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Blog category: Book Reviews

Review: "In the Mountains" by Elizabeth von Arnim


First published in 1920, the story is written in first person as a journal. Our narrator is a tired English woman who, after WWI, escapes ambiguous personal troubles in London and seeks refuge at her chalet among the Swiss Alps. As she starts to gain strength, two English women, also of ambiguous personal circumstances, show up literally on her doorstep. The hostess takes them in, and they embark on a strange and endearing path to helping each other. Continue reading .

Review: "The Story of My Life" by Helen Keller


Helen was born in June of 1880 in a tiny town in northern Alabama. She was nineteen months old and had just begun to talk when she contracted an unnamed disease, described by her doctor only as “acute congestion of the stomach and brain.” The doctor’s prognosis was that Helen would not live. She pulled through, but not before the disease had robbed her of her sight and hearing. Continue reading .

Review: "Heart Pulled to Pieces" by Megan Trennett


How do you pick up the pieces when your life falls apart? When her marriage ends abruptly, Andi Mathews packs her bags and leaves the City to start a whole new life in a small town known as The Tourist Trap. A good distance away from her old life, Andi heals by meeting new friends, and flirting with the idea of falling in love once more. But just when life starts to look good for Andi, an unexpected turn of events sends her world crashing down all over again. Continue reading .

Review: "The Doctor's Wife" by Mary Elizabeth Braddon


First published in 1864, The Doctor’s Wife uses the concept of the serialized sensation novel to create stories within stories within stories. A reworking of Madame Bovary, the heroine is Isabel Sleaford who is married to an adoring, if boring, physician. He does not share Isabel’s taste for literature, but she is content until she meets her intellectual equal in the author of her favorite book of verse. As Isabel’s life begins to take on complications worthy of her literary heroes, she begins to find what it is like to grow into a mature woman. Continue reading .

Review: "Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther" by Elizabeth von Arnim


First published in 1907, this epistolary novel contains the letters from Fraulein (Rose-Marie) Schmidt to Mr (Roger) Anstruther. It is set in the college town of Jena, Germany where Roger, an Englishman, has just spent a year learning German. During his last hour before returning to England, the two confess their feelings and become secretly engaged. Rose-Marie’s letters, filled with effusions of life and nature, also chronicle the relationship of these two characters through the year following their engagement. Continue reading .

Review: "A Girl of the Limberlost" by Gene Stratton-Porter


First published in 1909, the story concerns Elnora Comstock who lives a reclusive life with her mother in the swamps of Indiana called the Limberlost. One day she discovers that a hobby she has cultivated all her life, collecting moth and other insect specimens from the swamps near her home, can actually finance the education she longs for. The first part is a family tale, where Elnora grapples with her mother’s moody ways while pursuing her educational goals. The second part is a romance. Continue reading .

Review: "Dear Enemy" by Jean Webster


First published in 1915, Dear Enemy is a sequel to Daddy Long Legs. Judy Abbott, whose letters to her anonymous benefactor made up the first novel, hardly makes an appearance in this one. The main character is Judy’s pal from college, Sallie McBride, who Judy recruits from her frivolous life to run the John Grier orphan asylum. Sallie’s letters are mostly to Judy, but letters to others including to the home’s moody Scottish doctor–her “enemy”–add some variation. Continue reading .

Review: "Roast Beef, Medium" by Edna Ferber


Roast Beef, Medium: The Business Adventures of Emma McChesney was first published in 1913. It chronicles the adventures of perhaps the only a successful traveling saleswoman in literary history, a stellar employee of T. A. Buck’s Featherloom Petticoats. Edna Ferber is known for big old-fashioned novels like So Big and Giant . I always thought they were supposed to be bad novels – not read anymore, anyway – but these stories are superb. Continue reading .

Review: "Rose in Bloom" by Louisa May Alcott


A sequel to Eight Cousins and first published in 1876, this novel begins when Rose returns from two years in Europe. Her seven male cousins have grown up and are looked upon as possible mates for Rose. The winner would be fortunate, since Rose is a rich orphan. With all the conflict and reversals that never happened in Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom is a more adult novel than its predecessor. However it is vintage Alcott, echoing some of the sentiments from Little Women. Continue reading .

Review: "The Incomplete Amorist" by E. Nesbit


First published in 1906, this novel centers upon four main characters and their romantic interactions. Betty Desmond is a pretty, naive girl ready to get into all sorts of trouble and cause her step-father and aunt endless worry. Then there’s Eustace Vernon, the amorist himself, who means no harm but goes to great lengths to win the ladies just to appease his vanity. Nesbit mixes things up with Lady St. Craye, one of the amorist’s many jilted lovers. And lastly Mr. Temple, who makes a clumsy first impression and is not very interesting or threatening…or is he? Continue reading .

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