Saturday, January 30, 2021

January Reflections

I read a total of twenty-five books in January 2021. Twelve were review copies; thirteen were either books I bought or books I received as a gift. Six were rereads and nineteen were new-to-me. Nine earned five stars. Of those nine, four were rereads. 

The two books I reread that didn't earn five stars were Pinocchio--which is good but not that good--and Pygmalion which just doesn't come close to the screen play of the same name or the musical My Fair Lady. (Plus the ending of the play is just he got tired of writing a play and slapped on an epilogue with minimal amount of effort.) 

My LEAST favorite book was Robinson Crusoe merely for the fact that the kindle version I read had NO CHAPTERS and combined the original book with one or more sequels. It was TEDIOUS and OBNOXIOUS.

I don't know that I can call just one favorite book. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the play The Importance of Being Earnest. 

I loved revisiting Ruth. (Why is it that I FORGET every single time THE ENDING?!?!?!?!) I loved taking my time with the time travel rom-com TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG. That would make a great movie!!!!! It really would. Surely I'm not the only one who wants to see Connie Willis' Oxford Time Travel series filmed! 

I was most surprised by The Great Cookie War. Delightfully surprised. 

And Practicing Thankfulness still has me thinking! 

Books reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

1. Georgana's Secret. Arlem Hawks. 2021. [January] Shadow Mountain. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] JANUARY    
2. The Abbey Mystery (Jane Austen Investigates #1). Julia Golding. 2021. [April] 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] JANUARY
3. Jane Austen's Best Friend: The Life and Influence of Martha Lloyd. Zoe Wheddon. 2021. Pen and Sword. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
4. The Bostonians. Henry James. 1886. 460 pages. [Source: Bought]
5. Reuben and the Amazing Mind Machine. Jonathan M. Hughes. 2021 [January] 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
6. Twenty-One Days. (Daniel Pitt #1) Anne Perry. 2018. 303 pages. [Source: Review copy]
7. Ruth. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1853. 432 pages. [Source: Bought]
8. Pygmalion. George Bernard Shaw. 1912. 96 pages. [Source: Bought]
9. The Importance of Being Earnest. Oscar Wilde. 1895. 76 pages. [Source: Bought]
10. To Say Nothing of the Dog. (Oxford Time Travel #2) Connie Willis. 1998. 512 pages. [Source: Bought]

Books reviewed at Young Readers

1. This Is Your Time. Ruby Bridges. 2020. [November] 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]
2. Pinocchio. Carlo Collodi. 1883. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]
3. Judy Moody Was In A Mood. (Judy Moody #1) Megan McDonald. Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. 2000/2020. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]
4. Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid. (Stink #1) Megan McDonald. Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. 2005. 112 pages. [Source: Bought]
5. The Great Cookie War. Caroline Stellings. 2021. [April] 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
6. No Bows. Shirley Smith Duke. Illustrated by Jenny Mattheson. 2006. 32 pages. [Source: Gift from author]
7. My Chocolate Year: A Novel with Twelve Recipes to Make Your World A Little Sweeter. Charlotte Herman. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2008. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
8. "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" Patricia Thomas. Illustrated by Wallace Tripp. 1971. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

Books reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

1. A Book of Comfort for Those In Sickness. Philip Bennett Power. 1876/2018. Banner of Truth. 97 pages. [Source: Bought] (five stars)
2. The Quick-Read Bible: Understanding God's Word From Beginning to End in 365 Daily Readings. Harvest House Publishers. 272 pages. 2021 [March] [Source: Review copy]
3. Foxe's Book of Martyrs. John Foxe. 1563/2001. 416 pages. [Source: Bought]
4. Robinson Crusoe. Daniel Defoe. 1719/2019. AmazonClassics. 571 pages. [Source: Bought]
5. Come, Sweet Day: Thoughts and Poems from Hard Times to Hope: A Writer's Journey. Julianne Donaldson. 2021. [April] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
6. Practicing Thankfulness: Cultivating A Grateful Heart in All Circumstances. Sam Crabtree. 2021. [February] Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
7. The Stone Wall. Beverly Lewis. 2020. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]


Number of Books25
Number of Pages5587

2021 Totals



© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, January 28, 2021

10. To Say Nothing of the Dog

To Say Nothing of the Dog. (Oxford Time Travel #2) Connie Willis. 1998. 512 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: There were five of us--Carruthers and the new recruit and myself, and Mr. Spivens and the verger. It was late afternoon on November the fifteenth, and we were in what was left of Coventry Cathedral, looking for the bishop's bird stump. Or at any rate I was. 

Premise/plot: Ned Henry narrates the novel. And he does a great job. When we first meet him, he's suffering from time-lag. He's spent too much time--of late--jumping through time. He's not alone. There is someone doing her very, very best to drive EVERYONE in his department crazy. Lady Schrapnell is a woman on a mission--a RICH woman on a mission. And she won't take no for an answer. If Lady Schrapnell volunteers you for a job, well, you stay volunteered until the job is done to her satisfaction. And what does Lady Schrapnell want most of all? The bishop's bird stump. Her project is the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral--a cathedral destroyed/damaged during World War II. And she HAS to know if the bishop's bird stump was still in the church during the raid. She needs to know if it should be replicated as part of the 'restoration.' So Ned Henry is just one of dozens looking IN THE PAST for the answers as to what happened to the bishop's bird stump.

But that 'mission' becomes almost secondary....when it is 'discovered' that there's been an incongruity. At first they think it's simple, it's easily fixed. One of the time travelers interfered when she shouldn't. But. They'll just send another time traveler to fix that interference, and things should go smoothly. But since the time traveler they send is Ned Henry, since he's suffering from exhaustion and time-lag, since he barely heard his instructions, since he jumped into the Net to avoid being discovered by an angry Lady Schrapnell, nothing is simple. What Ned Henry soon realizes is that his arrival in June 1888 has changed things. His arrival has kept two people from meeting (and subsequently falling in love and marrying), and that's just the start.

But he isn't the only one in the past. He isn't the only time-traveler working to restore things. Verity Kindle. The beautiful Verity Kindle has a role to play as well....

Verity Kindle is the heroine of To Say Nothing of the Dog. She is on a mission of her own. While Ned Henry was given the assignment of finding out the whereabouts of the bishop's bird stump, Verity's assignment is to read Tocelyn's diary. The diary is available to read in the future. But the most relevant pages to the Coventry Cathedral project were damaged. So she's been sent to the oh-so-important summer of 1888 to read the newly written diary entries. She's having about as much success as Ned Henry. In other words, not much luck at all! These two work together as best they can. Verity manages to travel back and forth a few times to the future. Their mission--as they see it has changed a bit. They worry that they've damaged the future and that something horrible may happen as a result. Like Tocelyn, they know, was supposed to marry a "Mr. C". They know this for a fact from future diary entries. Yet here they are and she's engaged to someone else! Their "new mission" is to find the identity of "Mr. C." and make sure they meet when they're supposed to meet....

My thoughts: Read this book. That's all I have to say about that. No, not really. I have plenty to say about this one. But I don't think my review will be able to do this one justice. What is To Say Nothing of the Dog? It's a funny sci-fi mystery with a smidgen of romance.

I have a weakness for time travel. I do. And this one is a great example of a time-traveling sci-fi novel that just works really well. It's smart. It's funny. 

I loved this one. I have always loved this one. It is a delightful time travel novel. I love the humor! I do! It's so very, very funny! And I love the details and the dialogue. This one is just a joy cover to cover!


2 Quotes About the bishop's bird stump:

"Perhaps it was removed for safekeeping," he said, looking at the windows. "Like the east windows."
"The bishop's bird stump?" I said incredulously. "Are you joking?"
"You're right," he said. "It isn't the sort of thing you'd want to keep from being blown up. Victorian art!" He shuddered. (7)

I must be getting light-headed from lack of sleep. No one, even badly shell-shocked, would steal it. Or buy it at a jumble sale. This was the bishop's bird stump. Even the munitions scrap iron drive would turn it down. Unless of course someone recognized its potential as a psychological weapon against the Nazis. (12)

About time-lag:

One of the first symptoms of time-lag is a tendency to maudlin sentimentality, like an Irishman in his cups or a Victorian poet cold-sober. (9)

And isn't this the truth:

There is nothing more helpful than shouted instructions, particularly incomprehensible ones. (153)

Verity Kindle on mystery novels:
"Of course they're usually about murder, not robbery, but they always take place in a country house like this, and the butler did it, at least for the first hundred mystery novels or so. Everyone's a suspect, and it's always the least likely person, and after the first hundred or so, the butler wasn't anymore--the least likely person, I mean--so they had to switch to unlikely criminals. You know, the harmless old lady or the vicar's devoted wife, that sort of thing, but it didn't take the reader long to catch on to that, and they had to resort to having the detective be the murderer, and the narrator, even though that had already been done in The Moonstone. The hero did it, only he didn't know it. He was sleepwalking, in his nightshirt, which was rather racy stuff for Victorian times, and the crime was always unbelievably complicated. In mystery novels. I mean, nobody ever ever just grabs the vase and runs, or shoots somebody in a fit of temper, and at the very end, when you think you've got it all figured out, there's one last plot-twist, and the crime's always very carefully thought out, with disguises and alibis and railway timetables and they have to include a diagram of the house in the frontispiece, showing everyone's bedroom and the library, which is where the body always is, and all the connecting doors, and even then you don't have a prayer of figuring it out, which is why they have to bring in a world-famous detective--"
"Who solves it with little gray cells?" I said.
"Yes. Hercule Poirot, that's Agatha Christie's detective, and he says it isn't at all necessary to go running about measuring footprints and picking up cigarette ends to solve mysteries like Sherlock Holmes. That's Arthur Conan Doyle's detective--"
"I know who Sherlock Holmes is." (205)

Well, it wasn't exactly the ending of an Agatha Christie mystery, with Hercule Poirot gathering everyone together in the drawing room to reveal the murderer and impress everyone with his astonishing deductive powers. And it definitely wasn't a Dorothy Sayers, with the detective hero saying to his heroine sidekick, "I say, we make a jolly good detectin' team. How about makin' the partnership permanent, eh, what?" and then proposing in Latin. (431)
Verity and Ned:

She peered at me. "It isn't fair, you know."
"What isn't?" I said warily.
"Your boater. It makes you look just like Lord Peter Wimsey, especially when you tilt it forward like that." (254)

"The first time I ever saw you, I thought, he looks just like Lord Peter Wimsey. You were wearing the boater and--no, that wasn't the first time," she said accusingly. "The first time was in Mr. Dunworthy's office, and you were all covered in soot. You were still adorable, though, even if your mouth was hanging open." (254)

"Lord Peter took a nap," she said. "Harriet watched him sleep, and that's when she knew she was in love with him."
She sat up again. "Of course, I knew it from the second page of Strong Poison, but it took two more books for Harriet to figure it out. She kept telling herself it was all just detecting and deciphering codes and solving mysteries together, but I knew she was in love with him. He proposed in Latin. Under a bridge. After they solved the mystery. You can't propose till after you've solved the mystery. That's a law in detective novels."
She sighed. "It's too bad. 'Placetne, magistra?' he said when he proposed, and then she said, 'Placet.' That's a fancy Oxford don way of saying yes. I had to look it up. I hate it when people use Latin and don't tell you what they mean..." (259)



© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

9. The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest. Oscar Wilde. 1895. 76 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence:

Algernon.  Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?

Lane.  I didn’t think it polite to listen, sir.

Algernon.  I’m sorry for that, for your sake.  I don’t play accurately—any one can play accurately—but I play with wonderful expression.  As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte.  I keep science for Life.

Premise/plot: The Importance of Being Earnest is romantic comedy--a play--written by Oscar Wilde. It concerns two friends and their adventures/misadventures in the town and country. Algernon Moncrieff, one of our two heroes, claims to be a confirmed bachelor. Marriage is NOT on his to do list. John Worthing (aka Jack) has entirely different plans. He's madly in love with a young woman--a woman who happens to be Algernon's first cousin--Gwendolen Fairfax. The problem? Well, Jack is living a double life. In the COUNTRY he's Jack Worthing (with a ward named Cecily). In the CITY (London) he's ERNEST B. WORTHING. His naughty, wicked brother Ernest is Jack's excuse for going to the city so often and staying away. Algernon thinks it's all good fun--when he stumbles onto his friend's secret--because he has such an acquaintance himself (though he's not pretending to be anyone else--yet), Mr. Bunbury is his COUNTRY friend who's always on death's door. 

