Friday, June 20, 2014

Old Books Can Charm or Revolt

If stranded on a desert island and only allowed one book, I’d take Mixed Marriage written by Elizabeth Cadell and published in 1963. Written in diary format, it’s the story of a young English girl about to marry a young man from Portugal. Doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, does it? So why is it so special to me? The writing style is superb, the characters lovable, the story line intriguing, and, most importantly, the portrayal of family spot on and timeless. Uncle George huffing about as patriarch of the family could be your uncle. And, it’s funny, often laugh out loud funny. Here’s a snippet of the bride meeting the groom’s family.
After lunch, entire disappearance of everybody; all reappeared for dinner, with addition of Ana, Valeria and black-clad companion known as Senhora Dona Beatriz; in all fourteen at table; Mama said with obvious sincerity that so nice to have little family party.
Another charmer is The Blue Castle, written by Lucy Maude Montgomery and published in 1926. While depicting an era foreign to us, it too has a timeless quality that sucks us into the story of Valancy’s love and adventures. Colleen McCullough was accused of plagiarizing The Blue Castle when she wrote The Ladies of Missalonghi, and indeed, there are passages that seem to have been lifted almost word for word.
I liked another oldie, Jim the Conqueror, published in 1929, so much that I searched for other books by the author, Peter B. Kyne. I found one called The Pride of Palomar which turned out to be an unbridled racist rant.
I’ve tried other authors like Wilkie Collins and found those books to be unbearable reading now even though I liked some of them when I was younger.
Scrolling through the thousands and thousands of books available today, I wonder what people fifty to eighty years from now will think of our efforts. Will our novels still be available to readers then? And, if so, will our stories charm or revolt?


  1. Some of those oldies were goodies. Some were only goodies at the time and we've moved on. Others are still good today. Interesting to see the different style back then though. Very conservative, some almost frumpy. We didn't think so at the time.

    1. Yes, what we liked then, certainly isn't always what we like now partly because of other changes. With television, for example, to show us settings, we don't need extensive descriptions.