The Weavers an unromantic tangle of plot threads

The Weavers is a romance, but it’s mostly about David Claridge.

David leaves his English village around 1850 for Egypt, where his good looks, Quaker habits, and scrupulous honesty are novelties.


The Weavers by Gilbert Parker
1907 bestseller #2, 1908 bestseller #10. Project Gutenberg ebook #6267. My grade: C+.

Book illustration, statuary, and photograph of Spinx and pyramids
Artifacts of travels to Egypt in 19th and 20th centuries.

Prince Kaid asks David to be his right-hand man to bring European-style prosperity to Egypt.

Within five years David is “a young Joseph” to the pharaoh and the darling of the British public.

David’s favored status is resented by Egyptians who prefer the old ways of bachshesh, bribery, and brutality.

Defending an English girl from an Egyptian, David kills him with a single punch. The dead man’s brother covers up the murder, planning to use it later to make himself ruler of Egypt.

The girl goes back to England and marries a rising young politician who takes a dim view of David’s uncredentialed foreign activities.

The Weavers is chock-a-block with plots and characters, but Gilbert Parker doesn’t make any one of them believable. David himself is hardly more than a coloring book outline.

Today, The Weavers is useful primarily as a reminder of how long England has been involved in Middle Eastern affairs.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Judgment House Destroyed by Stilted Dialog

The Judgment House is a complex novel about the marriage of a beautiful woman thwarted in love who settles for power.

Jasmine Grenfel loves the poor but ambitious diplomat Ian Stafford, but marries the unpolished Rudyard Byng and the three million pounds he’s made in South Africa.

Jasmine’s intelligence and social skills make their English home a center of political and financial power. Unfortunately, Jasmine is too self-centered to hear when her husband tells her he finds their London life meaningless.

Meanwhile, Byng’s financial and political interests are threatened by a traitor who is passing information to Paul Krueger, Byng’s and England’s arch enemy in South Africa. Byng refuses to think his native servant could be the traitor.

The second Boer War erupts as their Byng’s marriage teeters on the brink of collapse. Byng and Ian go off to fight for British interests in South Africa.

Jasmine takes advantage of the war to discretely leave her husband under the guise of running a hospital ship for the wounded soldiers.

In The Judgment House, Sir Gilbert Parker wrote a female lead as complex as Fleur Forsyte, a male lead as exciting as Rhett Butler, and a superb supporting cast, yet not one of the characters comes to life.

Gilbert pulls all the threads together with a too-neat, too romantic ending for a story that begs for mature realism. Sadly, Gilbert just doesn’t have the dialog-writing skill to make The Judgment House story real.

The Judgment House
By Gilbert Parker
1913 bestseller #4
Project Gutenberg EBook #3746
39 chapters

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Excess Pages Dim The Right of Way‘s Electrifying Portrait

Gilbert Parker’s The Right of Way is the story of man devoid of human emotion and human intimacy.

The novel opens with a man being acquitted of murder in Montreal thanks to the brilliant summation Charley “Beauty” Steele delivers while “quietly, unnoticeably drunk.”

That night Charley proposes to Kathleen Wantage.

After five years of marriage, Kathleen tells Charley she despises him for ruining her brother, the local minister, and her life.  Charley goes off to a dive where the locals beat him up. One man would have fought for Charley, but Charley spurns him with the question, “Have I ever been introduced to you?”

To that point, the novel is absolutely electrifying. But when Charley is fished out of the river by the acquitted murderer to begin a new life in the Canadian forest, the story becomes increasingly implausible with every page.

Parker doesn’t help by trying to shift attention from Charley’s personality to Charley’s lack of religious faith. By comparison to the electrifying picture of  Charley the drunkard Montreal lawyer, Charley the agnostic tailor is a bore.

Parker gets his power back in the deathbed scene:

“I beg—your—pardon,” [Charley] whispered to the imagined figure, and the light died out of his eyes, “have I—ever—been—introduced—to you?”

Unfortunately, by that time eventually clichés and coincidences have sucked the oxygen from the plot. If Parker had only written a shorter novel, as his foreword says he originally intended, he might have produced a great piece of literature.

The Right of Way
by Gilbert Parker
1901 bestseller # 4
Project Gutenberg e-book #6249

© Linda Gorton Aragoni