Dear Enemy is friendly romance

Dear Enemy picks up the story of the John Grier Home that Jean Webster began in her earlier epistolary novel Daddy Long Legs.

The leading characters in that romance have chosen vivacious socialite Sallie McBride to turn the orphanage into a model institution.

Drawing of Sallie opening basket containing a puppy.
Sallie finds a puppy, gift from her friends Jean and Jervis.

Dear Enemy by Jean Webster

Jean Webster, Illus.  Century Co., 1915.  1916 bestseller #9.
Project Gutenberg ebook #238. My Grade: B+.


Sallie accepts only until Judy and Jervis can find someone else.

Almost immediately, Sallie locks horns with tradition and rigidity personified by the dour Scots doctor Robin MacRae.

He finds her frivolous, unfit for her job.

His attitude puts Sallie’s back up.

She turns on the charm where it will do the most good.

Before long Sallie has everyone eating out of her hand except Dr. MacRae. Sallie sends him notes addressed, “Dear Enemy.”

When the doctor leaves to take care of some personal business Sallie learns the cause of his moroseness.

For warm-hearted Sallie, it’s just a step from sympathy to love.

For all its romance and charm, Dear Enemy overlays a snapshot of institutional life in early twentieth century America. While not quite Dickensian, it’s a long way from Boys Town.

Sadie Kate has had her pigtails cut off.
Sallie is determined someone will adopt Sadie Kate, now minus her awful pigtails.

Sadly, some of the issues Sallie faced youth workers face today.

You couldn’t learn about them any more pleasantly than through Dear Enemy.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Orphan Sandy is best left alone

Novels about orphans who won fame, fortune, and family were a staple of popular literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Alice Hegan Rice’s Sandy is an example of the deserving orphan novel at its worst.
Sandy waves his jacket in salute to his new homeland, America.


Sandy by Alice Hegan Rice

New York: The Century Co., 1905. Project Gutenberg ebook # 14079. 1905 bestseller #2. My grade: C.


The novel opens with Sandy Kilday, age 16, stowing away on a ship bound for America. He’s been on his own since age 14 when he ran away from nasty relatives.

Cover art shows Sandy leaning on a post, looking out on a ship heading to America.On board ship, Sandy sees a pretty girl, meets a minor crook, and decides to be a doctor.

When he gets off the ship, Sandy gives up plans of medicine and goes off with the crook who is going to Kentucky where the pretty girl lives.

After exciting adventures, such as losing his kitten, Sandy is taken in by Judge and Mrs. Hollis in Clayton, Kentucky, which is where the pretty girl lives.

Sandy has more exciting adventures, such as having to sit out most of a dance with a girl he doesn’t like, before he can prove his heroism.

By the time the novel ends, Sandy is a married lawyer with the maturity of a 10-year-old.

Rice’s novel reads like a collaborative project by an elementary school writers’ group.

Adult readers should seek entertainment elsewhere.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Lovey Mary gets help from Mrs. Wiggs

In Lovey Mary, Alice Hegan Rice returns to the Cabbage Patch with a cheerful novel that redeploys Mrs. Wiggs from her 1902 bestseller.

Orphaned Lovey Mary, 13, is acutely aware that she’s not loved.

When Mary’s former tormentor, Kate Rider, drops her infant at the orphan asylum, Mary becomes his foster mother.

Two years later, when Kate returns for Tommy, Mary kidnaps him rather than give him up.

The pair end up in the Cabbage Patch. Mrs. Wiggs and her children help Mary find work, make friends, and overcome her feelings of inadequacy.

Mary wants to live up to her friends’ good opinion. She visits Kate, who is hospitalized after an accident, and brings her back to the Cabbage Patch, where Kate dies.

gp_niagara-falls-1014159-m

Mary and Tommy return to the orphanage.

Mary’s good behavior is rewarded: She and Tommy are taken on a railroad trip to Niagara Falls.

Lovey Mary has slender plot and inadequate character development. The novel’s best scenes, such as Mary’s recitation of her lines from Faust “with a volubility that would have shamed an auctioneer,” have no bearing on the plot.

Five years later, Lucy Maud Montgomery will use themes and incidents similar to those of Lovey Mary with far greater skill in Anne of Green Gables.

Go with the redhead.

Lovey Mary
by Alice Hegan Rice
1903 bestseller #4
Project Gutenberg ebook #5970
 
Photo credit: Niagara Falls by jnystrom

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Orphan Stories My Favorites from 1913

To say bestsellers of 1913 haven’t held up well is an understatement.

Of the 10 novels that topped the sales charts in 1913, only Pollyanna is a title that will ring a bell  with most modern readers. It’s fame is probably due more to the 1960 movie version starring Hayley Mills than to Porter’s novel.  In most of the other bestsellers  of 1913, the message gets in the way of the story.

Forced to choose my favorites of the 1913 bestselling novels, I’d pick two  novels by women authors known for juvenile fiction:  Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter, and T. Tembarom by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Both of my picks are eponymous novels about orphans . (Orphans were as common in America up to World War I as children from single-parent homes are today.)   Neither novel is realistic, though T. Tembarom is marginally superior to Pollyanna on that count.

Both orphans have cheerful dispositions and a willingness to make the best of whatever comes their way.

And, since I’m a sucker for cheerful kids, I’ll choose these two as the best of a bad crop of bestselling novels.