If Gwendolen accepts his proposal, then Jack plans to kill off Ernest Worthing. (Even if it makes his ward, Cecily, upset. She fancies herself madly, deeply in love with Ernest Worthing. She wants to REFORM that BAD BOY.  

When Jack returns to the country and informs the reverend of his brother's death, he's in for a shock. His "brother" just arrived and plans on staying a week at least! 

There's plenty to laugh about in this three act play.

My thoughts: I really LOVED this one. It was just a joy to read. Mom said that this was my grandma's favorite play. I can see why! It is hilarious and oh-so-quotable. 


When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. (Jack)

Oh! it is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn’t. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read. (Algernon)

Some aunts are tall, some aunts are not tall. That is a matter that surely an aunt may be allowed to decide for herself. You seem to think that every aunt should be exactly like your aunt! (Jack)

The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility! (Algernon)
I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them. (Algernon)
Lady Bracknell. Good afternoon, dear Algernon, I hope you are behaving very well.
Algernon. I’m feeling very well, Aunt Augusta.
Gwendolen. Yes, I am quite well aware of the fact. And I often wish that in public, at any rate, you had been more demonstrative. For me you have always had an irresistible fascination. Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you. [Jack looks at her in amazement.] We live, as I hope you know, Mr. Worthing, in an age of ideals. The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence. The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you.
Jack. You really love me, Gwendolen?
Gwendolen. Passionately!
Jack. Darling! You don’t know how happy you’ve made me.
Gwendolen. My own Ernest!
Jack. But you don’t really mean to say that you couldn’t love me if my name wasn’t Ernest?
Gwendolen. But your name is Ernest.
Jack. Yes, I know it is. But supposing it was something else? Do you mean to say you couldn’t love me then?
Lady Bracknell. [Pencil and note-book in hand.] I feel bound to tell you that you are not down on my list of eligible young men, although I have the same list as the dear Duchess of Bolton has. We work together, in fact. However, I am quite ready to enter your name, should your answers be what a really affectionate mother requires. Do you smoke?
Jack. Well, yes, I must admit I smoke.
Lady Bracknell. I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind. There are far too many idle men in London as it is. How old are you?
Jack. Twenty-nine.
Lady Bracknell. A very good age to be married at. I have always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing. Which do you know?
Jack. [After some hesitation.] I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.
Lady Bracknell. I am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.

Jack. I am sick to death of cleverness. Everybody is clever nowadays. You can’t go anywhere without meeting clever people. The thing has become an absolute public nuisance. I wish to goodness we had a few fools left.
Algernon. We have.
Jack. I should extremely like to meet them. What do they talk about?
Algernon. The fools? Oh! about the clever people, of course.
Jack. What fools!
Miss Prism. Memory, my dear Cecily, is the diary that we all carry about with us.
Cecily. Yes, but it usually chronicles the things that have never happened, and couldn’t possibly have happened. I believe that Memory is responsible for nearly all the three-volume novels that Mudie sends us.
Miss Prism. Do not speak slightingly of the three-volume novel, Cecily. I wrote one myself in earlier days.
Cecily. Did you really, Miss Prism? How wonderfully clever you are! I hope it did not end happily? I don’t like novels that end happily. They depress me so much.
Miss Prism. The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.

Algernon. When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me. Indeed, when I am in really great trouble, as any one who knows me intimately will tell you, I refuse everything except food and drink. At the present moment I am eating muffins because I am unhappy. Besides, I am particularly fond of muffins. [Rising.]
Jack. [Rising.] Well, that is no reason why you should eat them all in that greedy way. [Takes muffins from Algernon.]
Algernon. [Offering tea-cake.] I wish you would have tea-cake instead. I don’t like tea-cake.
Jack. Good heavens! I suppose a man may eat his own muffins in his own garden.
Algernon. But you have just said it was perfectly heartless to eat muffins.
Jack. I said it was perfectly heartless of you, under the circumstances. That is a very different thing.
Algernon. That may be. But the muffins are the same. [He seizes the muffin-dish from Jack.]

Gwendolen. The fact that they did not follow us at once into the house, as any one else would have done, seems to me to show that they have some sense of shame left.
Cecily. They have been eating muffins. That looks like repentance.
Gwendolen. [After a pause.] They don’t seem to notice us at all. Couldn’t you cough?
Cecily. But I haven’t got a cough.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

8. Pygmalion

Pygmalion. George Bernard Shaw. 1912. 96 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: ACT I Covent Garden at 11.15 p.m. Torrents of heavy summer rain. Cab whistles blowing frantically in all directions. Pedestrians running for shelter into the market and under the portico of St. Paul's Church, where there are already several people, among them a lady and her daughter in evening dress. They are all peering out gloomily at the rain, except one man with his back turned to the rest, who seems wholly preoccupied with a notebook in which he is writing busily.

If you've ever seen the musical MY FAIR LADY, then you know the basic skeletal  plot of Pygmalion. That's my short and concise summary. 

It has been ages since I've seen the film Pygmalion starring Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller. I can't say if the play differs a little or a LOT from that film adaptation. 

I can tell you that the play differs GREATLY from the musical MY FAIR LADY. And I don't just mean the obvious: lack of singing. I mean My Fair Lady fleshes out the play by adding dozens of scenes. In the play, for example, we have NO SCENES depicting the months Eliza Doolittle was being trained by Professor Higgins. We go from her offering to pay for lessons to her first debut months later with NOTHING in between. Her first appearance is at his mother's house. It is at his mother's house she first meets Freddy Hill. (There is no racing scene). The big finale is a garden party--nothing so grand and phenomenal as in the musical. And the ending, of course, the ending is what has changed the most.

The play does offer some of the great lines that are retained in My Fair Lady. 

It is recognizable as My Fair Lady.

But in my opinion, My Fair Lady is a thousand times better than the play Pygmalion. Because we actually get more time with the characters--to see their strengths, their weaknesses, their interactions with one another. The lines have more resonance if you've seen HIGGINS behavior throughout. 


Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby! You can spot an Irishman or a Yorkshireman by his brogue. I can place any man within six miles. I can place him within two miles in London. Sometimes within two streets.

