Travels with My Aunt pleasantly diverting

Travels with My Aunt is a novel I’d hate to part with. It’s undemanding, pleasant, and quite forgettable once it’s back on the shelf. It is, in fact, rather like Henry Pulling the retired bank manager who is the nephew alluded to in the title of Graham Greene’s novel. Henry’s unvarying routine of tending to […]

The Confessions of Nat Turner a wrenching reminder

In August, 1831, a few dozen slaves in Southampton, Virginia, revolted, slaughtering whites mercilessly. The confession of the revolt’s leader, Nathaniel Turner, presented at his trial and subsequently published as a pamphlet, is the factual basis of William Styron’s novel. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron Random House, 1966, 1967; 428 p. 1967 […]

The Red Planet turns light on heroism

The Red Planet is a memoir narrated by Duncan Meredyth, a widowed Boer War veteran living in a small English country village in 1914. Duncan is cared for my his ex-sergeant who was disfigured in the same shell blast that took Duncan’s legs. The Red Planet by William J. Locke 1917 bestseller #3. Project Gutenberg […]

Sonia puts human face on first year of WWI

A memoir of 1898-1915 written by a “member of the governing classes” who spent those years at a British public school and at Oxford doesn’t sound particularly interesting. And it wouldn’t be, except for what George Oakleigh records happened between August 1914 and August 1915. Sonia: Between Two Worlds by Stephen McKenna George H. Doran, […]

In 1926 Beau Sabreur foresaw Islamic State

Some novels deserve to be read despite all the author’s efforts to render them unreadable.  Beau Sabreur falls into that category. Half of P. C. Wren’s Beau Sabreur is the fictional memoir of Major Henri de Beaujolais; the other half tells basically the same events from the perspective of two French Foreign Legion deserters. Beau […]

The Harbor is an excursion into lived history

The Harbor is a fictional history of the major upheavals in American life between 1865 and 1915 as experienced by a family who lived and worked on New York City’s waterfront. [The New York Public Library’s digital book New York City Harbor puts the novel in its historical and visual setting.] The Harbor by Ernest […]

Jaffery narrator gives perspective and poignancy

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 […]