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Sir Richard Calmady rides a horse like this

The History of Sir Richard Calmady isn’t a great book, but it’s extraordinary one. The title character is born with a birth defect: His feet are attached where his knees should have been.

Author Lucas Malet called the novel “a romance.”

My review and a link to the Project Gutenberg ebook are here.

 

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Poem from frontpiece to The Red Planet superimposed on NASA photo of Mars

Poem from the front piece to The Red Planet

The Red Planet is a memoir narrated by Duncan Meredyth, a widowed Boer War veteran living in a small English country village in 1914. Duncan is cared for my his ex-sergeant who was disfigured in the same shell blast that took Duncan’s legs.


The Red Planet by William J. Locke
1917 bestseller #3. Project Gutenberg eBook #4287. My grade: A-.

As friend to his peers and “Uncle” to local young people, Duncan gets to know nearly every thing that happens in Willingsford.

As the story opens, Duncan’s neighbors, the Fenimores, learn their son has been killed in France.

Less than a year earlier their daughter had drowned.

No one had asked aloud why Althea was on the tow-path at midnight.

While Fenimores mourn, Duncan learns Betty Fairfax, who had been engaged to the heroic Major Leonard Boyce, is going to marry Capt. Willie Connor, whom Duncan thinks a nonentity.

Duncan is also surprised to see upper-crust Randall Holmes with his arm around Phyllis Gedge, daughter of a socialist builder.

As Duncan hears village gossip, observes who is with whom, and puts two and two together, William J. Locke develops and redevelops the novel’s characters.

By turns funny, morose, sympathetic, and dogmatic, Duncan always seems like a real person whose opinions on patriotism, heroism, and human nature need to be taken seriously.

©2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Lucas Malet called The History of Sir Richard Calmady a romance, but it’s a romance like none other.

One of the early Calmadys fathered a bastard by his forester’s daughter, calling down a curse on the family: All the male heirs would die young until a fatherless, shoeless, only child breaks the spell.

In 1843, Sir Richard Calmady dies after losing his legs in a steeplechase accident. His son is born a few months later, with feet attached where his knees should have been.

How the young Sir Richard, who is otherwise a handsome specimen of manhood, copes with his deformity and the effect it has on those around him make riveting reading.

Lady Calmady devotes herself to her son.

Fortunately the hard-bitten doctor and equally tough stable master make sure Richard learns gentlemanly arts of riding, shooting, driving a carriage.

His tutor makes sure he’s well prepared for Oxford.

Nobody prepares Richard for women.

But perhaps no boy could be prepared for the women of this novel: Richard’s beautiful, sadistic, and wonton cousin Helen; his best friend’s sweet, bidable, and dumb sister, Constance; Richard’s feminist cousin, Honoria, who Lady Carmady fears may be a lesbian; and Lady Carmady herself, lovely and loving and lonely.

Malet combines lovely prose passages with crisp dialogue. He shifts focus from chapter to chapter as naturally as the observer on the street shifts attention from one window of a house to another.

You won’t be sorry you picked up this hefty novel.

The History of Sir Richard Calmady: A Romance
by Lucas Malet
Dodd, Mead, 1901
roughly 700 pages
1902 Bestseller #10
Project Gutenberg ebook #23784

Photo credit: Racehorse 2 by Nick Pye http://www.sxc.hu/photo/745098

 © 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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