You see this creature with her kerbstone English: the English that will keep her in the gutter to the end of her days. Well, sir, in three months I could pass that girl off as a duchess at an ambassador's garden party. I could even get her a place as lady's maid or shop assistant, which requires better English.

THE FLOWER GIRL. Oh, we are proud! He ain't above giving lessons, not him: I heard him say so. Well, I ain't come here to ask for any compliment; and if my money's not good enough I can go elsewhere. HIGGINS. Good enough for what? THE FLOWER GIRL. Good enough for ye—oo. Now you know, don't you? I'm come to have lessons, I am. And to pay for em too: make no mistake. HIGGINS [stupent] WELL!!! [Recovering his breath with a gasp] What do you expect me to say to you? THE FLOWER GIRL. Well, if you was a gentleman, you might ask me to sit down, I think. Don't I tell you I'm bringing you business?

THE FLOWER GIRL. Oh, we are proud! He ain't above giving lessons, not him: I heard him say so. Well, I ain't come here to ask for any compliment; and if my money's not good enough I can go elsewhere.

HIGGINS. If I decide to teach you, I'll be worse than two fathers to you. Here [he offers her his silk handkerchief]! LIZA. What's this for? HIGGINS. To wipe your eyes. To wipe any part of your face that feels moist. Remember: that's your handkerchief; and that's your sleeve. Don't mistake the one for the other if you wish to become a lady in a shop.

HIGGINS. To wipe your eyes. To wipe any part of your face that feels moist. Remember: that's your handkerchief; and that's your sleeve. Don't mistake the one for the other if you wish to become a lady in a shop.

HIGGINS [tempted, looking at her] It's almost irresistible. She's so deliciously low—so horribly dirty— LIZA [protesting extremely] Ah—ah—ah—ah—ow—ow—oooo!!! I ain't dirty: I washed my face and hands afore I come, I did.

What is life but a series of inspired follies?

Time enough to think of the future when you haven't any future to think of.

Besides, do any of us understand what we are doing? If we did, would we ever do it?

HIGGINS. Nonsense! I know I have no small talk; but people don't mind. [He sits on the settee]. MRS. HIGGINS. Oh! don't they? Small talk indeed! What about your large talk? Really, dear, you mustn't stay.

The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she's treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will.       

I have forgotten my own language, and can speak nothing but yours.

LIZA. You want me back only to pick up your slippers and put up with your tempers and fetch and carry for you. HIGGINS. I haven't said I wanted you back at all. LIZA. Oh, indeed. Then what are we talking about? HIGGINS. About you, not about me. If you come back I shall treat you just as I have always treated you. I can't change my nature; and I don't intend to change my manners. My manners are exactly the same as Colonel Pickering's. LIZA. That's not true. He treats a flower girl as if she was a duchess. HIGGINS. And I treat a duchess as if she was a flower girl.

HIGGINS. About you, not about me. If you come back I shall treat you just as I have always treated you. I can't change my nature; and I don't intend to change my manners. My manners are exactly the same as Colonel Pickering's. The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another.

HIGGINS [irritated] The question is not whether I treat you rudely, but whether you ever heard me treat anyone else better.

LIZA. So you are a motor bus: all bounce and go, and no consideration for anyone. But I can do without you: don't think I can't.

Sneering doesn't become either the human face or the human soul.

HIGGINS: I don't and won't trade in affection. You call me a brute because you couldn't buy a claim on me by fetching my slippers and finding my spectacles. You were a fool: I think a woman fetching a man's slippers is a disgusting sight: did I ever fetch YOUR slippers? I think a good deal more of you for throwing them in my face. No use slaving for me and then saying you want to be cared for: who cares for a slave? If you come back, come back for the sake of good fellowship; for you'll get nothing else.       

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

7. Ruth

Ruth. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1853. 432 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: There is an assize-town in one of the eastern counties which was much distinguished by the Tudor sovereigns, and, in consequence of their favour and protection, attained a degree of importance that surprises the modern traveller.

Ruth Hilton, a beautiful, young apprenticed seamstress, makes a mistake when she falls in love with a wealthy young man, Henry Bellingham. The two run away together--to Wales, I believe. When he becomes sick, his mother comes and rescues him from the "evil tramp" Ruth. What will Ruth's future be now? Is there hope for this 'fallen woman'?

Why do they run away together? She is late coming home on her afternoon off. She'd been out walking with Mr. Henry Bellingham. When her boss sees that she's walking with a fellow, she's THROWN OUT OF THE HOUSE. No questions or interrogations, no chance to explain. Being an orphan, she has no one to turn to. Granted, he is quite enchanted with her and eager to keep company with her. Granted, he being older and wiser and more aware of how the world works could have taken more care to protect her reputation. But he didn't. Would Ruth have become a fallen woman if she hadn't been pushed out the door with malice??? Didn't her former boss push her DIRECTLY into the arms of Mr. Bellingham? 

The book doesn't make a distinction between kind and tender AND reprobate sinner sin sinner. I don't see Mr. Henry Bellingham as EVIL per se. I think in some ways he was more mature and worldly wise; she was more naive and innocent. But I do get the idea he genuinely cared for and loved her. In other words it wasn't 100% lust on his part. 

So the book skims the surface of their time together. Is it a few weeks, a few months, half a year or more? Readers don't know for sure. Long enough for her to conceive a child. (Which could lend itself to a mere week or two). But their days are full of happiness in one another. Until he becomes ill and requires nursing. She's his full-time nurse and she's tender, loving, and all kinds of wonderful. But someone else writes his mother to come and fetch him. 

His mother sees Ruth as an EVIL TRAMP, a seductress. She WENT AFTER HER SON. She forced him to live a debauched life. The best thing--the only thing--is to keep these two apart forever and ever. Whether Ruth lives or dies is no concern to her. She must reap what she has sown--bear the consequences for her wickedness. Readers can put two and two together and see that her perspective on Ruth is unkind--though not shocking or out of touch with the times.

