The Lady of the Decoration finds healing in work

Postcard of street scene in Yokohama, Japan about 1900 shows cluttered sidewalks, rickshaws, telephone poles.
After her husband’s death in 1900, a Southern belle agrees to teach kindergarten in a mission school in Hiroshima.

She needs the money. She also needs to regain her equilibrium after a bad, seven-year marriage.


The Lady of the Decoration by Frances Little¹
1907 bestseller #1. Project Gutenberg ebook #7523. My grade: B.

The kindergartners salute her, thinking the enameled watch pinned to her bodice is a medal from the Emperor. They call her The Lady of the Decoration.

She, in turn, is fascinated by Japan’s scenery and people, especially the children. She longs to “take the whole lot of them to my heart and love them into an education.”

The Lady records her experiences in letters to her cousin back in Kentucky.

A vivacious blonde, the Lady causes a stir among the Japanese adults as well as the children.

When the Russo-Japanese War breaks out, she’s vocally pro-Japan, helping care for wounded soldiers.

Thanks to the Lady’s buoyant humor, despite the poverty and suffering she sees and the homesickness and unhappiness she often feels, the novel makes cheerful bedtime reading

Readers never learn the letter writer’s name, but they learn to know her. She sums up the years 1901–1905 in a letter:

I don’t care a rap for the struggle and the heart aches, if I have only made good. When I came out there were two kindergartens, now there are nine besides a big training class. Anybody else could have done as much for the work but one thing is certain, the work couldn’t have done for anyone else what it has done for me.


¹Frances Little is the pseudonym of American author Fannie Caldwell Macaulay. The Lady of the Decoration was her first, and most successful novel.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Re-Creation of Brian Kent: Short and Overly Sweet

The Re-Creation of Brian Kent is a syrupy, sentimental novel about how Auntie Sue, a retired schoolteacher, helps a writer-turned-bank-robber become a writer again.

 


When small boat occupied by a drunken man washes up on the river bank by Auntie Sue’s Ozarks home, the spunky spinster sees  in him the son she’d always wanted. Even when she learns Brian Kent is  wanted for a bank robbery that included her own money, she is determined to rescue him.

Dried out, literally and metaphorically, Brian stays on with Auntie Sue, clearing trees for cropland and writing  a book.

When the book is done, Auntie Sue summons a girl she knows who can prepare a typewritten manuscript from  Brian’s handwritten draft. They fall in love, and after appropriate trials, the novel ends at the altar.

Because Auntie Sue is an artificial character around whom any plot will be implausible, Harold Bell Wright’s novel feels like a sermon. The sermon is, in Auntie Sue’s words, “Before you can DO anything that is worth doing, you must be something.”

Fortunately, the novel is short so you won’t  get sugar overdose.

The Re-Creation of Brian Kent
By Harold Bell Wright
1920 Bestseller #3
Project Gutenberg ebook #3625

Photo “Early Morning on the Buffalo” by OakleyOriginals shared under Creative Commons License.

©2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Project Gutenberg