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Posts Tagged ‘Jeffrey Farnol’

photo of boxing gloves

 

The American setting of The Definite Object allows Jeffery Farnol to diversity his usual cast of minor characters with immigrants, gangsters, slumlords, and professional pugilists.

The variety adds complexity to the novel without noticeably changing Farnol’s usual story line.


The Definite Object: A Romance of New York by Jeffery Farnol
1917 bestseller #9. Project Gutenberg eBook #16074. My grade: C+.

Half-English Geoffrey Ravenslee is “so rich that [his] friends are all acquaintances.”

He wants a wife who wants him more than his money.

When Geoff catches Spike Chesterton breaking into his mansion, he decides not to prosecute if Spike will take him to Hell’s Kitchen to meet his sister, Hermione.

Geoff gets a room in the same tenement as the Chestertons and proceeds to charm everyone except gangster Bud M’Ginnis.

Spike hangs around M’Ginnis hoping to break into fighting. He’s sure he could make a fortune to give Hermione the country home she wants.

Geoff’s courtly behavior wins over women.

Men, except M’Ginnis, are more impressed with his boxing behavior.

As English characters are thrown in with American characters, neither comes off as believable. The large cast allows ample time for the absurdities of the characterizations to punish the never-strong plot.

Farnol gets in some of his delightful wry observations, but they aren’t enough to raise this novel beyond the level of mediocrity.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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The Broad Highway, Jeffrey Farnol’s highly visual novel of the late 1800’s English countryside, took top honors on the 1911 bestseller list, and its good-natured, bookish hero’s absurd adventures still draws guffaws from readers.

The story starts in a mock fairy tale manner. Peter and Maurice Vibart inherit 20,000 pounds and 10 guineas, respectively, from their late uncle, with the promise that whichever succeeds in marrying Lady Sophia Sefton within a year will inherit the rest of the estate.

The cousins know each other only by reputation. To Peter, Maurice is a blackguard; to Maurice, Peter is a “terrible example of Virtue run riot.”

As Peter’s tastes in women (of whom he knows nothing) incline him to soft, clinging females, he decides to hike around England until he finds a way to earn a living short of marrying the tempermental Lady Sophia. By the end of the first day’s hike, the story has more loose ends than a yarn basket full of kittens.

A series of misadventures transforms Peter into an apprentice blacksmith, living in cottage believed by locals to be haunted. As Peter Smith, he rescues beautiful Charmian Brown from being abducted. And that’s just the beginning of Peter’s adventures.

In a style reminiscent of Tom Jones and Tristram Shandy, Farnol mingles slapstick with witty commentary on his hero’s deficiencies, all amply illustrated in a string of absurd situations.

Farnol dawdles to let Peter be ridiculed, then streaks through more active scenes with hardly time for readers to note who was in them.

The Broad Highway is not a great novel, but it’s sunny silliness is a joyous escape from the gloomy seriousness of the twenty-first century. I wish someone would make it into a Masterpiece Classic presentation.

The Broad Highway
by Jeffrey Farnol
1911 bestseller #1
Project Gutenberg E-text #5257
©2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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The Sidney (NY) Memorial Library had a sale Saturday of books from a single donor. I was delighted to find the collection had a good sprinkling of vintage novels. Hardbacks were 50¢; I filled a bag with snow-day reading.

I picked up If Winter Comes by A. S. M. Hutchinson, which topped the charts in 1922. I’m reading it now and finding it hard to put down. Another novel by the author, This Freedom, was #7 that year and #6 in 1923.

Other books that I carted home are:

A Lion in the Streets by Adria Locke Langley (1945) and Kings Row by Henry Bellamy (1941). After reading these to review here, I knew I wanted them  for my own collection. (Kings Row will be reviewed here in 2011.) They are both novels worth reading more than twice.

The Money Moon by Jeffrey Farnol published in 1911, the same year his novel The Broad Highway was the number 1 bestseller. He had other bestsellers:   The Amateur Gentleman (1913) and  The Definite Object (1917).

The Way of an Eagle by Ethel M. Dell (1911), a very popular romance writer who was sneered at by more literary authors. Her novels  The Hundredth Chance and  Greatheart made the bestseller lists in 1917 and 1918 respectively.

Penrod and Sam by Booth Tarkington (1916). Tarkington may be best remembered for The Magnificent Ambersons, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1918. I happen to think Claire Amber (1928) is a more interesting novel.

The U. P. Trail by Zane Grey (1918) is one of Grey’s many bestsellers, but not, I fear one of his better novels.

The Calling of Dan Matthews by Harold Bell Wright (1909) is an early novel of the author who went on to best-sellers such as The Winning of Barbara Worth (1911 and 1912), Their Yesterdays (1912), The Eyes of the World (1914 #1), When a Man’s a Man (1916), The Re-Creation of Brian Kent (1919 & 1920), Helen of the Old House (1922), The Mine with the Iron Door (1923).

What about you? Found any great vintage novels in the used book bins lately?

©2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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