But their holiday in Wales wasn't all that secluded. Ruth also made acquaintances and friends with others during her stay. One of those is Mr. Benson, a minister. He knows that Ruth is "living in sin" with a young man (though I don't believe these two meet at this point). But he also sees her as a young, naive, deeply troubled young woman who has hit rock bottom. Almost literally. Ruth has lost the will to live. She's sunken to the 'depths of despair' (to borrow a phrase from Anne Shirley). He doesn't see Ruth as reprobate past the point of no return. No, he sees her as a human being in need of a Savior. Mr. Benson knows that ALL have fallen and come short. Mr. Benson knows that NONE are worthy. Mr. Benson knows a mighty, mighty Savior who will graciously welcome her into His Kingdom with open arms. God's grace is AMAZING and his love knows no bounds. What Ruth needs is not stern judgment and to be cast out from society, what Ruth needs is to be welcomed wholly and loved. 

Mr. Thurstan Benson and his sister, Faith, take Ruth with them to their own community (remember Wales was a vacation, a holiday), to their own home. Ruth becomes one with them and gets a new beginning. And a new beginning it is, Ruth has been born again, born from above. She has been forgiven, fully forgiven. And she loves abundantly and graciously. Leonard, her son, is a wonderful little boy. 

Not content to live off of charity, Ruth first becomes a governess and then later a sick nurse. The novel illustrates through its characters--Ruth, Faith, Sally, Thurstan, etc.--faith in action.

The novel is a tragedy--but not for the reasons one might expect. Elizabeth Gaskell is no Nathaniel Hawthorne or Thomas Hardy. The novel's treatment of a woman bearing an illegitimate child is revolutionary for its time--in my opinion. Ruth was treated with GRACE, BOUNTIFUL, OVERFLOWING grace. She was LOVED unconditionally without judgment, without scorn. Mr. Benson loved her with the truth: There is a God who SAVES. There is a God who FORGIVES. There is a God who LOVES, who SEES and HEARS. Even if the world doesn't forgive, even if the world doesn't give second chances, even if the world rejects--there is a God who will never leave nor forsake. 

The novel features many conversations that I imagine would have been shocking, offensive, challenging to the status quo at the time it was published. I imagine that this novel might have been a bit controversial in some circles.What is 'the Christian' way to treat a fallen woman? a single mother? Were the Bensons being too lenient? By extending love and grace to Ruth were they compromising the truth and their witness? 

There were several opportunities for Thurstan Benson to show grace. The most obvious being to Ruth herself and to her son. But a second was when he was wronged by a neighbor. He shows grace both times and advocates for grace in strong language. But there was one opportunity where he did NOT show grace nor give the benefit of the doubt. 

Thurstan Benson, for better or worse, does not see Mr. Bellingham (aka Mr. Donne) as being anything other than a reprobate. He sees him as a SINNER SIN SINNER through and through. Though he graciously sees Ruth as being REDEEMED (her past completely wiped clean; spotless), he doesn't seem to think that God could work a mighty wonder in Henry too. Benson is not civil to him and utterly rejects all of his offers to help with Leonard, to provide for him, to be even a little part in his life. Is it fair of Mr. Benson to offer the grace of the gospel to Ruth but withhold it from Henry Bellingham??? Is Leonard better never knowing his father's name, better never having a relationship with him, better without a cent from his father? I am not saying absolutely that a relationship between Leonard and Henry Bellingham would have been perfectly perfect and the ideal way to end the novel. But in the real world, I would hope that a child would be able to have a relationship with both parents even if one parent isn't a saintly saint saint.


  • "Well, my dear, you must learn to think and work too; or, if you can't do both, you must leave off thinking. Your guardian, you know, expects you to make great progress in your business, and I am sure you won't disappoint him."
  • The night before, she had seen her dead mother in her sleep, and she wakened, weeping. And now she dreamed of Mr Bellingham, and smiled. And yet, was this a more evil dream than the other?
  • Ruth was innocent and snow-pure. She had heard of falling in love, but did not know the signs and symptoms thereof; nor, indeed, had she troubled her head much about them.
  • "My dear, remember the devil goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; remember that, Ruth."
  • The old man sighed as he watched them away. "The Lord may help her to guide her steps aright. He may. But I'm afeard she's treading in perilous places. I'll put my missis up to going to the town and getting speech of her, and telling her a bit of her danger. An old motherly woman like our Mary will set about it better nor a stupid fellow like me."
  • "Ruth, would you go with me to London? My darling, I cannot leave you here without a home; the thought of leaving you at all is pain enough, but in these circumstances—so friendless, so homeless—it is impossible. You must come with me, love, and trust to me."
  • Low and soft, with much hesitation, came the "Yes;" the fatal word of which she so little imagined the infinite consequences. The thought of being with him was all and everything.
  • "In the eye of God, she is exactly the same as if the life she has led had left no trace behind. We knew her errors before, Faith."
  • "Yes, but not this disgrace—this badge of her shame!" "Faith, Faith! let me beg of you not to speak so of the little innocent babe, who may be God's messenger to lead her back to Him. Did she not turn to God, and enter into a covenant with Him—'I will be so good?' Why, it draws her out of herself! If her life has hitherto been self-seeking, and wickedly thoughtless, here is the very instrument to make her forget herself, and be thoughtful for another. Teach her (and God will teach her, if man does not come between) to reverence her child; and this reverence will shut out sin,—will be purification."
  • "I think you, Thurstan, are the first person I ever heard rejoicing over the birth of an illegitimate child. It appears to me, I must own, rather questionable morality."
  • Oh, Faith! once for all, do not accuse me of questionable morality, when I am trying more than ever I did in my life to act as my blessed Lord would have done."
  • She is about to become a mother, and have the direction and guidance of a little tender life. I fancy such a responsibility must be serious and solemn enough, without making it into a heavy and oppressive burden, so that human nature recoils from bearing it. While we do all we can to strengthen her sense of responsibility, I would likewise do all we can to make her feel that it is responsibility for what may become a blessing.
  • Oh, Father! listen to my prayer, that her redemption may date from this time. Help us to speak to her in the loving spirit of thy Holy Son!
  • Let us try simply to do right actions, without thinking of the feelings they are to call out in others. We know that no holy or self-denying effort can fall to the ground vain and useless; but the sweep of eternity is large, and God alone knows when the effect is to be produced.
  • My dear Ruth, you don't know how often I sin; I do so wrong, with my few temptations. We are both of us great sinners in the eyes of the Most Holy; let us pray for each other. Don't speak so again, my dear; at least, not to me!
  •  Everything may be done in a right way or a wrong; the right way is to do it as well as we can, as in God's sight; the wrong is to do it in a self-seeking spirit, which either leads us to neglect it to follow out some device of our own for our own ends, or to give up too much time and thought to it both before and after the doing.' 
  • Just try for a day to think of all the odd jobs as has to be done well and truly as in God's sight, not just slurred over anyhow, and you'll go through them twice as cheerfully, and have no thought to spare for sighing or crying."  
  • Those summer mornings were happy, for she was learning neither to look backwards nor forwards, but to live faithfully and earnestly in the present.
  • "Now I wish God would give me power to speak out convincingly what I believe to be His truth, that not every woman who has fallen is depraved; that many—how many the Great Judgment Day will reveal to those who have shaken off the poor, sore, penitent hearts on earth—many, many crave and hunger after a chance for virtue—the help which no man gives to them—help—that gentle, tender help which Jesus gave once to Mary Magdalen."
  • "Come, come, Mr Benson, let us have no more of this morbid way of talking. The world has decided how such women are to be treated; and, you may depend upon it, there is so much practical wisdom in the world that its way of acting is right in the long run, and that no one can fly in its face with impunity, unless, indeed, they stoop to deceit and imposition."
  • "Is it not time to change some of our ways of thinking and acting? I declare before God, that if I believe in any one human truth, it is this—that to every woman who, like Ruth, has sinned, should be given a chance of self-redemption—and that such a chance should be given in no supercilious or contemptuous manner, but in the spirit of the holy Christ."
  • I state my firm belief, that it is God's will that we should not dare to trample any of His creatures down to the hopeless dust; that it is God's will that the women who have fallen should be numbered among those who have broken hearts to be bound up, not cast aside as lost beyond recall. If this be God's will, as a thing of God it will stand; and He will open a way."
  • Be brave and faithful. It is to God you answer, not to men. The shame of having your sin known to the world, should be as nothing to the shame you felt at having sinned. We have dreaded men too much, and God too little, in the course we have taken.
  • My child, it is Christ the Lord who has told us of this infinite mercy of God. Have you faith enough in it to be brave, and bear on, and do rightly in patience and in tribulation?"
  • "The world is not everything, Ruth; nor is the want of men's good opinion and esteem the highest need which man has. Teach Leonard this. You would not wish his life to be one summer's day. You dared not make it so, if you had the power. Teach him to bid a noble, Christian welcome to the trials which God sends—and this is one of them.
  • Teach him not to look on a life of struggle, and perhaps of disappointment and incompleteness, as a sad and mournful end, but as the means permitted to the heroes and warriors in the army of Christ, by which to show their faithful following. Tell him of the hard and thorny path which was trodden once by the bleeding feet of One.
  • "God's omnipotence did not need our sin."
  • The most shallow person dislikes to be told that any one can gauge his depth.
  • "I don't know. The wonder comes into my mind sometimes; but never into hers, I think. It is part of her character—part perhaps of that which made her what she was—that she never looks forward, and seldom back. The present is enough for her."
  • "We have no right to weigh human lives against each other." "No! I know we have not. But it's a way we doctors are apt to get into; and, at any rate, it's ridiculous of you to think of such a thing. Just listen to reason."            

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, January 25, 2021

Movie Review: North and South (1975)

North and South (1975)

Directed by Rodney Bennett

Adapted by David Turner

Starring: Rosalind Shanks as Margaret Hale and Patrick Stewart as John Thornton. 

My last read of 2020 was Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. I've seen the 2004 adaptation of North and South a handful of times. I had never seen the earlier adaptation of North and South done in 1975. I wanted to see it for two reasons, really: 1) It's Patrick Stewart...with hair...and all dressed up; 2) North and South is one of my favorite, favorite books. The 2004 adaptation is solidly good--especially if you've never read the novel, especially if you are just looking for Darcy 2.0, especially if you would watch Richard Armitage in just about anything or everything. But it's not exactly faithful to the book. The question the 1975 adaptation better at staying faithful to the book?

Margaret. In the 2004 adaptation, Margaret Hale is all sweetness and perfection. She's a near-flawless embodiment of a modern woman. In the 1975 adaptation, Margaret is out of her element...most of the time. It was a nice contrast to the bold confidence and superiority of the 2004 Margaret. But many of her scenes she almost fades into the background. I haven't decided if that is a good thing, or a bad thing. In the novel, Margaret is equal parts pride and prejudice. She's opinionated and outspoken--especially within the walls of her own home. She's a blunt-speaker and comes across as a big snob. In her scenes with John Thornton she comes across as cool and aloof...for the most part. (In the 2004 movie she's all confrontation all the time. From the moment they meet she is all  I AM HERE TO TELL YOU THAT YOU'RE DOING EVERYTHING WRONG.) The 1975 Margaret is a bit more reserved. She is feisty occasionally--but it's more of a rare occurrence for her to speak out and bring him down with her wisdom, or so-called wisdom. 

John. I have a love/hate relationship with Richard Armitage's John Thornton. I don't blame him personally. I think the role was written as DARCY 2.0 and he was directed to be DARCY 2.0. Just by his presence--his being there all dressed up and looking at the camera--the film becomes instantly swoon-worthy. The script almost doesn't matter. But the 2004 John Thornton is NOTHING AT ALL like the book hero. Nothing. In the novel he's empathetic, compassionate, hard-working, genuine, honest. He is a business man, true, and he is always looking to make sound business decisions. Margaret is all YOU WORK, HOW GROSS! I COULD ONLY LOVE A MAN OF LEISURE. (That's not true, the Margaret of the novel isn't boy-crazy, she is not looking for love and desperate to find a husband.) Everything I love about the novel is almost absent or crucially changed in the 2004 adaptation. What you get is A SOLID ROMANCE but it's not what Gaskell wrote, not really. So how did Patrick Stewart do???? Well, I liked seeing him all dressed up too!!!! He's a fast talker. He comes across as sharp and intelligent. His love for Margaret almost seems to come out of nowhere--almost. But I don't fault him for that. He doesn't know how to STARE LIKE DARCY and he doesn't have Colin Firth to refer back to as that edition of Pride and Prejudice hadn't been filmed yet. (Nor the 1980 Pride and Prejudice which also has a lot of staring.) I don't know that the on-screen chemistry was amazing between Patrick Stewart and Rosalind Shanks. But I almost preferred the chasteness of that one brief smooch to the more dramatic ending of 2004. It was more in line with the novel. 

