Molly Make-Believe Sunk by Realism

Molly Make-Believe has a clever plot device and two witty lead characters that a better writer than Eleanor Hallowell Abbott might have developed into a marvelous novel instead of a merely pleasant diversion.

fountain pen and ink
Cornelia won’t pick up a pen to write to Carl

Carl Stanton, 32, a rubber broker suffering from rheumatism, is confined to his bed one Boston winter. His finacee, Cornelia, “big and bland and blonde and beautiful,” has gone to Florida with her mother.

Carl realizes Cornelia is stingy with affection when she refuses to write to him even weekly when she’s away.

Cornelia gives Carl an ad for The Serial-Letter Company, which advertises “Real Letters for Imaginary Persons.” Carl orders a six-week ‘edition de luxe’ subscription to love-letter serials, which he plans to paste into a scrap book to give Cornelia as a textbook for the “newly engaged girl.”

When the handwritten, clever, and utterly charming letters begin arriving from “Molly Make-Believe,” accompanied by appropriate gifts, Carl is entranced.

Up to that point, the novel is wonderful.

When Carl decides to find Molly, things fall apart.

The plot calls for detective work, and all Carl can do from his bed is hire a detective.

That’s not romantic enough for a romance novel, not even one whose hero is a rubber broker with rheumatism.

Molly Make-Believe
Eleanor Hallowell Abbott
Illus. Walter Tittle
1910 bestseller #9;  1911 bestseller #8
208 pages
Project Gutenberg ebook #18665

Photo Credit: “write if you want 2” by danjaeger

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Molly Make Believe Lacks Substance Where It’s Needed

Carl reads a letter in bed
Carl Reads Molly’s letter

Molly Make-Believe has a clever plot device and two witty lead characters.  A better writer than Eleanor Hallowell Abbott might have developed them into a marvelous novel instead of  just an amusing bit of fluff.

Carl Stanton, 32, a rubber broker, is confined to his bed one Boston winter with rheumatism. His fiancée, Cornelia, who is “big and bland and blonde and beautiful,” has gone to Florida with her mother.

Carl realizes Cornelia is stingy with affection when she refuses to write to him even weekly when she’s away.  Instead she gives him an ad for The Serial-Letter Company, which advertises “Real Letters for Imaginary Persons.”

Carl orders a six-week  ‘edition de luxe’ subscription to love-letter serials, which he plans to paste into a scrap-book to give Cornelia as a textbook for the “newly engaged girl.”

When the handwritten, clever, and utterly charming letters begin arriving from “Molly Make-Believe” accompanied by appropriate gifts, Carl is entranced.

Up to that point, the novel is wonderful.

When Carl decides to find Molly, things fall apart.

The plot calls for detective work, and Abbott simply has Carl hire a detective. That’s not a sufficiently challenging task for the hero of a  romance novel, not even one who is a rubber broker with rheumatism.

Molly Make-Believe
Eleanor Hallowell Abbott
Illus. Walter Tittle
208 pages
Project Gutenberg ebook #18665
1911 bestseller #8
1910 bestseller #9
My grade B+
© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Joy Street Lives Up to Its Name

When Emily Thayer tells her family that she is going to marry Roger Field, they tell her he will never set the world on fire. That’s just  fine with Emily. She wants the world “peaceful and pleasant and safe.”

Emily gets her wish.

Roger is predictable and their marriage happy. In the years before and during World War II, Roger rises in his law firm by dint of hard work rather than brilliance. Together Roger and Emily expand their acquaintance beyond Beacon Hill society to Boston’s immigrant community, represented in Roger’s firm by a token Jew, a token Irishman and a token Italian.

David, Brian, and Pell, the “new Boston” lawyers, are vivid and vigorous characters who introduce Roger and Emily to facets of life they hadn’t known existed.

And  Roger and Emily surprise themselves by discovering new facets of their own personalities.  The plot grows organically out of those  personalities.

Even though Emily thinks herself capable of an affair, in imitation of her impressive grandmother,  readers realize a grand passion is not Emily’s style. Emily is believable in part because she remains true to her essential personality.

In Joy Street, Frances Parkinson Keyes gives readers a story that, like Emily’s world, is peaceful and pleasant and safe.

Joy Street
By Frances Parkinson Keyes
Jullian Messner, 1950
490 pages
1950 bestseller #2
My Grade B+
© 2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni