The Road to Understanding is a road not taken

If Burke Denby had not been given all the frosted cakes and toy shotguns he wanted at the age of ten, it might not have been so difficult to convince him at the age of twenty that he did not want to marry Helen Barnet. That opening sentence of The Road to Understanding made me […]

The Red Planet turns light on heroism

The Red Planet is a memoir narrated by Duncan Meredyth, a widowed Boer War veteran living in a small English country village in 1914. Duncan is cared for my his ex-sergeant who was disfigured in the same shell blast that took Duncan’s legs. The Red Planet by William J. Locke 1917 bestseller #3. Project Gutenberg […]

The Barrier contains prejudice, romance, adventure

John Gale watches soldiers building a military post on the Yukon River and thinks, “The trail ends here!” Necia Gale, his daughter, sees Lieutenant Burrell and thinks her trail is just beginning. The Barrier by Rex Beach [Harper’s, 310 pp.] 1908. 1908 bestseller #2. Project Gutenberg ebook #4082. My grade: B. In its first chapter, […]

T. Tembarom Engagingly Quirky “Orphan” Novel

Orphaned at 10, T. Tembarom goes to work selling newspapers. Cheerful and practical, the lad makes do with whatever comes his way, even discarding his name for a less embarrassing one. Through hard work and good sense, Tembarom eventually gets a foot in the newsroom door. He hopes to become a news reporter. While pounding […]

The Amateur Gentleman Is Amateurish Novel

The Amateur Gentleman follows the adventures of Barnabas Barty, son of a champion prizefighter. Thanks to an unexpected inheritance, Barnabas has cash to “learn to be a gentleman.” The Amateur Gentleman reads like a first novel, packed with episodes and characterizations drawn on the author’s reading in Dickens, Fielding, and Trollope. Had he been writing today, […]

The Dim Lantern Gives a Warm Glow

The Dim Lantern is old-fashioned romance that, despite a well-worn theme and predictable plot lines, is as cozy as hot tea and scones in a room smelling faintly of lavender. Jane and Baldwin Barnes live in an unfashionable suburb of Washington, D.C. in mortgaged house inherited from their parents. Baldy is artistic, but works in […]

Class distinctions make The Valley of Decision

In 1873, Mary Rafferty goes to be ’tweenmaid in William Scott’s Pittsburgh home. Her patience, humor, straight-thinking, practicality, and unswerving loyalty win the entire family. For nearly 60 more years, Mary remains in the Scott household, neither fully family nor fully employee. When Paul Scott choses Mary as his bride, William father sees no reason […]