THE ENDING. I love the 2004 ending. I do. I would lie if I didn't say it left me grinning from ear to ear every single time. EVERY SINGLE TIME. But I liked the 1975 ending as well. It started off with potential to be close to the novel. Their meeting was not at a train station almost by chance. He came to London to her aunt's home. It was a private conversation. But what I really, really WANT in an adaptation is to keep the THAT MAN and THAT WOMAN speech intact. If you've read the book, you may remember what I mean!!!

The pacing. Some things were super super super rushed in the 1975 adaptation. 

Rearranging conversations. There were some awkward rearrangements that just made little sense. Even when the conversations were clearly inspired by actual scenes from the book, the placement within the movie made them seem strange.  

Conclusion: Neither is faithful enough to properly satisfy me in that regard. But the 2004 is a thousand times more watchable...overall. The time investments seems less worth it for the 1975. I still would *love* a John Thornton that was actually more like the book hero.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

6. Twenty-One Days

Twenty-One Days. (Daniel Pitt #1) Anne Perry. 2018. 303 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: They were alone in the small room where the accused was allowed to take visits with his lawyer. 

Premise/plot: Twenty-One Days is the first title in a new spin-off mystery series. It stars Daniel Pitt, the son of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. The time period is 1910. Setting still London area (I believe). When the novel opens he's defending a client for murder, but that case is super short. It isn't long before he's involved in another case or two. (Two related cases). The title comes from the fact that the trial did not go their way--their client, a Russell Graves--was declared guilty and sentenced to hang. The defense (Pitt and Kitteridge) have twenty-one days to find grounds for an appeal and potentially save his life. But both men find Graves a disgusting, obnoxious fellow--hard to like in the extreme. (His servants and children feel likewise). Can these two men prove one way or another if Russell Graves is guilty of murdering his wife, Ebony?

My thoughts: I have not read ANY of the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series. My experiences with Anne Perry come from her Christmas mysteries and the Monk series. I was reading an advanced reader's copy. I don't know if there was a computer glitch (spell check/change all) causing an issue or not. But the law firm he works for was "fford Croft and Gibson." I have a hard time believing "fford" is the right name--it looks like part of a name. But that was minor--it didn't effect my enjoying this mystery.

I liked it. I did predict a major twist early on. (That is neither good or bad.) I would be interested in reading other books in the series. I'm curious if there will be recurring characters and what the overlap of characters there are between this series and the previous one. (Thomas Pitt does appear in a few scenes in this one.)


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, January 15, 2021

5. Reuben and the Amazing Mind Machine

Reuben and the Amazing Mind Machine. Jonathan M. Hughes. 2021 [January] 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: “Hey Simon, I’ve got something brilliant to tell you,” said Reuben, his mobile phone pressed up against his ear as he walked up his grandfather’s garden path.

Premise/plot: Reuben's grandfather's tinkering has paid off...or has it? He has invented a mind machine and found a way to manipulate other people's minds. It starts with playing around with the neighbors he doesn't like and then broadens in scope. Reuben, a teenage boy, is quite taken with the notion of making all the people he dislikes look foolish, stupid, embarrassed. The more awkward a situation becomes, the better he feels. Reuben has quite a few 'enemies' at school, so, of course, the perfect place to play around with the mind machine is at school...on his teachers. 

My thoughts: It's a quick read. That's about the most honest AND most positive thing I can say about it. Keep in mind that I am not the target audience. Reuben and the Amazing Mind Machine is not a character-driven novel. That's okay. Not every book is. No problem there. It is 100% premise driven. Again, no problem there. I do wish there'd been a bit more characterization because what we do get is very one dimensional and bare minimum. 

Reuben and the Amazing Mind Machine is the opposite of a problem novel. Reuben has lost his parents perhaps recently and is being raised by his aunt who is a bit clueless about parenting. Reuben essentially has stopped attending school in any meaningful way--thoroughly enabled by his aunt. The teachers at the school might as well have been inspired by Roald Dahl. They are caricatured to absolute absurdity. They HATE Reuben--and there's no sign that they actively like any student or the act of teaching itself. So instead of seeing Reuben as a person who may need some help--some counseling, some guidance, some adult who actually sees, hears, cares--they hate him, again to a degree of absurdity. 

You would think that his grandfather would be an adult who sees, hears, cares, but, nope, he's too busy being cantankerous and eccentric. His aunt's care amounts to her doing whatever he wants without any real oversight or guidance. 

But you have to dig deep to pick up on what would be the focus of many other YA novels. This is not in any way a problem novel. It's a slapstick comedy. Think Three Stooges type intelligence. The situations are a bit absurd and I think exist just so that poop jokes can be introduced one right after the other. 

I'm not saying this book won't find an audience. Just that it is not for me.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

4. The Bostonians

The Bostonians. Henry James. 1886. 460 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: “Olive will come down in about ten minutes; she told me to tell you that. About ten; that is exactly like Olive. Neither five nor fifteen, and yet not ten exactly, but either nine or eleven. She didn’t tell me to say she was glad to see you, because she doesn’t know whether she is or not, and she wouldn’t for the world expose herself to telling a fib. She is very honest, is Olive Chancellor; she is full of rectitude. Nobody tells fibs in Boston; I don’t know what to make of them all. Well, I am very glad to see you, at any rate.”

Premise/plot: Does The Bostonians have a plot??? It isn't so much about a destination as the journey. So this is a 'problem' novel of sorts. Many of the characters are active in the women's rights movement. (Remember this one was published in 1886.) 

It's told from multiple view points: Basil Ransom, Olive Chancellor, and Verena Tarrant; it introduces a handful of other characters as well. (My favorite side character is Doctor Prance.)

So it opens with Basil Ransom paying a visit on Olive Chancellor. She's running late and so he is conversing with her widowed sister Adeline Luna. (She seems REALLY into him throughout the whole book. He seems to be the stereotypical Southern flirt; he can't help flirting with any/every woman.) Olive and Basil CLASH. And not in a Pride and Prejudice way where readers get the idea that the two are destined to live happily ever after together. But the evening isn't a total failure because he ends up going to a larger event where the feminists are talking/rallying. He sees Verena Tarrant, and if he was a cartoon character, his eyes would turn into hearts and pop out of his eyes. Unfortunately, he's not the only one who's fallen for Verena. Olive also has major heart eyes for Verena. So much so that she practically begs Verena to move in with her permanently. 

The rest of the book is about (if the book actually has a plot) Olive trying desperately to hold onto Verena and mold her into the person she wants her to be. A world-changing, man-hating public speaker that is so committed to the doctrines of feminism or women's rights that there isn't even a teeny tiny space left in her heart for a man--any man. 

Basil comes and goes out of the story. He never forgets Verena. But he is rarely openly seeking or wooing Verena. He does maintain a rather close friendship (when it's convenient to him) with Mrs. Luna (Olive's sister). 

Will Verena escape Olive's manipulations and marry? Or will she become a world-famous spokeswoman for a radical movement? 

My thoughts: I didn't really like any of the characters--at least any of the main characters. I really didn't feel like readers got a true idea of who Verena actually was. Probably because James didn't bother developing her as such--her very own person. Verena was the coveted prize between two stronger characters: Olive and Basil. Basil doesn't come across as a woman-hater--one who would keep women down for the sake of keeping women down. He does come across as someone smitten by a beautiful young woman. He doesn't believe in the cause, but he's not angry and aggressive about it. He's a fairly laid back character. 

My favorite character was Doctor Prance, a woman doctor, who doesn't believe in the CAUSE either but for her own reasons. She's only in perhaps three or four scenes of the book--but she's a scene stealer when she is there. I really found myself drawn to her character. 

I didn't like the characters or the story, but there is something about James' writing that kept me hooked. 


  • “Do you mean to say your sister’s a roaring radical?” “A radical? She’s a female Jacobin—she’s a nihilist. Whatever is, is wrong, and all that sort of thing. If you are going to dine with her, you had better know it.”
  • Many things were strange to Basil Ransom; Boston especially was strewn with surprises, and he was a man who liked to understand. Mrs. Luna was drawing on her gloves; Ransom had never seen any that were so long; they reminded him of stockings, and he wondered how she managed without garters above the elbow.
  • “Oh, it isn’t the city; it’s just Olive Chancellor. She would reform the solar system if she could get hold of it. She’ll reform you, if you don’t look out. That’s the way I found her when I returned from Europe.”
  • It was the usual things of life that filled her with silent rage; which was natural enough, inasmuch as, to her vision, almost everything that was usual was iniquitous.
  • Olive had a fear of everything, but her greatest fear was of being afraid. She wished immensely to be generous, and how could one be generous unless one ran a risk?
  • “If, as you say, there is to be a discussion, there will be different sides, and of course one can’t sympathise with both.” “Yes, but every one will, in his way—or in her way—plead the cause of the new truths. If you don’t care for them, you won’t go with us.” 
  • “Don’t you believe, then, in the coming of a better day—in its being possible to do something for the human race?” 
  • “Well, Miss Olive,” he answered, putting on again his big hat, which he had been holding in his lap, “what strikes me most is that the human race has got to bear its troubles.” 
  • “Oh, the position of women!” Basil Ransom exclaimed. “The position of women is to make fools of men. I would change my position for yours any day,” he went on. “That’s what I said to myself as I sat there in your elegant home.” 
  • “Well, did she convince you?” Ransom inquired. “Convince me of what, sir?” “That women are so superior to men.” “Oh, deary me!” said Doctor Prance, with a little impatient sigh; “I guess I know more about women than she does.” “And that isn’t your opinion, I hope,” said Ransom, laughing. “Men and women are all the same to me,” Doctor Prance remarked. “I don’t see any difference. There is room for improvement in both sexes. Neither of them is up to the standard.”
  • We must remember that the world is ours too, ours—little as we have ever had to say about anything!—and that the question is not yet definitely settled whether it shall be a place of injustice or a place of love!
  • “You don’t know me, but I want to know you,” Olive said. “I can thank you now. Will you come and see me?” “Oh yes; where do you live?” Verena answered, in the tone of a girl for whom an invitation (she hadn’t so many) was always an invitation. “I want to know you,” Olive said, on this occasion; “I felt that I must last night, as soon as I heard you speak. You seem to me very wonderful. I don’t know what to make of you. I think we ought to be friends; so I just asked you to come to me straight off, without preliminaries, and I believed you would come. It is so right that you have come, and it proves how right I was.” 
  • “Will you be my friend, my friend of friends, beyond every one, everything, for ever and for ever?” Her face was full of eagerness and tenderness. Verena gave a laugh of clear amusement, without a shade of embarrassment or confusion. “Perhaps you like me too much.” 
  • “Do you live here all alone?” she asked of Olive. “I shouldn’t if you would come and live with me!” Even this really passionate rejoinder failed to make Verena shrink; she thought it so possible that in the wealthy class people made each other such easy proposals. 
  • Do you really take the ground that your sex has been without influence? Influence? Why, you have led us all by the nose to where we are now! Wherever we are, it’s all you. You are at the bottom of everything.” 
  • “I am not angry—I am anxious. I am so afraid I shall lose you. Verena, don’t fail me—don’t fail me!” Olive spoke low, with a kind of passion. “Fail you? How can I fail?” 
  • But any man who pretends to accept our programme in toto, as you and I understand it, of his own free will, before he is forced to—such a person simply schemes to betray us. There are gentlemen in plenty who would be glad to stop your mouth by kissing you! 
  • “You do keep me up,” Verena went on. “You are my conscience.” “I should like to be able to say that you are my form—my envelope. But you are too beautiful for that!” 
  • He had been diligent, he had been ambitious, but he had not yet been successful. 
  • “It does come back to me now, what you told me about the growth of their intimacy. And do they mean to go on living together for ever?” “I suppose so—unless some one should take it into his head to marry Verena.” 
  • Duty should be obvious; one shouldn’t hunt round for it.
  • Are you a little girl of ten and she your governess? Haven’t you any liberty at all, and is she always watching you and holding you to an account? Have you such vagabond instincts that you are only thought safe when you are between four walls?
  • Doctor Prance dealt in facts; Ransom had already discovered that; and some of her facts were very interesting. 
  • “Women—women! You know much about them!” “I am learning something every day.” “You haven’t learned yet, apparently, to answer their letters. It’s rather a surprise to me that you don’t pretend not to have received mine.”

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews