Coniston exposes power politics at the grassroots

Winston Churchill’s narrator confides right away that Conison is going to have two love stories and revolve mainly around the ungainly figure of Jethro Bass.

That description is like saying Moby Dick is about fishing.


Coniston by Winston Churchill

Florence Scovel Shinn, illus. MacMillan, 1906. 540 p. 1906 bestseller #1.
Project Gutenberg Ebook #3766.
My grade B+.


In New Hampshire in the mid-1800s, uneducated, stuttering Jethro falls hard for Cynthia Ware.

Jethro Bass sits on a porch, hands in pockets, legs crossed,
Jethro Bass is a patient man.

Cynthia returns Jethro’s affection, but deplores his political ambition to rise above his station.

Though they part and marry others, each remains the other’s true love.

After Cynthia’s death, Jethro becomes friend to her husband and “Uncle Jethro” to the daughter with the mother’s name.

Jethro both loves and respects Cynthie, but will he give up his political power for her?

Will Cynthie hold to her principles or bend to win the man she loves?

Churchill works things out in proper romantic fashion, but not before he’s treated readers to a fascinating behind the scenes glimpse into grassroots politics (drawing, no doubt, on his experience as a New Hampshire legislator and candidate for governor.)

In Churchill’s pen, Jethro Bass becomes a figure as distinctive and memorable as any creation by Thomas Hardy or Anthony Trollope.

Coniston fairly begs to become a Masterpiece Theatre presentation.

Until it is (and afterward) read the print version.

It is a gem.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 

So Well Remembered is a forgotten gem

I don’t often find a book that I want to buy for my own collection, but I found one in So Well Remembered.

It’s a novel that bears re-reading.


So Well Remembered by James Hilton

Little, Brown 1945. 328 pages. 1945 bestseller # 7. My Grade: A.


On Sept. 1, 1921 as the Great War ends, Browdley Mayor George Boswell sees the foundation stone laid for the slum-clearance project so dear to his heart.

That evening George learns his wife wants to marry a budding young diplomat she met in Austria.

George gives Livia a divorce and throws himself into local politics with renewed vigor.

Twenty years later, George meets Livia’s son, Charles, a badly wounded flyer. George and Charles become close friends, forcing George to face his past — and Livia — again.

Livia is either criminally selfish or certifiably insane. Given her history, both are equally possible.

Incorruptible and totally without rancor, George will work as long as it takes to provide decent housing, good schools and medical care in Browdley — even if the town doesn’t want those things.

In So Well Remembered, James Hilton produced a gem whose plot, characters, insight, optimism, and humor more than atone for the sentimental drivel of his more famous novels.

I hope you’ll like So Well Remembered as much as I do.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni