Kaleidoscope by Danielle Steel

image of kaleidoscope on cover of Kaleidoscope novelDanielle Steel’s Kaleidoscope is a series of stories within stories.

The outer story is about the friendship of Sam Walker and Arthur Patterson who meet in the trenches in Italy in 1943.

Sam falls for a French woman, brings her to the States. While Sam becomes a famous actor, Solange cares for their three daughters, maintains a friendship with Arthur, and tries to ignore Sam’s philandering.

One night Sam murders Solange.

After his conviction for murder, Sam commits suicide.

Unable to adopt Sam’s daughters himself—his wife hated Sam and loathes all children—Arthur finds separate adoptive parents for the two younger girls, Alexandra and Megan.

Unable to find someone to take 9-year-old Hilary, he leaves her with Sam’s sister, a drunken slut married to a drunken lout in a waterfront slum near Boston.

Thirty years later, with only a few months to live, Arthur hires a private investigator to find the three girls and give them the opportunity to be reunited.

The PI finds them, which allows Steel to tell their stories, and effect a happy ending that’s as preposterous as the “confession” Hilary says led her father to kill her mother.

Kaleidoscope by Danielle Steel
Delacorte Press. ©1987. 395 p.
1987 bestseller #3; my grade: C-

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

The Real Adventure harmonizes big ideas, great story

Rose Stanton’s mother, a women’s rights advocate, made a little money writing, but her daughter Portia was the real breadwinner, sacrificing to put her two brothers and Rose through college.

Unwittingly, Mrs. Stanton left Rose unsuited for any job but socialite wife, which is what Rose becomes shortly after meeting millionaire lawyer Rodney Aldrich on a tram.

Rose holds tight to Rodney's arm during their whirlwind courtship.
The lovers, Rose and Roddy

The Real Adventure by Henry Kitchell Webster

R. M. Crosby, Illus.  Bobbs-Merrill, 1916.  1916 bestseller #6.
Project Gutenberg eBook #15384. My grade: A.


The third week of their honeymoon, Rose panics when Rodney, pausing in reading a German textbook, tells her, “The insanity has worn off.”

How can she hold him apart from sexual attraction?

She wants to be someone he can respect for her work, as he respects his male friends.

What Rose does to earn Roddy’s friendship—and how it affects everyone around her—is the heart of the novel.

Henry Kitchell Webster not only has a yarn to spin through a host of crisply drawn characters, but he also has a subject to explore.

Webster wrote The Real Adventure as a serial, which would be the best way in which to read it:  The single-volume format makes it far too tempting to skip ahead to see what happens.

You’ll lose the book’s enduring value if you skip over the passages in which Webster probes the question of what makes a marriage good for both husband and wife.

©2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Blue Window charms

The Blue Window opens with the funeral of widow Elizabeth Carew at age 41, and ends with the marriage of her daughter, Hildegarde.

Between the two events is a predictable but charming romance given piquancy by Temple Bailey’s failure to establish a consistent point of view.


The Blue Window by Temple Bailey

Penn Publishing, 1926. 328 ps. 1926 bestseller #10. My Grade: B.


girl looks out window in illustration opposite title page of The Blue Window

Elizabeth left a letter for Hildegarde saying she was divorced, not widowed. Her still-living husband, Louis Carew, does not know he has a daughter.

Hildegard leaves her aunt’s farm to go to her father’s estate near Chesapeake Bay.

She also leaves Crispin Harlowe, her dear friend, who loves her but whom she does not love.

Carew is delighted with his beautiful daughter: She might attract the money he needs to keep his estate.

While Hildegarde is being groomed, gowned, and feted, the story’s focus shifts to Crispin.

Crispin graduates, goes to work in a Washington D. C. law firm, and buys a house near Mount Vernon.

He never gives up believing Hildegarde will marry him.

There’s nothing particularly novel about the story, but Bailey draws her portraits well, with the exception of Louis Carew, whose peculiarities are mainly told rather than shown.

The Blue Window will entertain throughout, and occasionally will grab with a particularly well-crafted observation.

© 2016 by Linda Gorton Aragoni

Jaffery narrator gives perspective and poignancy

Jaffery is an odd novel in which war correspondent Jaffery Chayne, a character better suited to a graphic novel than a literary one, appears only sporadically.


Jaffery by William J. Locke

Illus. F. Matania. Publisher, John Lane, 1915. Project Gutenberg ebook #14669. 1915 bestseller #6. My grade: B-.


Jaffery arrives back in England, escorting widow Liosha Prescott, just as Adrian Boldoro publishes a novel to great acclaim.

Liosha deals with loose cargo during a storm at sea
Loose cargo in the hold during a storm is no problem for Liosha Prescott

Liosha is Jaffery’s mate in appearance and temperament, but Jaffery is too besotted with Doria Jornicroft to notice her.

Despite her father’s opposition, Doria has gotten engaged to Adrian,  which skewers Jaffrey’s plan to fix Liosha up with Adrian.

Neither Jaffery nor Hilary Freeth would have been surprised had their deceased Cambridge pal, Tom, published a bestseller, but no one expected “precious, finnikin Adrian” to amount to anything.

When Adrian dies suddenly with a new book unfinished, Jaffery sees his chance to win Doria.

Jaffrey’s plan backfires.

Liosha has her own romantic contretemps.

Both sign on as hands on a tramp steamer, returning home in time to tie up the plot.

Liosha quiets a horse while Jaffrey talks to a native.
Liosha and Jaffrey are in the war zone in the Balkans.

William J. Locke packages the novel as Hillary’s memoir. Funny, loving and loveable, Hilary, together with his wife and daughter, provide a common-sense perspective for viewing the antics of others who seem be playing roles they scripted for themselves.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Enchanted April: Sunny, Witty, Insightful

Wisteria in bloom
The Enchanted April  is a charming novel about four unhappy women, previously unacquainted, who vacation together in Italy for a month and find love.

Elizabeth von Arnim flits from character to character, telling sections of the narrative from different one’s view point. She employs the technique with finesse, making each character a deliciously distinctive individual.

The story begins one rainy day when Lotty Wilkins sees advertisement.

To Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine.
Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain. Z, Box 1000, The Times.

On impulse, Lotty asks a woman with  whom she knows only by sight at chruch to rent the castle with her and split expenses, leaving their husbands behind. Rose Arbuthnot finds the idea of a vacation irresistible even with someone as decidedly peculiar as Lotty.

Unable to afford the rent, the pair seek two more companions. Their advertisement draws a snobbish elderly widow, Mrs. Fisher, who had known Tennyson and Matthew Arnold, and Lady Caroline Dester, 28, fleeing the host of suitors for her face and fortune.

In Italy, one after another, the women come realize their attitudes, rather than their circumstances, have been the root of their misery back home.

The novel bubbles with mirth at the folly of being disappointed by what one lacks instead of enjoying what one has, even if what one has is a not entirely satisfactory husband.

If you cannot enjoy this novel, perhaps you need a month’s holiday in Italy.

Incidentally, there’s an Academy Award nominated video version of The Enchanted April, which unfortunately omits von Arnim’s  funniest bits, but is otherwise faithful to the story and spirit of the novel.

The Enchanted April
by Elizabeth von Arnim
1923 bestseller #3
Project Gutenberg ebook #16389

Photo credit: Wisteria in Bloom 2  by Dubock

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

From the Terrace Is Downhill All the Way

John O’Hara is a fine writer, but he wrote some boring books. From the Terrace is one of them.

The novel is about Alfred Eaton, second son of a small Pennsylvania industrialist. Alfred makes his mark as an investment banker, then serves as an undersecretary of the Navy during World War II. Along the way he has two wives, three children, and numerous affairs.

At 50, after nearly hemorrhaging to death, Alfred retires to a terrace in California to consider his options. He could work for someone else or start his own business.

He does neither. Instead, he lives off his investments and does favors for people who know he has time on his hands.

O’Hara implies Alfred’s post-terrace life is wasted. Wasted compared to what? His earlier life of womanizing and money-grubbing? What’s valuable and noble about that?

O’Hara blames Alfred’s wasted retirement on his never having made any real friends. Alfred doesn’t seem to notice whether he has friends or not. Perhaps sleeping with his friends’ wives cured him of expecting to have friends.

Be that as it may, I couldn’t help feeling O’Hara would have done me a favor by retiring Alfred about 500 pages earlier.

From the Terrace

By John O’Hara
Random House, 1958
897 pages
1958 Bestseller #5
My Grade: D+
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni