The Princess Passes is flawed but fabulous

Every so often a flawed novel comes along that is delightful in spite of its deficiencies.

The Princess Passes is one of those.

The Princess Passes: A Romance of a Motor-Car

by Alice Muriel Williamson and Charles Norris Williamson

Illus. Henry Holt, 1905. 1905 bestseller #9. Project Gutenberg eBook #14740 My grade: C+ .

Having proposed and gotten a kiss, Lord Montague Lane is shocked to hear at dinner the announcement that his love will marry “the richest grocer in the world” instead of himself.

Monty accepts friends’ invitation to let them drive him to Lucerne where he can go on a walking tour down into Italy while his broken heart mends.

Alert readers will see in chapter two how the story will end—and that’s long before they’ve met the Princess.

Though the plot of the romance is familiar, the Williamsons redeem The Princess Passes by presenting Marty as a late-Victorian Rick Steves: an adaptable, uncomplaining traveling companion with a sense of humor.

Monty chats knowledgeably about history, literature, art, architecture, and local cuisine.

His descriptions of Alpine scenes are virtual reality immersions without the fancy headsets. Witness:

The shadows lengthened and thinned, like children who have grown too fast.

Monty is delighted by his guide’s description of a precipice as rocks that “go down immediately, not bye-and-bye.”Photograph of Annecy with moutains in background.

The sense of being there with Monty is heightened by a combination of whimsical drawings and what appear to be vintage photographs.

Such genial companionship transforms a so-so novel into a fictional travelogue that made me wish for a map and a video footage of Monty’s trek.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The White Tower is shivery adventure

In The White Tower, James Ramsey Ullman turns several familiar themes inside out and upside down.

The result is World War II adventure story that appeals even to sedentary readers like me.

The White Tower  by James Ramsey Ullman

Lippincott, 1945. 479 pages. 1945 bestseller # 4. My grade: B+.

Spine art for The White Tower shows mountansand rocksHit by shrapnel during a bombing raid, Martin Ordway’s plane goes down in the Swiss Alps near a village where he spent his student vacations.

While friends arrange to slip him out of the country, Martin poses as a tourist. He organizes a group to climb the village side of Weissturm, the White Tower, which has never been scaled.

Besides Martin, the group includes an aging British geologist, a depressed French writer, an arthritic Alpine guide, an Austrian woman separated from her Nazi husband, and a German solider who is also a renowned mountain climber.

Sounds like a set-up for a Hollywood movie, doesn’t it?

Well, Ullman avoids that trap. No clichés for him.

Characters are well-drawn.

Action is tense.

Mountain settings are shiveringly vivid.

Contemporary readers may find the occasional German and French phrases difficult — today’s readers lack the language skills our 1940’s forebears had — but I could usually get the gist.

Whatever your linguistic skills, The White Tower remains a great book to climb into bed with.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni