Biological clock ticks, alarms in Soundings

From age 8 until Curley kisses her, Nancy Hawthorne’s artist father is her teacher, mentor, and companion.

Though Nancy doesn’t want Curley, she knows she wants passionate love.

Soundings: A Novel by A. Hamilton Gibbs

Little, Brown, 1925. 320 pages. 1925 bestseller #1. My grade: B.

To divert her, Jim suggests art study on the Continent.

In Paris, Nancy shares a flat with an American. Cordelia introduces Nancy to her brother, Lloyd, and Lloyd’s best friend at Oxford, Bob Whittaker.

Foot of week-old baby

Nancy likes Lloyd but falls hard for Bob. He appears to reciprocate.

When her father is injured in an accident, Nancy rushes back home to Brimble.

Bob doesn’t write.

When Nancy goes to Oxford to find out what’s changed, she finds Bob with another woman.

Nancy devotes herself to painting and to her father, now a paraplegic.

On her 27th birthday, in the midst of World War I, Nancy realizes she wants children. Lloyd’s death in France ends possibility of him as a husband.

Then a changed Bob is temporarily stationed in Brimble.

A. Hamilton Gibbs writes passages of absolutely beautiful prose but leaves gaping holes in character development.

Although the other characters are shown in varied situations, Gibbs rarely shows Bob when he’s not pursuing Nancy. Thus the ending of Soundings leaves a vague sense of distrust that Bob has fundamentally changed.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 Photo credit: Babyfoot by johnnyberg @

The Eyes of the World Is More Sermon than Story

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In The Eyes of the World, Harold Bell Wright delivers a fire and brimstone denunciation of American culture on the eve of World War I.

Aaron King, a young painter whose dying mother sacrificed to finance his education and repay money his father embezzled, promises to be a success for her sake.

In hopes of lucrative commissions, Aaron goes West to a playground of American’s cultural elite. There he meets Conrad Lagrange. From her letters, Aaron knows his mother once had high respect for Lagrange’s writing.

At the time Aaron meets him, Lagrange has no respect for himself: He writes for money.

The plot and characters of Eyes will be familiar to every novel reader.  With Lagrange’s help, Aaron learns what true artistic success is. He meets good folk free untainted by city life. And, of course, he finds true love, as reward for his virtue.

Wright’s use of setting as a metaphor for morality will ring a bell with anyone who has read Zane Grey or Gene Stratton-Porter.

The only element that makes Eyes interesting is Wright’s harangue against artists who measure success in dollar bills.

That one who, for a price, presents a picture or a story without regard for the influence of his production upon the characters of those who receive it, commits a crime for which human law provides no adequate punishment.

Wright is so passionate in his denunciation that readers may wonder if perhaps Wright, the ex-clergyman, were preaching to himself.

The Eyes of the World
By Harold Bell Wright
Illustrations from oil paintings by F. Graham Cootes
Project Gutenberg EBook #11715
1914 bestseller #1
My grade: C+

The Rosary Is Jane Eyre Made Worse

Florence L. Barclay’s 1911 bestseller, The Rosary,  is Jane Eyre with a twist.

The Honorable Jane Champion, age 30, “a perfectly beautiful woman in an absolutely plain shell,” is chum, confidant, and adviser to the unmarried young men of her social set.

When she volunteers to fill in for a noted singer with laryngitis at an informal concert at the home of her aunt, the Duchess of Meldrum, Jane’s rendition of “The Rosary” convinces painter Garth Dalmain she is his soul mate.

Jane turns down Dal’s proposal, believing a lover of beauty couldn’t stand to see her plain face every day at breakfast. She doesn’t know that a plain woman, loved, is beautiful to the man who loves her.

When  Dal  is blinded in a freak accident, Jane comes home to nurse him. To keep him from thinking she’s come out of pity, she uses an assumed name and tells Dal people have remarked on how similar her voice is to that of Jane Champion.

Barclay’s plot is very romantic and totally preposterous. Fortunately there are some delightfully unromantic and down-to-earth characters (like Dal’s GP,  the Duchess, and a tucan named Tommy) who rescue the story every time it threatens to drown in a sea of saccharine.

The Rosary
by Florence L. Barclay
1911 bestseller #9
Project Gutenberg EBook #3659
©2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni