Saturday, January 06, 2018

Keep it Short #1

This week I'll be talking about, rambling, sharing the stories I've read this week.  I read two stories from Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book: "The Bronze Ring" and "Prince Hyacinth and the Dear Little Princess".

The Bronze Ring
First sentence: Once upon a time in a certain country there lived a king whose palace was surrounded by a spacious garden. But, though the gardeners were many and the soil was good, this garden yielded neither flowers nor fruits, not even grass or shady trees.

Premise/plot: A king goes in search of a gardener never expecting his daughter to fall madly in love with the gardener's son. The gardener's son passes the test that the prime minister's son fails. But not without the help of magic. He wins, then loses, then rewins his happily ever after ending.

My thoughts: I don't regret my time, but I doubt this one will become a favorite. My favorite part of this one was seeing the mice help the hero regain the bronze ring.

Prince Hyacinth and the Dear Little Princess
First sentence: Once upon a time there lived a king who was deeply in love with a princess, but she could not marry anyone, because she was under an enchantment. So the King set out to seek a fairy, and asked what he could do to win the Princess's love.

Premise/plot: The king and princess mentioned in the first sentence have a son with a VERY LARGE NOSE. (The king exits the story just as quickly as he enters it. Before he dies, the king learns that his son will "will never be happy until he finds out that his nose is too long".) Prince Hyacinth grows up thinking that large noses are beautiful, and tiny noses are not. He falls in love with a 'dear little princess.' But his happily ever ending is indefinitely postponed when she vanishes--obviously the work of an enchanter or fairy. He searches her out, but he must come to a few realizations about himself before getting his happy ending.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. My favorite part was the conversation between Prince Hyacinth and the Fairy. Their exchange was quite delightful to read.
"I'm very glad I came here. This just shows me how sensible I have been in never listening to flatterers. People of that sort praise us to our faces without shame, and hide our faults or change them into virtues. For my part I never will be taken in by them. I know my own defects, I hope."
I also loved his epiphany.
His joy at seeing the Princess again was extreme, and he set to work with all his might to try to break her prison; but in spite of all his efforts he failed utterly. In despair he thought at least that he would try to get near enough to speak to the Dear Little Princess, who, on her part, stretched out her hand that he might kiss it; but turn which way he might, he never could raise it to his lips, for his long nose always prevented it. For the first time he realized how long it really was, and exclaimed: "Well, it must be admitted that my nose is too long!"
You would never have found out how extraordinary it was if it hadn't hindered you from doing what you wanted to. You see how self-love keeps us from knowing our own defects of mind and body. Our reason tries in vain to show them to us; we refuse to see them till we find them in the way of our interests.
 Of the two stories. I much prefer Prince Hyacinth and the Dear Little Princess.

I also read the first seven stories in L.M. Montgomery's Short Stories 1907-1908: "A Millionaire's Proposal," "A Substitute Journalist," "Anna's Love Letters," "Aunt Caroline's Silk Dress," "Aunt Susanna's Thanksgiving Dinner," "By Grace of Julius Caesar," and "By the Rule of Contrary."

A Millionaire's Proposal:
First sentence: It is all settled at last, and in another week I shall have left Thrush Hill. I am a little bit sorry and a great bit glad. I am going to Montreal to spend the winter with Alicia. Alicia—it used to be plain Alice when she lived at Thrush Hill and made her own dresses and trimmed her own hats—is my half-sister.

Premise/plot: Will Katherine (Kitty) marry for love or for money? Will she marry her handsome, childhood sweetheart, Jack? Or the ugly but oh-so-wealthy Gus Sinclair?

My thoughts: This short story is typical L.M. Montgomery. I never doubted for a moment whose proposal she'd accept.

A Substitute Journalist:
First sentence: Clifford Baxter came into the sitting-room where Patty was darning stockings and reading a book at the same time. Patty could do things like that. The stockings were well darned too, and Patty understood and remembered what she read.

Premise/plot: Neither sibling (Patty and Clifford) are happy with their current lot in life. Patty longs to be a journalist, but fears that will be impossible since she's a woman. Clifford hates his job as a reporter and wants to be a mechanic. Both get once-in-a-lifetime chances to change their futures..on the same day of course.

My thoughts: I liked this one. It is again typical Montgomery.

Anna's Love Letters
First sentence: "Are you going to answer Gilbert's letter tonight, Anna?" asked Alma Williams, standing in the pantry doorway, tall, fair, and grey-eyed, with the sunset light coming down over the dark firs, through the window behind her, and making a primrose nimbus around her shapely head. Anna, dark, vivid, and slender, was perched on the edge of the table, idly swinging her slippered foot at the cat's head. She smiled wickedly at Alma before replying. "I am not going to answer it tonight or any other night," she said, twisting her full, red lips in a way that Alma had learned to dread. Mischief was ripening in Anna's brain when that twist was out.

Premise/plot: Anna and Alma are sisters. Alma is happy that her good friend, Gilbert, is courting her sister. But with Gilbert out of town, the flighty Anna has soon forgotten him completely. She refuses to answer Gilbert's letter. Not even to let him know that she's moving on. Alma writes instead. She doesn't sign her name Anna or Alma--just the initial A. Their correspondence soon consumes them both. Will Gilbert be shocked when he returns to town?

