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Posts Tagged ‘cultural clashes’

cowboy boots and woman's high heels beside bed on cover of Lost Ecstasy

 

Mary Roberts Rinehart’s Lost Ecstasy turns the romance of the Old West on its head.

Handsome cowboy Tom McNeil can ride, rope, and sing baritone.


Lost Ecstasy by Mary Roberts Rinehart.
Doran, 1927. 372 pp. 1927 bestseller # 6. My Grade: B-.

His only flaws — binge drinking, womanizing, and using paper napkins— aren’t enough to put off pretty, Eastern heiress Kay Dowling.

She throws herself at Tom.

Kay leaves her fiance and family money for Tom, who at the time is working in a traveling Rodeo and Wild West Show .

When Tom is injured in the show and can no longer do cowboy stuff, Kay finagles a ranch for him to run by offering the local banker her pearls and a check from her aunt as security.

Tom is on the verge of making the ranch pay when Kay’s mother has a heart attack.

Kay goes home to care for her.

While she’s gone, a bad winter wipes out all Tom’s work. He ends up working the Wild West Show again.

When her mother dies, Kay must decide whether she loves Tom enough put up with his faults.

Kay and Tom are both stereotypes.

The plot is hackneyed.

Even the settings feel as if they were written on the back lot at Universal Studios.

The paper napkins, though, are a nice touch.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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The Harbor is a fictional history of the major upheavals in American life between 1865 and 1915 as experienced by a family who lived and worked on New York City’s waterfront.

[The New York Public Library’s digital book New York City Harbor puts the novel in its historical and visual setting.]


The Harbor by Ernest Poole

Grossett & Dunlap, 1915. Project Gutenberg ebook #29932. 1915 bestseller #8. My grade: B+.


Part owner of a warehouse on the docks, Bill’s father dreams and works his entire life for a golden age of shipping dominated by America and delivered by honorable men in beautiful vessels.

Bill’s college-educated mother is repelled by the harbor’s scenes and people. The family is not rich enough for New York society.

Following his mother’s lead, Bill first sees the harbor as an unpleasant place.

As a youth, Bill comes under the sway of an engineer, soon to be his father-in-law, who serves the god of efficiency and the pocketbooks of Wall Street.

Later Bill falls under the spell of a revolutionary who shows him the human cost of efficiency, and Bill becomes enamored of the wisdom of the masses and organized labor.

Bill narrates with the detachment of hindsight. He is, however, sufficiently self-aware to realize he’s all too likely to jettison today’s struggle for the next big thing.

Into this framework, novelist Ernest Poole pours the personal stories of Bill and his extended family who are as real as the folks at your family reunion.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Robert Ruark’s Something of Value is a gory and compassionate novel about Kenya that will fascinate readers and leave them with plenty to think about as well.


Something of Value by Robert Ruark

Doubleday, 1955, 566 pages. 1955 bestseller #6. My grade: A+.


Spine of "Something of Value" shows tangle of long grassPeter McKenzie and Kimani, his Kikuyu pal, were raised together in Kenya.

When Kimani’s father lands in jail for failing to prevent midwives from killing a baby in accordance with native customs, Kimani blames himself: He brought a curse on his family by allowing  Peter’s brother-in-law to slap him.

Kimani has to kill the white man to remove the curse.

Thinking he has murdered a white man, Kimani flees and stumbles into a band of renegade blacks.

The outlaws become a guerrilla army, the Mau Mau, poised to throw off white rule.

Kimani is one of their leaders.

Peter, meanwhile, has become a great hunter. When an overeager Mau Mau band slaughters his sister’s family, Peter finds himself hunting his boyhood pal.

Travel, adventure, history, romance, politics—all are within these pages.

Without being preachy, Ruark makes the point that whites deprived black Africans of their religion and gave them in sham Christianity in its place, leaving them with no moral compass.

Renewed interest in Africa—particularly by communist China—make this novel timely.

Compelling writing makes it timeless.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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