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, […]

The Major an amalgam of familiar plot lines

Larry Gwynne, normally an obedient 10-year-old, plays hooky from school with some other boys one spring day. Challenged to prove himself in a fight, Larry refuses. The other boys say he’s a coward, like this Quaker mother. The Major by Ralph Connor 1918 bestseller #7. Project Gutenberg ebook #3249. My grade: C. From that beginning, […]

The Amazing Interlude explores the meaning of America

It was fitting that I read The Amazing Interlude  on July 4, because the plot of Mary Roberts Rinehart’s novel grows out of a young girl’s developing sense of what being an American means. The Amazing Interlude by Mary Roberts Rinehart Illustrations by the Kinneys. 1918 bestseller #3. Project Gutenberg ebook #1590. My grade: A-. […]

The Hounds of Spring quietly stunning novel

As The Hounds of Spring opens, Cynthia Renner tells her Austrian-born husband she’s “not perfectly satisfied” with their children. She fears they haven’t had enough disappointments to build character. The Hounds of Spring by Sylvia Thompson Little, Brown, 1926. 366 p. 1926 bestseller #4. My grade: A. Within hours, Austria declares war on Serbia. Within […]

Vittoria’s secret: a million bottles of wine

After I finished The Secret of Santa Vittoria, I couldn’t help thinking that I must have seen the film version and not remembered it. Robert Crichton’s novel, however, is not soon forgotten. The Secret of Santa Vittoria by Robert Crichton Simon and Schuster, 1966, 447 pp. 1966 bestseller #3. My grade: B+. With Mussolini’s death, […]

The Ambassador Makes Sense of Vietnam War

The Ambassador is the second and the best of the 1965 bestsellers about America’s war in Vietnam. Unlike Robin Moore, who focuses on soldiers, Morris L. West focuses on the policymakers who set in motion events that ended in body bags. The Ambassador by Morris L. West William Morrow, 1965. 275 pages . 1965 bestseller #9. […]

The Green Berets Covers Vietnam War With Acronyms

Robin Moore started out to write a nonfiction account of the undercover work of the Green Berets. When it became clear the special missions in which they engaged in Vietnam were too sensitive to be reported, even in disguise, Moore decided to present the book as fiction. Even then, its publication met with negative reaction […]