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.

Title Sonia: Between Two Worlds superimposed on map of pre-World War I Europe


Sonia: Between Two Worlds by Stephen McKenna

George H. Doran, 1917. 475 pages. 1918 bestseller #10. My grade: B.


The Prague-born son of an Irish lord who, after his pro-Greek father was murdered by Turks, worked his way back to England, David O’Rane pays all his money to buy one term’s tuition at Merton.

David quickly wins admirers and friends including George, the reliable guy everyone trusts; Jim Loring; Tom Dainton, and Tom’s younger sister, Sonia.

Sonia enters into a secret engagement with David until she decides he isn’t rich enough for her.

Sonia later becomes engaged to Jim Loring, whom she also dumps.

Sonia is motoring on the continent in August, 2014, when war is declared.

David borrows an American identity, gets Sonia out of danger, and escorts her home.

Then he enlists.

Stephen McKenna makes the David-Sonia story end well, but little else does.

McKenna’s descriptions of Melton, Oxford, and party politics are only for the initiated.

His descriptions of the feeling of the possibility and then the certainty of wa­r are for everyone.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Explore Time and Eternity in The Galaxy

Graphic image of galaxy

The Galaxy opens with the birth May 10, 1862, of Laura Alicia Deverell, Harry and Rosa Deverell’s first child, and ends with her death on a December evening in 1928.

Harry Deverell is a Pharisaical tyrant to his wife and their children.

The two elder children reject their parents’ religious and moral values. For his rebellion, James is turned out of his home.

Laura sees marriage as the only way a girl can get away from home; she marries sexy Horace Leighton, an armaments manufacturer 19 years her senior.

Five years, two children, and one mistress later, Laura realizes her mistake.

Laura meets a German writer she wants to marry.

Horace refuses to give her a divorce, and Laura refuses to become Arthur’s mistress until her son and daughter are grown.

Laura and Arthur have just moved in together when World War I begins. Arthur sits out the war in a concentration camp.

They have a few years together after the war.

Between the first and last pages of The Galaxy, Susan Ertz records four generations and distills monumental social changes. The incredibly complex characters direct attention to the world around them, allowing readers to reflect on age-old questions of time and eternity.

The Galaxy (published in the UK under the name The Milky Way)
By Susan Ertz
D. Appleton, 1929
397 pages
1929 bestseller #8
My grade: A-
 
Graphic credit: Galaxy by gilderm created in Photoshop®

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 

Where Kim’s Concerned, Viewing Beats Reading

Rudyard Kipling’s Kim is a tale of espionage, intrigue, and duplicity that would make a Tom Clancy novel look sissified—assuming anyone in this century is willing to wade through Kipling’s prose, which reeks of his Victorian-era education.

Kim is the orphan son of an Irish soldier stationed in India. Left under the nominal care of an opium addict, by 12, Kim begs, spies, lies, and steals.

Kim becomes the disciple of a Tibetan lama seeking the river that washes away sin. To earn traveling money, Kim delivers a message to Col. Creighton who is in the British Secret Service. The colonel sees Kim could be very useful.

Because of his soldier father, Kim is entitled to British protection and schooling. Kim spends his holidays tramping around India with his lama and getting involved in espionage.

Kim is packed with adventure, but it’s not exciting reading. The characters are not believable, and Kipling’s ponderous prose sometimes makes it hard even to tell which character is speaking. The stylistic problems are compounded by Kipling’s use of Indian and British idioms and proverbs translated into stuffy 19th century English.

In 1950, Kipling’s 1927 novel was made into a movie starring Errol Flynn. A  British television version 1984 stars Peter O’Toole. Either film version is more entertaining than Kipling’s novel.

Kim
by Rudyard Kipling
1901
Project Gutenberg Ebook #2226

 

Daring Deeds of D’ri and I Dulled by Time

Irving Bacheller had two novels among the top 10 bestsellers for 1901. Like  Eben Holden, which was published in 1900,  Bacheller’s 1901 novel D’ri and I draws on his knowledge of New York’s North County.

Ramon Bell’s father, who fought in the war for independence from Britain, teaches his son swordsmanship and national pride. When the second war against the British errupts in 1812, Ray and the Bell’s hired hand, Darius “D’ri” Olin, eagerly sign up. Before long, General Brown is trusting his most difficult assignments to the pair.

Ray and D’ri have more adventures during the short war than most people have in a lifetime. The action stops only long enough for Ray to fall in love with two French girls whose father has sent them to America to keep them from meeting undesirable young men in Paris.

Using Ray as narrator means Bacheller’s plot contains lumps of history, romance, and adventure with very little in the way of character development to bind them together. D’ri and Ray are no more lifelike than paper dolls. Bacheller’s attempts to render D’ri’s dialect in print makes him seem particularly remote.

Bits of D’ri and I are vividly written and quite exciting. On the whole, however, the book is ho-hum reading for the 21st century novel lover.

Project Gutenberg

D’ri and I
by Irving Bacheller
1901 bestseller #10
Project Gutenberg ebook #12440
© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni