Summer Leisure Reading:
Some of these are the sorts of books I categorize under my Kindle as ‘Mama Reads.’ Because these are titlest that are free due to being in the public domain, they are older books.
Some of them are quaint and charming in their reflections of a different era. Some of them are quaint and have a some jarring elements (there’s at least one ‘colored mammy’ in the books below, who leapt out of the pages to startle me).
Some of them have some good food for thought. Some of them could be quite pernicious if you take them seriously as a model for life or as a goal for godly womanhood rather than just as a pleasant, old-fashioned read for some escapist literature some lazy afternoon.
Some of them are classics, but still at the lighter end (you’ll find Dickens and Austen, for example, but not the Russians).
Listing the books below means I thought they might be pleasant, easy interludes for escapist reading, or pleasant reads with some thought provoking moments. It does not mean I endorse every jot, tittle, or even main idea. That clarified, here we go:
Grace S. (Smith) Richmond is a new author to me. I stumbled over her while browsing free titles. According to Wikipedia, “Grace S. Richmond (Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1866 – 1959) was an American writer. She wrote the “Red Pepper Burns” series of popular novels. Her father was a Baptist clergyman, Charles Edward Smith.” There are two more paragraphs about her here, including this one: “Her first short stories were published in various women’s magazines including the Women’s Home Companion, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Everybody’s Magazine as early as 1898. Richmond wrote 27 novels between 1905 and 1936. ” Encyclopedia Brittanica for Kids Online says: “She started her career writing short stories for various women’s magazines, including the Ladies’ Home Journal. Her traditional, patriotic tales of strong men and modest, subservient women were quite popular, and soon she began writing novels. ”
Under the Country Sky
Reader review: “I first read this book years ago, when I was thirteen. An avid reader, I read it in one sitting! It is by far the best book by this author…at least in my opinion. The story is about a vivacious young lady named Georgiana, who selflessly and sacrificially cares for her invalid father. Her father’s illness prevents her from furthering her education and nearly reduces her family to poverty, so Georgiana decides to take in a border, a unusual young man she knows as Mr. Jefferson. As she learns to put the needs of others first, she is rewarded far above anything she could imagine. Ms. Richmond does an excellent job of incorporating humor, romance, good old-fashioned character, and a spelbinding plot into this book! Highly recommended.”
Early 1900s. My own review based on just a reading of the first two or three chapters: 3 brothers and one sister left penniless by their father’s death, cared for in part by an equally penurious uncle. They inherit a large, ramshackle, former mansion five miles outside of town on acreage and attempt to put the family fortunes back in order and restore the farm. People who liked this book also liked books by Grace Livingston Hill and Isabella Alden (Pansy).
The Red Pepper books:
The Dr. Red Pepper books seem to be amusing reads (skimmed through about 20% of 3 of them), but you should know Dr. Pepper has nothing but scorn for those of his patients he considers to be mere malingerers, selfish women with the vapors who just need to start thinking of others in order to get over their emotional hissy fits. He is a man of his times, and his times were an era where the doctor’s word was law and he was expected to be an expert in both physical medicine as well as psychological issues. Dr. Red is, I believe, supposed to be seen as a strong, wise, no-nonsense man of virtue, integrity, and wisdom. I found him sometimes tediously and blindly arrogant.
Red Pepper Burns
Reader Review: My grandma introduced this book to me and I have since collected all the “Red Pepper” books. Red Pepper Burns is a doctor with red hair and a temper to match it, but he has a big heart. He drives at top speeds in this car the “green imp.” He provides amusement and aid to his neighbors who live on either side of his house. He never comes to their dinner parties on time because his is “always on a case.” He is well-loved by his friends and neighbors. He meets a widow who is living with his neighbors and proceeds to court her is a regular “Burnsy” fashion.
Mrs. Red Pepper
Dr. Redfield Pepper Burns, who naturally has auburn hair, has just brought home his bride, Ellen, now, of course, Mrs. Red Pepper. After a sweet and earnest discussion on the drive home from the honeymoon they agree to leave bride and groom at the cross-roads and continue on as husband and wife, ready to about their own work and do their best for each other, themselves, and mankind.
Red Pepper’s Patients With an Account of Anne Linton’s Case in Particular
This one is after they’ve been married a bit- they have two children, the younger one is two years old.
Reader review: Red Pepper Burns is a doctor that Grace S. Richmond writes about in several books. I recommend that RED PEPPER BURNS should be read first. This is an interesting book about a country doctor and his patients in the early 20th century. It also has an underlying love story. I highly recommend this book.
The Brown Study
My review based on two chapters: Mr. Brown seems to be a kindly man of sound sense. Everybody comes to him for advice. In one early chapter a visitor is explaining that he’s about to lose his job and he just can’t cope any more:
Excerpt (this made me chuckle):
“It’s in the air, that’s all I can say. I wouldn’t be surprised to be fired any minute—after eight years’ service. And—it’s got on my nerves so I can’t do decent work, even to keep up my own self-respect till I do go. And what I’m to do afterward—”
Brown was silent, looking into the fire. His caller shifted in his chair; he had shifted already a dozen times since he sat down. His nervous hands gripped the worn arms of the rocker restlessly, unclosing only to take fresh hold, until the knuckles shone white.
“There’s the wife,” said Brown presently.
The caller groaned aloud in his unhappiness.
“And the kiddies.”
“I meant to mention Him,” said Brown, in a quietly matter-of-fact way.
“I’m glad you thought of Him. He’s in this situation, too.”
The Mistress of Shenstone
Romantic melodrama with a lot of he-man strong male, noble womanhood stuff and a strong regard for marriage (the moral elements reminded me of Casablanca, the movie). Here’s an excerpt:
“Now tell me,” said the doctor, gently. “Why did you leave town, your many friends, your interests there, in order to bury yourself down here, during this dismal autumn weather? Surely the strain of waiting for news would have been less, within such easy reach of the War Office and of the evening papers.”
Lady Ingleby laughed, rather mirthlessly.
“I came away, Sir Deryck, partly to escape from dear mamma; and as you do not know dear mamma, it is almost impossible for you to understand how essential it was to escape. When Michael is away, I am defenceless. Mamma swoops down; takes up her abode in my house; reduces my household, according 26to their sex and temperament, to rage, hysterics, or despair; tells unpalatable home-truths to my friends, so that all—save the duchess—flee discomforted. Then mamma proceeds to ‘divide the spoil’! In other words: she lies in wait for my telegrams, and opens them herself, saying that if they contain good news, a dutiful daughter should delight in at once sharing it with her; whereas, if they contain bad news, which heaven forbid!—and surely, with mamma snorting skyward, heaven would not venture to do otherwise!—she is the right person to break it to me, gently. I bore it for six weeks; then fled down here, well knowing that not even the dear delight of bullying me would bring mamma to Shenstone in autumn.”
The doctor’s face was grave. For a moment he looked silently into the fire. He was a man of many ideals, and foremost among them was his ideal of the relation which should be between parents and children; of the loyalty to a mother, which, even if forced to admit faults or failings, should tenderly shield them 27from the knowledge or criticism of outsiders. It hurt him, as a sacrilege, to hear a daughter speak thus of her mother; yet he knew well, from facts which were common knowledge, how little cause the sweet, lovable woman at his side had to consider the tie either a sacred or a tender one. He had come to help, not to find fault. Also, the minute-hand was hastening towards the hour; and the final instructions of the kind-hearted old Duchess of Meldrum, as she parted from him at the War Office, had been: “Remember! Six o’clock from London. I shall insist upon its being kept back until then. If they make difficulties, I shall camp in the entrance and ‘hold up’ every messenger who attempts to pass out. But I am accustomed to have my own way with these good people. I should not hesitate to ring up Buckingham Palace, if necessary, as they very well know! So you may rest assured it will not leave London until six o’clock. It gives you ample time.”
Therefore the doctor said: “I understand. It does not come within my own experience; 28yet I think I understand. But tell me, Lady Ingleby. If bad news were to come, would you sooner receive it direct from the War Office, in the terribly crude wording which cannot be avoided in those telegrams; or would you rather that a friend—other than your mother—broke it to you, more gently?”
Myra’s eyes flashed. She sat up with instant animation.
“Oh, I would receive it direct,” she said. “It would be far less hard, if it were official. I should hear the roll of the drums, and see the wave of the flag. For England, and for Honour! A soldier’s daughter, and a soldier’s wife, should be able to stand up to anything. If they had to tell me Michael was in great danger, I should share his danger in receiving the news without flinching. If he were wounded, as I read the telegram I should receive a wound myself, and try to be as brave as he. All which came direct from the war, would unite me to Michael. But interfering friends, however well-meaning, would come between. If he had not been shielded from a bullet or a sword-thrust, why should I be shielded from the knowledge of his wound?”
The doctor screened his face with his hand,
“I see,” he said.
The clock struck six.
The Indifference of Juliet
Excerpt: “Oh, Tony! And on this very trip when we needed it most! How could you leave it behind? Don’t you always carry it next your heart?” 15
“Is that the prescribed place?”
“Certainly. I should doubt a man’s love if he did not constantly wear my likeness right where it could feel his heart beating for me.”
“Now I never supposed,” remarked Anthony, considering her attentively, “that you had so much romance about you. Do you realise that for an extremely practical young person such as you have—mostly—appeared to be, that is a particularly sentimental suggestion? Er—should you wear his in the same way, may I inquire?”
“Of course,” returned Juliet with defiance in her eyes, whose lashes, when they fell at length before his steadily interested gaze, swept a daintily colouring cheek.
“Have you ever worn one?” inquired this hardy young man, nothing daunted by these signs of righteous indignation. But all he got for answer was a vigorous:
“You absurd boy! Now go to work at your measurements. I’m going upstairs. There’s one room up there, the one with the gable corners and the little bits of windows, that’s perfectly fascinating. It must be done in Delft blue and white. Since I haven’t the photograph”—she turned on the 16 threshold to smile roguishly back at him—“memory must serve. Beautiful dark hair; eyes like a Madonna’s; a perfect nose; the dearest mouth in the world—oh, yes——”
She vanished around the corner only to put her head in again with the air of one who fires a parting shot at a discomfited enemy: “But, Tony—do you honestly think the house is large enough for such a queen of a woman? Won’t her throne take up the whole of the first floor?”
Then she was gone up the diminutive staircase, and her light footsteps could be heard on the bare floors overhead. Left alone, Anthony Robeson stood still for a moment looking fixedly at the door by which she had gone. The smile with which he had answered her gay fling had faded; his eyes had grown dark with a singular fire; his hands were clenched. Suddenly he strode across the floor and stopped by the door. He was looking down at the quaint old latch which served instead of a knob. Then, with a glance at the unconscious back of Mrs. Dingley, sitting sleepily on the little porch outside, he stooped and pressed his lips upon the iron where Juliet’s hand had lain.”
I’ve skimmed quite a bit of this one, and I think it may be my favorite, particularly as it’s more than a ‘happily ever after’ story, as about 3/4 of it is about the couple after their marriage. In one of the later scenes the couple is totally out of sorts with each other and in order to relieve their feelings, they have a spontaneous fencing match while strolling through the woods.
Here’s an excerpt from the earlier section:
““I don’t like it,” repeated… , obstinately, and shook his head for the fifth time. “I’ve not a word to say against Anthony, my dear—not a word. He’s a fine fellow and comes of a good family, and I respect him and the start he has made since things went to pieces, but——”
… waited, her eyes downcast, her cheeks very much flushed, her mouth in lines of mutiny.
“But—” her father continued, settling back in his chair with an air of decision, “you will certainly make the mistake of your life if you think you can be happy in the sort of existence he offers you. You’re not used to it. You’ve not been brought up to it. You can spend more money in a forenoon than he can earn in a twelve-month. You don’t know how to adapt yourself to life on a basis of rigid economy. I——”
“You don’t forbid it, sir?”
“Forbid it?—no. A man can’t forbid a twenty-four year old woman to do as she pleases. But I advise you—I warn you—I ask you seriously to consider what it all means. You are used to very many habits of living which will be entirely beyond Anthony’s means for many years to come. You are fond of travel—of dress—of social——”
“Father dear,” said his daughter, interrupting him gently by a change of tactics. She came to him and sat upon the arm of his chair, and rested her cheek lightly upon the top of his thick, iron-gray locks.—“Let’s drop all this for the present. Let’s not discuss it. I want you to do me a particular favour before we say another word about it.”
A Court of Inquiry
One of the genre popular at the time- boarding house stories. At least, that’s how it begins. The boarders move on, though their friendship with the landlady remains, and the first dozen or so chapters of the book continue the life stories of the boarders introduced in the first few chapters.
Each of the first four or five chapters details a visitor to the boarding house- always young ladies. These chapters provide an interesting character study into different types of girls and their strengths and weaknesses. The next few chapters shows each of these girls after marriage, and again, we have an interesting character study into how their flaws were either corrected, or how they were left unaltered and what sort of marriage that produced. I found this one amusing and more worthwhile reading than some of the others.
The last few chapters are stand alone tales.
Here’s an excerpt from the third chapter. Dahlia is the shameless flirt visitor:
“From this time on there was concerted action on the part of our two men. Where one was, the other was. The Gay Lady and I received less attention than we were accustomed to expect—the two men were too busy standing by each other to have much time for us.
“I’m so sorry,” said Dahlia, coming over after dinner on the tenth evening, “but I’m going away to-morrow. I’ve an invitation that I’m simply not allowed to refuse.”
The Philosopher’s face lit up. He attempted to conceal it by burying his head in his handkerchief for a moment, in mock distress, but his satisfaction showed even behind his ears. The Skeptic bent down and elaborately tied his shoe-ribbon. The Gay Lady regarded Dahlia sweetly, and said, “That’s surely very nice for you.”
“I think,” observed Dahlia, looking coyly from the Skeptic to the Philosopher, “that I shall have to let each of you take me for a farewell walk to-night. You first”—she indicated the Philosopher. “Or shall it be a row for one and a walk for the other?”
She and the Philosopher strolled away toward the river. There had been no way out for him.
“The Englishman, the Scotsman and the Irishman,” began the Skeptic, in a conversational tone, “being about to be hanged, were given their choice of a tree. ‘The oak for me,’ says the Englishman. ‘The Scotch elm for mine,’ says the Scotsman. ‘Faith,’ says the Irishman, ‘I’ll be afther takin’ a gooseberry bush.’ ‘That’s too small,’ says the hangman. ‘I’ll wait for it to grow,’ says the Irishman contentedly.”
Whereat he disappeared. When Dahlia and the Philosopher returned he had not come back. I was amazed at him, but my amazement did not produce him, and the[Page 42] Philosopher accompanied Dahlia home. When they were well away the Skeptic swung himself up over the side of the porch, from among some bushes.
“‘All’s fair in love and war,’” he grinned. “Besides, the campaign’s over. Philo’s gained experience. He’s a veteran now. He’ll never be such easy game again. Haven’t we behaved well, on the whole?” he asked the Gay Lady, dropping upon a cushion at her feet.”
Here’s a publisher’s blurb from the time: “This is a charming story of a group of girl and men friends and the effect of their pairing off upon the narrator and her “Philosopher.” Althea, Azalea, Camellia, Dahlia, Hepatica—and their several entanglements with the Promoter, the Cashier, the Skeptic, the Judge and the Professor, form an admirable background of diverse personalities against which grows the main love story. One sees these charming groups through the eyes of the one who tells the tale—and very shrewd and delightful eyes they are, seeing life in its true perspective with much real philosophy and true feeling. Mrs. Richmond has never written anything more fresh and human and entertaining.”
The Second Violin
Reader review: an old novel written about 1905. It is about a large family and the trials they endure. The main character, Charlotte, plays second violin in the family orchestra. It is interesting how the family works together to address their problems. It is also a love story. It held my attention and I enjoyed reading about how life was in every day living in this period of history. I would highly recommend this book.
Another reader said that readers should have some knowledge about orchestra terms to make it really enjoyable.
Here is a list of her books at Gutenberg.
Little Women, this one, of course, needs no introduction. I think I had read it four or five times by the time I was 13. I took it on several family camping trips and disappeared to isolated spots to read it. One of the most memorable was a shady cave created by large boulders at the top of Painted Rock in Arizona. We used to came there frequently when I was a child, and we were allowed then to scramble all over the petroglyph covered rocks.
Most girls read this book and want to be Jo. I felt I was already clumsy, tomboyish, awkward, inkstained Jo. I didn’t like apples, but I struggled with social graces, preferred the uncomplicated company of boys to girls (this continued into my teens, even when I had crossed a certain awkward stage and now made those relations complicated on purpose), and I wrote copious amounts of bad poetry and melodramatic stories. I wanted to be Meg.
Other Louisa May Alcott books I enjoyed:
Jack and Jill
An Old-Fashioned Girl
Rose in Bloom
Rose in Bloom is the sequel to Eight Cousins, and for a time it was the FYG’s favorite.
Kate Douglas Wiggins, influential in bringing Froebel and the Kindergarten to America, is best known for writing:
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, which, somehow, is my least favorite of her books. I prefer:
Mother Carey’s Chickens, which I consider her best and the most indispensable of her works.
The Birds’ Christmas Carol, which is almost as wonderful as Mother Carey’s Chickens.
Grace Livingston Hill, of course, never offers her readers any surprises or shocks to their tender systems. It’s formula, but it’s clean as a whistle formula with an eye for details, and I do love the little details of life in the early 20th century. I read these when I am sick, but too fractious to sleep it off. It’s like aspirin, or a nice cup of white willow bark tea, for the brain.
Author bio from Amazon: “Grace Livingston Hill was born on April 16, 1865 to a Presbyterian Minister, Charles and a published author, Marcia, in Wellsville, New York. For her twelfth birthday, Hills Aunt Pansy had one of her stories published in a book of short stories. This was the beginning of Hills career as a writer. In 1886, Hill and her family moved to Winter Park, Florida, where she got a job teaching gymnastics at a local college. She wrote her first real book there, in an effort to raise money for a family vacation to Chautauqua Lake. The book was called Chatauqua Idyl and was published in 1887 by D. Lothrop and Company, the same publisher that printed her first story when she was twelve. Hill was eventually married and began a family, but lost her husband to appendicitis. At this point in her life, her writing was the only means she had to keep food on the table and money in her pockets. In her lifetime, Hill wrote over a hundred books, only two of which were non-fiction. Grace Livingston Hill died in 1947 at the age of 82.”
The Enchanted Barn
Reader review: “This is the first GLH book I ever read and it remains my favorite, after having read most of the others. Again, we have a poor family–father deceased, mother very ill, numerous children–being taken care of by the oldest daughter on her small stenographer’s salary. The dilemma is that their cheap rented house is about to be torn down so they must move in a few weeks. But how can they do this without money? Taking her only savings (10 cents), the oldest daughter takes advantage of an unexpected afternoon off from work to ride the train out to the country in the faint hope of finding something suitable and affordable. Once well out in the country, she overhears a conversation between other travelers about a barn in sight from the train tracks, and decides to get a closer look. Impossible though it seems to her at first, the lovely setting seems to be just what is needed to regain her mother’s health and provide the children with space to play outdoors. Quickly tracking down the owner, she meets with his handsome son and timidly proposes the rental of the barn for their home. He is immediately sensitive to her dignity and hesitancy and need, and goes out of his way to help her and her family. The description of the barn remodeling is fun, with several side stories and characters. The romance is slow in developing, but results in the usual GLH happy ending.”
A Voice in the Wilderness
Reader review: ” It’s great to see how Margaret befriends a bunch of rough-acting cowboys and they become her most loyal friends, even rescuing her when a jealous teenage girl plays a cruel trick that leaves her stranded alone in the desert.
One of the funniest parts is when several cowboys take a very bad excuse for a Presbyterian minister out and dunk him in a water trough after he preaches about how you don’t need God in your life as long as you do good otherwise.”
Reader rewiew: “…traces the coming to faith of a young man in the early 1900s. Early on you can see that it is based in part at least upon Paul’s Damascus Road experience. The story opens with a young Christian college student named Stephen being, in today’s terms, “bullied” by his peers while the protagonist stands by with the others’ coats at his feet. The young Stephen dies heroically as a martyr and his experience, witnessed by the protagonist, becomes the spark of what becomes a radical, life-transforming faith in Christ. The story is well-paced and offers glimpses of both a simpler time and the timeliness of the gospel message.”
REader Review: “The story is largely about the re-established relationship between the aunt and her college-aged niece and nephew, and how, through the loveliness of the aunt’s character, her example and guidance, they come to know God. All the usual storyline elements are included. The aunt, who has been the silent suffering servant for most of her life, is rewarded with the love of the two (wealthy) children of her dead brother, to fill the place of the children she never had. Unkind relatives try unsuccessfully to thwart their plans. She and the niece and nephew find a house and make it into a beautiful home, in which many of their college friends enjoy spending time. Also, romance enters the picture for each of the main characters. A lovely, truly spiritual book that examines various Biblical issues.”
The Obsession of Victoria Gracen
Similar in theme and characters to Cloudy Jewel.
The Mystery of Mary
Reader Review: “This 1912 book is very similiar to 1920′s Exit Betty. Major plot elements are the same in both books, but the later book is much more enjoyable because of the depth of the secondary characters, something that is left out of this relatively slight novelette.
Tryon is a young man who encounters a mysterious woman at the train station. Although she is shockingly sans hat and refuses to share any details about herself, he determines that she is a real lady and resolves to help her escape peril. The course of true love runs relatively smooth despite a plot involving an evil cousin.”
At her wedding, just as she gets to the groom, collapses in a little white heap on the ground. She’s moved to a quiet room to rest, but when they go back to get her, the window is open and the bride has disappeared.
Reader review: “Poor little rich girl almost forced into marriage with an evil step brother finds happiness and learns about God and basic house keeping skills in the country home of a chance met friend.”
This one is just slightly different from the others as far as setting- during the wedding the family discover that the bride has abandoned them, this time, not because there’s anything wrong with the groom, but because the bride is a hussy and a hoyden who doesn’t take anything seriously. In order to save the situation socially, her little sister, Marcia, steps in, and then is immediately whisked off to her new home with the groom. It’s GLH, so we know how this ends, but it’s a fun journey. One of the things that made this one especially interesting to me is the interest the young groom takes in the new technology of the day- like the railroad, and the descriptions of his opinions and those of people around the about these new fangled things are entertaining.
One of my favorite books when I am in the mood for an amusing memoir is Elizabeth and Her German Garden, by Marie Annette Beauchamp, who also wrote under the name Elizabeth von Arnim”. It is charming, contemplative, dreamy, and it makes me smile.
An English woman married to a German count, she followed her husband to Germany and bore him five daughters in fairly rapid succession. Her German husband, being a count, owned a hosue in the country, although the first five years they lived in a flat in town. Of this she writes:
We had been married five years before it struck us that we might as well make use of this place by coming down and living in it. Those five years were spent in a flat in a town, and during their whole interminable length I was perfectly miserable and perfectly healthy, which disposes of the ugly notion that has at times disturbed me that my happiness here is less due to the garden than to a good digestion. And while we were wasting our lives there, here was this dear place with dandelions up to the very door, all the paths grass-grown and completely effaced, in winter so lonely, with nobody but the north wind taking the least notice of it, and in May—in all those five lovely Mays—no one to look at the wonderful bird-cherries and still more wonderful masses of lilacs, everything glowing and blowing, the virginia creeper madder every year, until at last, in October, the very roof was wreathed with blood-red tresses, the owls and the squirrels and all the blessed little birds reigning supreme, and not a living creature ever entering the empty house except the snakes, which got into the habit during those silent years of wriggling up the south wall into the rooms on that side whenever the old housekeeper opened the windows. All that was here,—peace, and happiness, and a reasonable life,—and yet it never struck me to come and live in it. Looking back I am astonished, and can in no way account for the tardiness of my discovery that here, in this far-away corner, was my kingdom of heaven.
She discovered what a little bit of heaven this was when she was invited to come down and open a village school and combined the trip with an investigation of the property, and suggested that they ought to live there:
My other half being indulgent, and with some faint thought perhaps that it might be as well to look after the place, consented to live in it at any rate for a time; whereupon followed six specially blissful weeks from the end of April into June, during which I was here alone, supposed to be superintending the painting and papering, but as a matter of fact only going into the house when the workmen had gone out of it.
How happy I was! I don’t remember any time quite so perfect since the days when I was too little to do lessons and was turned out with sugar on my eleven o’clock bread and butter on to a lawn closely strewn with dandelions and daisies. The sugar on the bread and butter has lost its charm, but I love the dandelions and daisies even more passionately now than then, and never would endure to see them all mown away if I were not certain that in a day or two they would be pushing up their little faces again as jauntily as ever. During those six weeks I lived in a world of dandelions and delights.
She goes on for several paragraphs about her blissful time in the house, emptied of furniture for new paints and paper, and then was brought up short when:
…he appeared suddenly who has a right to appear when and how he will and rebuked me for never having written, and when I told him that I had been literally too happy to think of writing, he seemed to take it as a reflection on himself that I could be happy alone. I took him round the garden along the new paths I had had made, and showed him the acacia and lilac glories, and he said that it was the purest selfishness to enjoy myself when neither he nor the offspring were with me, and that the lilacs wanted thoroughly pruning. I tried to appease him by offering him the whole of my salad and toast supper which stood ready at the foot of the little verandah steps when we came back, but nothing appeased that Man of Wrath, and he said he would go straight back to the neglected family. So he went; and the remainder of the precious time was disturbed by twinges of conscience (to which I am much subject) whenever I found myself wanting to jump for joy. I went to look at the painters every time my feet were for taking me to look at the garden; I trotted diligently up and down the passages; I criticised and suggested and commanded more in one day than I had done in all the rest of the time; I wrote regularly and sent my love; but I could not manage to fret and yearn.
And so she terms her husband through the rest of the book- The Man of Wrath.
Author Elizabeth (“Enchanted April”) von Arnim’s 1901 novel is a cautionary tale to all of us who set out doing good for our fellow man without taking the time to get to know him first. Or her — in this case.
Anna Estcourt’s stifled existence in late Victorian England takes a turn when an inheritance grants her a German estate. Determined to make it a house of happiness for 12 deserving ladies, her good intentions run afoul of schemers and inflexible cultural morays. And an unlooked-for romance threatens her plans in subtler ways.
This is a comical story told with excellent insight into both English and German mindsets, but capable of taking turns toward surprising gravity, particularly with a harrowing ending that threatens Anna and kindly Herr Lohm with real disaster.
For those interested in insider details, the author was writing almost autobiographically towards the end. She married a German count and throughout their difficult marriage, was frequently at odds with German social conventions. Her husband insulted some influential bankers and they in turn framed him for fraud and had him thrown into prison (as Herr Lohm suffers in the book). I won’t reveal the outcome, because it would give a spoiler to the book, but this terrible experience was too grueling for Elizabeth von Arnim to get out of her mind, so she wrote it into the book.
The Enchanted April- also a charming movie. Three ladies take a summer rental in Italy, and three very different but equally delightful romances result (at least one of them involving the rekindling of a marriage).
The Scarlet Pimpernel
The Scarlet Pimpernel is a classic novel, though it is hard to categorize. It is part romance, part adventure, part spy thriller, and part superhero fiction. All of these elements went into the pot and the resulting stew is extremely entertaining.
The book follows the adventures of Sir Percy Blakeney as he seeks to help French aristocrats escape the guillotine during the French Revolution. Since official English policy forbids this, Blakeney adopts a masked identity as the Scarlet Pimpernel to remain anonymous. The French, of course, detest this interference in their affairs and set out to trap and kill the Pimpernel at all costs. As part of his effort to deflect suspicion from himself, he plays the fool in every day life and he does it well. His own wife considers him a useless fop… and that’s where the story really gets interesting.
it was readers here at the Common Room who introduced me to his one:
by Kathleen Norris
One reader review: Mother is a very short work, only 7 chapters, but it is profound. As an intimate look into family life and motherhood, Mother is a beautiful and intricate story that paints the struggles and victories of motherhood, as well as that of young women brought up in a feminist, anti-family, materialistic culture. Just as relevant as it was when it was written in 1911, Mother is honest, poignant, and in the end, one of the most beautiful stories ever written on family.
Dickens is a little less escapist and a lot more worthy than Grace Livingston Hill, and he’s the author of something more than ‘mama novels,’ but I still like to read him when I am in a certain escapist mood, but I want something more substantial than cotton candy. Here are two of my favorites:
The Pickwick Papers
Pride and Prejudice
No introduction here, either, one hopes.
Pride and Prejudice
All her books are available for free.
George MacDonald’s books:
The Princess and the Goblin
Reader Review: “The Princess and the Goblin is all that is good about fantasy and literature in general. There are heros and heroins and lots of nasty creatures for them to prevail against. It is a simple but elegant tapestry of storytelling.”
Phantastes, a Faerie Romance for Men and Women
Reader Review: “At first it was hard to get into because for a while the story seems to wander aimlessly. MacDonald describes Fairy Land beautifully, but I just didn’t see any plot to connect the seemingly random events. Also, it was sometimes a chore to get through the long sections of poetry (as I’m not a big fan of poetry).
BUT at about halfway through the book, a story started to take shape, or rather, the “story” was hinted at all along, and the central struggles finally came to the surface, like love vs. possessiveness, and sacrifice. It’s really a connect-the-dots kind of book, but not in the sense of a detective story: in a deeper sense of seeing the picture that MacDonald paints of the human heart, a picture that at first looks like random splotches, but then, as if we were watching the picture being painted, becomes more and more recognizable as the separate shapes are connected and finally find their meaning as a whole. MacDonald has painted not only a fairy story, but he has painted us, our own heart, in all its joy and pain.
Once I saw this, it really changed my attitude toward the book. I read the second half in one sitting! I’ll definitely read it again sometime because I’m sure I missed a lot of the layers and hidden meanings.”
Lilith, a romance
“Lilith is equal if not superior to the best of Poe,” the great 20th-century poet W.H. Auden said of this novel, but the comparison only begins to touch on the richness, density, and wonder of this late 19th-century adult fantasy novel. First published in 1895 (inhabiting a universe with the early Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, and Oscar Wilde–not to mention Thomas Hardy), this is the story of the aptly named Mr. Vane, his magical house, and the journeys into another world into which it leads him.
Meeting up with one mystery after another, including Adam and Eve themselves, he slowly but surely explores the mystery of the human fall from grace, and of our redemption. Instructed into the ways of seeing the deeper realities of this world–seeing, in a sense, by the light of the spirit–the reader and Mr. Vane both sense that MacDonald writes from his own deep experience of radiance, from a bliss so profound that death’s darkness itself is utterly eclipsed in its light. –Doug Thorpe
The Light Princess and Other Fairy Stories
The stories contained are:
The Light Princess: A princess is cursed to lose her gravity, and her parents are left to deal with a daughter who is light-headed, light-hearted and light-bodied.
The Giant’s Heart: A brother and sister get lost in Giantland and end up in the house of a giant who wants to eat them. They escape, but decide to go in search of the giant’s heart.
The Golden Key: When a boy finds a key at the end of the rainbow it sets him and a friend on a Quest to find a distant and magical country.
The Princess and Curdie
This is my favorite of his non-fantasy novels.
“Gibbie is a young, mute boy with an alcoholic father. He has a kind heart and is extremely gentle. His good friend, Sambo, is murdered, and he runs away. Gibbie is just a small boy in a large, cruel world, and he is treated badly by everyone on his journey but one woman, Janet. The variety of places he lived and the things he had to go through really taught me that not everyone has a full roof over their head, or enough clothes to cover more than a few body parts. This book gave me a lot to think about, such as the fact that some children are abused and don’t show it at all to anyone. Or that most people just make assumptions about things that they know nothing about. I realize that I am guilty of these things, as everyone else is.
This book was very compelling and I learned a lot about grace and mercy from it. The forgiveness that Gibbie shows his father towards the end is unbelievable, and I thought it was amazing that a tiny, mute boy could show so much more faith, wisdom, and emotion than anyone I have ever met, or read in a book. The story definitely had an impact on my view of how the world treats people and how the smallest child (who isn’t even real) could change your life. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone – it is extremely good!”
The Vicar’s Daughter
Thomas Wingfold, Curate
The Celestial Omnibus and other Stories
by C. S. Forester (Passage to India)
Reader Review: There truly are riches and wonders in this collection of six short stories, but to appreciate their essence, one is going to have to give up the hard boiled cynicism of the 21st century and embrace the romance, mystery, and pure wonder of fin de siècle Great Britain. The mature reader who will let Forster speak for himself is surely in for a treat. In these tales you will meet a spoiled young man whose life is changed by a visit from an ancient god (The Story of a Panic), question whether life is a rat race or maybe something more (The Other Side of the Hedge). If you are willing to pay for the ticket, you’ll visit a land where the works of great authors (if not the authors themselves) have a Heaven all their own (The Celestial Omnibus) and that classic myths can be repeated again and again (Other Kingdom) to great tragic effect. You’ll also meet an irreverent faun who becomes the best friend of a reverent clergyman (The Curate’s Friend) and discover that the call to wonder can be found in the strangest places (The Road from Colonus) as well as the price that must be paid to ignore it.
So pack your bags and get ready for a trip. The ticket is free, but if you truly have a soul that is sensitive to what C. S. Lewis called the numinous, like all good travelers, you may bring back more from the trip than what you left with.
Sarah Orne Jewett, American classic, New England characters and scenery
A Country Doctor and Selected Stories and Sketches
A Country Doctor and Selected Stories and Sketches
Old Friends and New
Reader review, which I like especially because of her reference to the White Heron, which was my first SOJ story as well- I stumbled across it when I was a child of about 10 and for some reason it became a permanent part of my brain’s DNA.
“To say that Sarah Orne Jewett is a beautiful word crafter would be an understatement. As an example, Hannah, an elderly spinster in the short story, “A Bit of Shore Life,” describes her deceased mother, “I should have liked to kep’ her if she’d lived to be a hundred, but I don’t wish her back. She’d had considerable many strokes, and she couldn’t help herself much of any. She’d got to be rising eighty, and her mind was a good deal broke.” “A Bit of Shore Life” is one of seven short stories written in the late 1800′s by Miss Jewett and compiled into a wonderful book, Old Friends and New (1879).
In 1993 I was gifted a book of nature prose and poetry by women. I read my way through the works and when I came to A White Heron (1886) by Sara Orne Jewett, I fell in love. I’ve continued to read her stories and was pleasantly surprised to recently find Old Friends and New.
Miss Jewett was said to believe in subjects that “teased the mind” and so chose to tell tales of the rural fisherman and farmers who inhabited the Atlantic seacoast area of southeastern Maine. A native of New Breton Maine, she knew firsthand how these tough Northeasterners lived. Again in “A Bit of Shore Life,” the female narrator of the story remarks, “I think the life in me must be next of kin to the life of the sea, for it is drawn toward it strangely, as a little drop of quicksilver grows uneasy just out to reach of a greater one.” I too live by the sea, and as I read these stories I feel as though Jewett’s beautifully crafted words wrap me in a warm blanket of storytelling.”
The story tells the tale of Fanny, a young independednt Jewish girl from a small midwestern town who’s drive to become a business woman soon takes her from the small town she grew up in and plops her down in the middle of a large city where she takes a job as a sales lady, determined to prove herself. Through light humor and a playful tone Ferber shows the reader how Fanny at first struggles, but then succeeds in turning a thriving business completely around, and giving the company a whole new meaning to life. Though at first I didn’t think this book would be any good at all, I encourage everyone who has ever strived for a goal in life to read this book–it will give you such a respect and admiration for Fanny that you won’t be able to put it down until the very last page.
The daughter of a Hungarian-born father and Milwaukee-native mother, Edna Ferber spent much of her childhood years in small midwestern towns. Her family, while not observant, always closed their store for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, never missing a Passover seder. Ferber felt that being Jewish was to be subjected to anti-Semitism. In 1917 she wrote Fanny Herself, based largely on the experiences she had while growing up in Appleton, Wisconsin and later in Chicago, Illinois. Her’s is a tale of a young Jewish girl trying to become a successful businesswoman in early twentieth century America without denying her Jewish roots or subverting her social conscience.
Dawn O’Hara, the Girl Who Laughed
How can it be possible that Edna Ferber wrote this book over 100 years ago? She had to be so cutting edge at the time, because the story of Dawn O’Hara is valid even today. Or, perhaps, our lives really are not so different from the lives of yesterday.
Her writing is beautiful, yet sometimes challenging. There are German discussions that you may not understand, but you easily grasp what’s being said. For things I really wanted to know, Google translator helped, but I only wanted to use it a couple of times.
Dawn is our main character, a female reporter living in NY, who moves back to a German settlement in Milwaukee to emotionally recuperate from a disastrous marriage that she’s stuck in.
She finds love that can’t be acted upon, and finds friendship with the people in the boarding house she lives in. Best of all, she finds herself.
By the author of Daddy-Long-Legs. Short episodes in the life of a very spunky and delightful girl named Patty. I can imagine my grandmother as one of her room-mates, or Patty herself, based a journal of my grandmother’s when she was in high school.
When Patty Went to College
Just Patty is the first book of the Patty books- Patty is a senior at St. Ursula’s boarding school, and has quite a reputation for cheerful mischief making.
Subject to change without notice: Free Titles were free at the time I copied and pasted the links. But they don’t always stay free.
Same for reduced price titles.
Shameless money grubbing: I thought this was common knowledge, but it turns out it’s not- these are affiliate links. If you click on a free title and download it, I get….. nothing. If you click on a free title and while you are at Amazon also buy something else, I get….. something. Depending on what you buy, it will probably be somewhere between 4% and 7% of what you spend (I don’t get a percentage on penny sales) but I don’t pretend to understand how all of that side works.
Also, Swagbucks remains my favorite source for free Amazon gift cards.
If you like these listings, you should also like my Facebook page, because I list other free and bargain priced titles there several times each week. Most of the blurbs and book descriptions above are not mine, but come from reviews on Amazon’s page.
Don’t have a Kindle? : You don’t have to have a Kindle to take advantage of these offers. You can read them on various free reading apps. I often read mine on my laptop if they are short enough books, even though I have two kindles. That’s because my kids keep taking off with the Kindles to read their school books and they don’t remember to recharge them before returning. I wouldn’t say I’m bitter about it, but I might be a little disgruntled. If you’re curious, this is the Kindle I have, and I have used others and mine remains my favorite. Mine has Keyboard 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi and I don’t have commercial screensavers. The second Kindle is actually one I was given in exchange for some writing work, and I gave it to my two teens. It does not have 3G, which is why it’s their Kindle. Personally, I don’t like Kindle Fires.
Yes, my Kindle gets slow because I stuff it too full. You can left click on a title on your Kindle anddelete it from your device, while still keeping it in your list of titles at Amazon in case you want to add it back to your Kindle later without paying for the title all over again. Don’t delete it from folder at Amazon unless you want to rid yourself of it permanently.