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. Cyrano de Bergerac is one of my favorite, favorite stories. But it's so incredibly sad. This one shares a theme, in a way, (a couple falling in love through letters; one person thinking that the letter is from someone else) but it's HAPPY.
 
Aunt Caroline's Silk Dress
First sentence: Patty came in from her walk to the post office with cheeks finely reddened by the crisp air. Carry surveyed her with pleasure. Of late Patty's cheeks had been entirely too pale to please Carry, and Patty had not had a very good appetite. Once or twice she had even complained of a headache. So Carry had sent her to the office for a walk that night, although the post office trip was usually Carry's own special constitutional, always very welcome to her after a weary day of sewing on other people's pretty dresses.

Premise/plot: Carry is raising her niece, Patty. Both end up invited to a special occasion, but there's only enough material for one party dress. She decides that her niece should get it, but she keeps it a surprise. Patty reminds her that there is always the Aunt Caroline's silk dress that she could remake. Carry has never used it because it is UGLY, fiercely ugly. But within that dress is quite a surprise.

My thoughts: This one is a rags-to-riches feel good story. I liked it well enough.

Aunt Susanna's Thanksgiving
First sentence: "Here's Aunt Susanna, girls," said Laura who was sitting by the north window—nothing but north light does for Laura who is the artist of our talented family.

Premise/plot: A family of girls works hard to impress their aunt...in hopes that she will help them out financially.

My thoughts: It was okay.

By Grace of Julius Caesar
First sentence: Melissa sent word on Monday evening that she thought we had better go round with the subscription list for cushioning the church pews on Tuesday. I sent back word that I thought we had better go on Thursday. I had no particular objection to Tuesday, but Melissa is rather fond of settling things without consulting anyone else, and I don't believe in always letting her have her own way.

Premise/plot: Two cousins go out together one Wednesday seeking subscriptions for the church. Their last stop is at Isaac Appleby's place. "It isn't a very pleasant thing to go to a man you have recently refused to marry and ask him for money; and Melissa and I were both in that predicament." What they find at his place and what happens next, well, it's something.

My thoughts: This story is by far my favorite so far. And the reason why is THE NARRATIVE. Anne, one of the cousins, is a HOOT. And it's peopled with eccentric, quirky characters: Melissa, Anne, and Isaac. As for the plot, well, it's not your traditional romance--by a long shot. But this story is anything but forgettable--whether you love it or hate it.

Favorite quotes:
"I am forty-five and something more than plump, so that climbing ladders is not my favorite form of exercise. But I went up that one with the agility and grace of sixteen. Melissa followed me, and we found ourselves on the roof—fortunately it was a flat one—panting and gasping, but safe, unless that diabolical dog could climb a ladder."
"I mean that you two women will stay up on that roof until one of you agrees to marry me," said Isaac solemnly. I gasped. "Isaac Appleby, you can't be in earnest?" I cried incredulously. "You couldn't be so mean?" "He does mean it," I said gloomily. "An Appleby never says anything he doesn't mean. He will keep us here until one of us consents to marry him." "It won't be me, then," said Melissa in a calm sort of rage. "I won't marry him if I have to sit on this roof for the rest of my life. You can take him. It's really you he wants, anyway; he asked you first." I always knew that rankled with Melissa.
 Isaac does send a basket up to the roof.
There was a bottle of milk, some bread and butter, and a pie. Melissa wouldn't take a morsel of the food, but she was so thirsty she had to take a drink of milk. She tried to lift her veil—and something caught; Melissa gave it a savage twitch, and off came veil and hat—and all her front hair! You never saw such a sight. I'd always suspected Melissa wore a false front, but I'd never had any proof before.
And I felt sorry for Isaac when I tried to eat that bread. It was sour and dreadful. As for the pie, it was hopeless. I tasted it, and then threw it down to Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar, not being over particular, ate it up. I thought perhaps it would kill him, for anything might come of eating such a concoction. That pie was a strong argument for Isaac. I thought a man who had to live on such cookery did indeed need a wife and might be pardoned for taking desperate measures to get one. I was dreadfully tired of broiling on the roof anyhow. But it was the thunderstorm that decided me. When I saw it coming up, black and quick, from the northwest, I gave in at once.
By the Rule of Contrary
First sentence: "Look here, Burton," said old John Ellis in an ominous tone of voice, "I want to know if what that old busybody of a Mary Keane came here today gossiping about is true. If it is—well, I've something to say about the matter! Have you been courting that niece of Susan Oliver's all summer on the sly?"

Premise/plot: Two young people are allowed their happy ending despite the contrariness of the young man's father. The girl's aunt knows JUST how to handle him.

My thoughts: This one is typical Montgomery. I liked it fine.

Favorite quote:
"Madge," said Miss Susan solemnly, but with dancing eyes, "do you know how to drive a pig? Just try to make it go in the opposite direction and it will bolt the way you want it. Remember that, my dear."

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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