerable to insult makes the adult Pollyanna appear stupidly insensitive to emotional tone.

All but die-hard Porter fans will find, I fear, that Pollyanna hasn’t so much grown up as grown old.

©2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Gene Stratton-Porter’s Michael O’Halloran is what is often called an “inspirational” novel, which in this case, as in many others, means ridiculous.

Orders Mickey's dying mother left for him.

Directions Mickey’s dying mother left for him.

Michael O’Halloran, 10, is an orphan who lives alone, supporting himself selling newspapers and advising the editor on what to put on the front page.


Michael O’Halloran by Gene Stratton-Porter

©1915, 1916. 1915 bestseller #3. Project Gutenbergebook #9489. My grade C-.


Mickey finds another orphan, a crippled girl he names Lily, and assumes sole responsibility for her care.

Meanwhile, lawyer Douglas Bruce’s colleague Mr. Minter has taken a slum kid into his office, so Bruce takes Mickey into his.

Bruce’s fiancée, Leslie Winton, attempts to save the Minter’s marriage by getting Mrs. Minter into the swamp to listen to bird songs and repent of her failure as a mother.

Mrs. Minter repents, but it’s some time before her husband learns enough bird songs to get over their sons’ murder of their sister.

At the behest of his future father-in-law, Bruce is investigating city government corruption.

Employees in Mr. Winton’s department deny wrong-doing.

Thanks to Mickey, Winton has time to replace the money he “borrowed” before Bruce finds out, so the taint of corruption never ascends to Winton himself.

Then Mickey wraps up the novel by curing Lily’s crippled back.

Now doesn’t that inspire you?

©2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

My review of A Far County was to have been posted in the wee hours of Saturday morning. I hit the wrong item on the pull-down menu when scheduling it, accidentally marking it for September 8 instead of August 8.

I try to keep to the published schedule, but sometimes I mess up.

My apologies to any of my readers who were waiting with bated breath for the review to appear.

And profuse apologies to my readers who didn’t notice I’d missed a deadline. I’ll redouble my efforts to make the reviews so good you’ll miss them if they are late.

 

Linda Gorton Aragoni

A Far Country is presented as the autobiography of a corporate lawyer, a “typical American” disciple of the doctrine of enlightened self interest.

Winston Churchill dealt the results of that doctrine in his 1913 bestseller. This time, however, he treats it from the perspective of the man who pursues expediency.


A Far Country by Winston Churchill

     MacMillan, 1915, 509 pages. 1915 bestseller #2. Project Gutenberg ebook #3739 My grade: C​+.


After his father’s death, Hugh Paret goes into law. He learns to use the law to manipulate, and thus becomes a behind-the-scenes political power.

Cartoon shows corporate interests running the US Senate

The Bosses of the Senate, a cartoon by Joseph Keppler from 1889

Hugh is opposed by Hermann Krebs, skillful advocate for the powerless, whom Hugh respects and despises.

Only his childhood friend Nancy seems to see Hugh’s career as a downward path, but she, too, chooses expediency.

Hugh marries a woman without ambition and soon regrets choosing Maude, though it draws him and Nancy closer than ever.

Maude keeps up appearances until the children are in their teens. Then she quietly takes them off to France just as Hugh is being considered for a run for the US Senate.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Hugh faces strong opposition from his old opponent, Krebs.

The plot of the novel is essentially a romance, albeit an unconventional one.

Churchill’s characters are believable enough to keep readers’ interest, but not believable enough to make the book memorable two weeks after reading it.

©2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,291 other followers