Felix O’Day mysteriously freshens biblical plot

Who is the middle-aged, British gent who says he’s too broke to pay his rent?

The one who looks for someone each night among patrons of Broadway’s theaters and restaurants?

Felix O’ Day by F. Hopkinson Smith

Project Gutenberg ebook #5229. 1915 bestseller #7. My grade: B.

It’s Felix O Day.

The novel of which Felix is titular character is a romance that derives its interest mainly from the Felix’s mysterious behavior.

While Felix is negotiating a loan at a secondhand  shop, he tells owner Otto Kling some of his merchandise is undervalued. Impressed, Otto asks Felix to come work for him.

Otto arranges for Felix to room across the street with Kitty and John Cleary, who own a moving company.

It’s a happy arrangement.

Felix mostly enjoys the work.

He is charmed by Maisie, Otto’s 10-year-old daughter.

He learns to know and value Kitty and the other Fourth Street business owners.

One day an unexpected discovery leads Felix to share his secret with the local priest, Father Cruse. That, and advice from Kitty, lead to a happy ending.

Felix O’Day kept me up past my bedtime. Though the parable of the lost sheep post’s familiar,  author F. Hopkinson Smith makes Felix, with his inbred class-consciousness, sufficiently human to make it feel fresh.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Dawn Shows Work Is Necessary to Happiness

After hitting the sales charts with Pollyanna in 1913 and Pollyanna Grows Up in 1915, Eleanor H. Porter repeated her feat in 1919 with Dawn, a novel that’s better than either of them.

As the story opens, young Dan Burton learns the man who mends toys for neighborhood kids has gone blind. Dan immediately decides his blurred vision means he’s going blind, too.

It turns out Dan is right.

He undergoes several operations, none successful.

Boys Dan’s age are being sent to the trenches of France. Dan’s father seeks to avoid seeing anything that’s unpleasant, including the son who can’t go to war.

Susan, the Burton’s maid-of-all-work forces Dan to accept his blindness as a challenge. When the wounded start being sent home, Dan finds he can be useful to others who have lost their sight, which was often associated with facial disfigurement common in WWI trench warfare.

There’s none of the upbeat sentimentality of the Pollyanna books in Dawn. Dawn‘s characters accept reality or hide from it, but they don’t attempt to sugar coat it.

Dawn is moderately entertaining as a novel, but more intriguing as artifact of an author working to master her craft. Alert readers will see echoes of other novelists’ works — they’re the off-key notes in Porter’s melodies.

By Eleanor H. Porter
Illustrations by Lucius Wolcott Hitchcock (not available in digital text)
1919 bestseller #7
Project Gutenberg e-book #5874
My grade: B-

© 2014  Linda Gorton Aragoni