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Blog category: Book Reviews

"Agnes Grey" by Anne Brontë

First published in 1847, Agnes Grey was Anne Brontë’s first novel and thought to be her most autobiographical. It is the story a young woman who works as a governess to help support her family. Through the course of the novel she is employed in two different families, however her experiences of dealing with spoiled and ignorant children (and employers) is similar in both households. This is a short novel, flawlessly written, and brazenly simple. There are no monsters, castles, or plot twists lurking in dark corners. It is, however, a novel you can’t put down until you know Agnes is safe and happy. Continue reading .

"The Third Miss Symons" by F.M. Mayor

The amazing thing about The Third Miss Symons is that author Mayor could write an attention-getting novel about a woman who did essentially nothing for 63 years. “Nothing” may be too strong a word; however, the heroine never married, never entered the workforce, and showed no concerted interest in academia or philanthropy. She traveled extensively; however her travels took more the form of wandering or avoidance rather than genuine interest in new places. Friends and relatives were happy to see her, but they were just as happy to see her go. And more than one relative breathed a sigh of relief when she declined their offer to come live with them. Continue reading .

"Christine" by Elizabeth von Arnim

Having so greatly enjoyed Elizabeth and Her German Garden, I volunteered to read Christine. The preface, however, indicated that the book was not Von Arnim’s work at all, but that of her daughter, being a collection of letters from Christine to her mother when the former was studying violin in Berlin in 1914. The preface indicates that Christine died before her mother received the last two letters. Thus, instead of enjoying Von Arnim’s usual wit, I would be reading a tragedy—not an appealing prospect. I, however, went on to read, and love, this story. Continue reading .

"The White Ladies of Worcester" by Florence Barclay

It is the 12th century in the city of Worcester, England. At the Nunnery of the White Ladies, old lay-sister Mary Antony performs her daily ritual. As the nuns return from Vespers through the underground passage into the cloisters, she counts them in her unique way–dropping one pea for each nun from her hand into a bag. Today the count is different. Today the nuns pass, all the peas drop into the bag, and then one more nun passes by… Continue reading .

Have some Nachtstürm Castle with your Halloween

Have some Nachtstürm Castle with your Halloween

I had never read a sequel or even a book inspired by the works of Jane Austen before, and when Laura from Girlebooks asked me to do a review, I was a bit concerned. Not that I am a purist, but I have read some discouraging words about these kinds of books. However curiosity was greater than the fear, and so I took a trip with the Tilneys.

The story begins one year after the marriage of Catherine and Henry Tilney, the nice couple of Northanger Abbey. Reverend Tilney decides to present his wife with a proper honeymoon, and what’s better than a trip to the places of the novels which she loves so much–for example, The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. Continue reading .

"The Circular Staircase" by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Perhaps Rachael Innes would not have taken a summer rental on a sprawling mansion by the sea if she had known it was haunted. By the time she had spent the second–mostly sleepless–night in “Sunnyside”, the house proved not only haunted but the site of a murder. To make matters worse, that very night she received news of a spectacular bank failure whose engineer might be under her roof.

Disembodied souls manage to fling golf clubs, cuff links, a revolver, and iron bars into the night; more bodies drop; and Rachael’s hope for a peaceful summer at the shore turned to chaos. Whether Rachael has nerves of steel or is just plain stubborn could be the subject of a dissertation. Continue reading .

"The Rosary" by Florence L. Barclay

First published in 1909, The Rosary tells the story of Jane Champion and Garth Dalmain. The Honourable Jane is plain, exceedingly frank, and a fiercely loyal friend. In the words of Ms. Barclay, “She had once been described, by one who saw below the surface, as a perfectly beautiful woman in an absolutely plain shell.” Garth Dalmain, the artistic and sensitive hero, is as blessed in appearance as Jane is not. He is the fun, gifted bachelor that every woman is out to catch. After years of friendship, one night Garth hears Jane sing for the first time, and “the veil is lifted”. He declares his love to her, but Jane does not believe it will last. Then things get interesting. Continue reading .

"That Affair Next Door" by Anna Katharine Green

Returning from a trip abroad, the Van Burnam family enters their New York mansion to find a dead woman on the dining room floor. A curio cabinet has fallen on top of her, crushing her face, and law officers suspect that the victim is the wife of one of the Van Burnam sons. However, the son insists that he does not recognize the victim. How did this woman get into this locked house? Whose are those strange garments she is wearing? What is her hat doing in the closet and a strange, gaudy hat crushed underneath her? Why did the coroner insist that the woman was dead when the curio fell? Continue reading .

"Oroonoko" by Aphra Behn

Oroonoko is the story of an enslaved African prince. Our narrator recounts the events from Oroonoko’s coming into princedom, his enslavement, and his struggle for love. It took a while to get started but soon I found that I was intrigued, much occurs in this short novel. There are commentaries about slavery and race, social class, gender, colonialism, and religion. The actions and imagery of our hero are reminiscent of Greek mythology. Continue reading .

"The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow" by Anna Katharine Green

Anna Katharine Green was noted for her scientific approach to the murder mystery. In The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow she breaks more ground with her in-depth study of the psychological interplay between the murderer, the victim and the witnesses. Although more quietly paced, this mystery presents many elements of a current psychological thriller: blind ambition, narcissism, obsession and betrayal. Green adds a peculiar twist with the fact that two heartbroken relatives of the victim sacrifice virtually everything to protect the murderer. Continue reading .

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