My Friend Prospero Sweet and Light as Spun Sugar

Seeking admittance to a remote Italian castle containing a famous collection of fourteenth century portraits, Lady Blanchemain is delighted to discover the courtly Englishman who serves as her guide is a relative of her late husband. A centuries-old feud between the Catholic and Protestant branches of the family had kept them from meeting before.

The landscape is so romantic and John Blanchemain such a Prince Charming, Lady Blanchemain decides she must arrange for him to fall in love.

She doesn’t have to.

Long before John spies a woman pretty as a princess in the courtyard below, ten-and-a-half-year-old Annunziata is on the job taking care of her friend Prospero, whose impecunious present state she predicts will give way to incredible fortune.

The outcome of the romance is totally predictable.

Henry Harland takes the portraits the lovers straight from color illustrations in fairy tales. He gives them each a sense of humor and delight in word play so they are interesting to watch for the short time it takes to read Harland’s slim volume.

Unfortunately, Harland doesn’t give enough lines to Lady Blanchemain, “a young old thing” who is more interesting than either of the young lovers.

Despite its shortcomings, My Friend Prospero is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

My Friend Prospero
By Henry Harland
1904 bestseller #9
Project Gutenberg ebook #14682
My grade: C+

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Don’t Bother Taking The Founding Home

Francis Cardinal Spellman has a remarkable memory for plots: He’s woven every one he ever read into The Foundling.

Peter Taggart, a wounded World War I vet, finds a baby in a Catholic cathedral at Christmas.  Paul and his wife want to adopt Peter, but the church won’t allow the baby to go to a Protestant home.

Peter grows up in an orphanage where he learns to farm and play the organ. His music teacher leaves him her unfinished symphony to complete.

When a respected critic calls Peter’s composition “puerile,” Peter is crushed. Fortunately, war is starting in Europe again, which gives Peter something to do.

He comes home blind, but his girl is waiting for him and he’s ready to finish the fourth movement of the symphony.

That synopsis doesn’t do The Foundling justice. The plot is really far more silly  than it sounds.

I suspect the reason The Foundling became a bestseller was that the good cleric gave the book rights to the New York Foundling Hospital, a fact touted on the book jacket and frontpiece.

Charitable folks in 1951 may have bought the book to help poor little orphans. Today, however,  even poor, little orphans couldn’t find any value in The Foundling.

The Foundling
By Francis Cardinal Spellman
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951
304 pages
1951 bestseller # 9
My Grade: C-

© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni