Sorrell and Son has guts and grace

Sorrell and Son is a sweet tale of a decent English gentleman, weakened by war wounds, deserted by his wife, who makes raising his son his life’s work.

Down to nearly his last shilling, army veteran Stephen Sorrell takes a job as a hotel porter.


Sorrell and Son by Warwick Deeping

Alfred A. Knopf, 1926. 400 p. 1927 bestseller #3. My grade: B.


It’s an awful job, but Sorrell does his work to his own exacting standards.  Impressed, a hotel guest, Thomas Roland, taps Sorrell to be second porter at the new country hotel he is opening.

The head porter there makes Sorrell’s life miserable until Roland gets fed up with the man’s bullying and womanizing.

Sorrell takes over as head porter.

Sorrell turns out to have managerial ability, and works his way up to become manager of one of Roland’s chain of hotels.

Sorrell makes enough to live comfortably and also pay for son Christopher ‘s Cambridge education, medical schooling, and surgical practice.

Christopher grows into as fine a man as his father could wish.

Warwick Deeping makes Sorrell just stubborn and resentful enough to keep him from appearing a plaster saint. Christopher, too, has his flaws.

Readers will care what happens to them.

Sadly, American class distinctions are based on economics rather than on ethics: Today’s readers will view this only as a story of a determined man.

©2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Life inThe House of Mirth is no laughing matter

The House of Mirth is a Jane Austen plot set in 1900’s New York City in which everything goes wrong.

Like Miss Eliza Bennett, Lily Bart must marry money soon.


The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905, 1951. 329 pp. My grade: A.


Beautiful and witty, Lily is already 29, living on the charity of an aunt who dislikes her, and racking up debts for her bridge losses.

Lily’s choice would be bachelor lawyer Lawrence Seldon, but they both know he hasn’t enough money to satisfy her.
Lily examines a crowd of potential husbands from beneath her parasol.

Lily hooks one of the city’s most eligible bachelors, but when it’s time to reel him in, she can’t bear the thought of living with him.

She vamps a friend’s husband into investing money for her—his money, not hers—and when he wants payment of her gambling debts in services, she bolts.

Bertha Dorset invites Lily on their yacht, then dumps her in Europe, giving friends the impression Lily had been having an affair with her husband.

Within two years, Lily is dead in a rooming house.

Edith Wharton’s characters are more complex and self-aware than Austen’s, but without their practicality and willingness to make do.

New York is as rigid a society as Austen’s England, only far more savage.

Instead of social snubs, Wharton’s characters administer body blows.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Lady Chatterley’s Lover Is Boring, Not Shocking

When it was first published, Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned in America. I doubt if  most contemporary readers would plow through D. H. Lawrence’s ponderous paragraphs to get to the passages that offended censors.

Lawrence uses some barnyard terminology when he discusses barnyard activities, but his real offense appears to have been his lyric descriptions of sex. The eroticism of those scenes is heightened by contrast to the dull, tweedy prose of the rest of the novel.

Constance and Clifford Chatterley married in 1917 a month before he shipped out for France. He came home paralyzed from the waist down.

Clifford inherits his family’s country seat and takes up writing. Constance takes care of  him.

It’s all too dull for her.

Clifford says he wouldn’t mind if Constance bore another man’s child, providing he didn’t know who the father is. That’s all the encouragement Constance needs.

She takes up with the married-but-separated groundskeeper, Mellors. Both divorce their spouses to marry and raise their child. People are shocked, not by the affair, but by her having an affair outside her class.

Lawrence said he rewrote Lady Chatterley three times, but the book feels as if he never figured out what he wanted to say. The characters are dull, the story duller.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover
By D. H. Lawrence
Grove Press, 1959
368 pages
#5 on the 1959 bestseller list
My Grade: C-
© 2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni