Needing a housekeeper for himself and his five grown sons, widowed farmer Benjamin Geaiter hires a young woman he sees scrubbing a doorstep: He’s impressed by her muscular arms.
Nancy’s cooking and housekeeping skills soon have the sons vying for her favor. When she becomes pregnant, Benjamin confesses he’s the father.
The farm is the center of the Geaiter’s lives. They live and die on it; they measure success by its yields. Though the boys fear their father will leave the farm to the son of his old age, they love Joseph devotedly.
Thanks to his half-brothers, when Benjamin dies, Joseph would hardly have missed his father had Nancy not married a n’er-do-well she thought she could reform through her love.
As Nancy’s fortunes fall, the brothers take Joseph in. Together they get the farm back. When Joseph wants to marry and move to the city, his brothers find a way to keep him on the farm.
H. W. Freeman describes character through behavior. His details capture individuals with photographic insight. You’ll remember bits of Joseph and His Brethren long after you’ve forgotten the plot.
Joseph and His Brethren
by H. W. Freeman
Henry Holt, 1929
My grade: B-
©2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni
Patrick Dennis won instant celebrity in 1955 with his first novel Auntie Mame. Three years laster, he cashed in on his success with its prequel: Around the World with Auntie Mame.
In this novel, Patrick recalls his 1937 trip with his flamboyant aunt. Patrick tells his wife a sanitized version of the trip. Readers learn what really happened.
In 1937, Mame was filthy rich, knew everyone, and was ready to do anything that was not boring, especially if it involved sexy men and stiff drinks. Patrick was 18 and mature for his age—but then, almost anyone of any age seems mature compared to Mame.
Patrick and Mame met cons and kooks from Paris to Singapore. Between them, they defeated scam artists, punctured pretenders, and deflated windbags.
The novel is broad farce, sprinkled with sophomoric humor. Example: The Austrian castle when Nazis train is Schloss Stinkenbach.
Many of the allusions are dated. Dennis’ attempts to reproduce accents becomes irritation very quickly, too.
As to characterization, the roles of Mame and Patrick could be played by Miss Piggy and Kermit.
The highlight of the novel for me was the name of the woman Mame hires to get her introduced at court in England: Lady Gravell-Pitt. Now that’s funny.
Around the World with Auntie Mame
by Patrick Dennis (pen name of Edward Everett Tanner III)
Harcourt, Brace, 1958
1958 Bestseller #4
My Grade: D+
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni