Preview of 1909 novels to be reviewed here

For the next few weeks, I’m going to post reviews of novels I hadn’t located back when they should have appeared in my rotation. I’ll be reviewing the eight bestsellers of 1909 that I hadn’t posted earlier.Cover of *The Inner Shrine* and quotation from it.

As usual, if I haven’t already reviewed the novel, I’ve linked to ProjectGutenberg, where you can read the book for free. If I have already read the book, I’ve linked to my review, which should also link to where you can get a free e-version to read.

The Inner Shrine by Basil King [Sat. Nov. 7, 2015]
Katrine by Elinor Macartney Lane [Tue. Nov. 10, 2015]
The Silver Horde by Rex Beach [Sat. Nov. 14, 2015]
The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart
The Trail of the Lonesome Pine by John Fox Jr.

Goose Girl in traditional costume descends palace stairs.
Truxton King by George Barr McCutcheon [Tue. Nov. 17, 2015]
54-40 or Fight by Emerson Hough [Sat. Nov. 21, 2015]
The Goose Girl by Harold MacGrath [Tue. Nov. 24, 2015]
Peter: A Novel of Which He Is Not the Hero  by F. Hopkinson Smith [Sat. Nov. 28, 2015]
Septimus by William J. Locke [Tue. Dec. 1, 2015]

*The Silver Horde" by Rex Beach superimposed on photograph of spawning salmon
Salmon Spawning at Hood Canal

Poll: Your picks of the 1909 bestsellers [Sat Dec. 5, 2015]
My picks of the 1909 bestsellers [Tue. Dec. 8, 2015]


Let’s Compare Answers to Novel Titles Quiz

Here are the clues to the just-for-fun quiz, and my suggested answers. All the clues and all the answers are from novels on the bestseller lists between 1900 and 1970. My answers are not the only ones that fit the clues. Use the comments box to provide better alternatives.

1. Another term for The Deliverance.

My choice: Escape

2. What might have been left in The Bishop’s Carriage.

My choice: The Bishop’s Mantle

3. A likely inhabitant for The House of Mirth.

My choice: Simon the Jester

4. In Western nations, Seventeen  is usually considered a year early.

My choice: When a Man’s a Man

5. He might have carried The Black Bag.

My choice: The Doctor

6. A White Bird Flying might sing it.

My choice: Swan Song

7. If WInter Comes, these may follow.

My choice: The Hounds of Spring

8. The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come might have carried it.

My choice: A Lamb in His Bosom

9. Pride’s Castle probably had them.

My choice: High Towers

10. Who led The Caine Mutiny?

My choice: The Disenchanted

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Think You Know Old Novels? Test Yourself

If you’re full of turkey, exhausted from shopping, and unable to watch another minute of football, curl up with this just-for-fun quiz.

The clue contains the title of one bestseller published between 1900 and 1970. Your answer should be the title of another bestseller of that period.  Base your answers solely on the titles of the novels.

Need some help? Check the bestseller lists. There’s a link above the logo for this page.


  1. Another term for The Deliverance.
  2. What might have been left in The Bishop’s Carriage.
  3. A likely inhabitant for The House of Mirth.
  4. In Western nations, Seventeen  is usually considered a year early
  5. He might have carried The Black Bag.
  6. A White Bird Flying might sing it.
  7. If WInter Comes, these may follow.
  8. The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come might have carried it.
  9. Pride’s Castle probably had them
  10. Who lead The Caine Mutiny?

I’ll post my answers Wednesday, and we can compare notes.

Fathers in Novels

Fathers who try to give their children all the advantages are two-a-penny in fiction. What makes them interesting is that they don’t all use the same strategies. Nor do they all work from the same base of moral and emotional strength.

In Howard Spring’s My Son, My Son, a twentieth-century father spoils his son to destruction just as King David did his beloved son Absolom centuries before.  A subplot shows the opposite approach of training a son to be tough may not lead to a happy outcome either.

Lest you think spoiling sons is just a western habit, Pearl S. Buck  in The Good Earth shows a Chinese peasant spoiling his sons. Just in case you miss the destructive nature of that indulgence, she makes it clear in Sons.

Penny Baxter in The Yearling yearns to give his  son every advantage, but his family is too poor.  When Penny gives in to Jody’s plea for a pet, the growing fawn’s destructiveness requires both father and son to toughen up.

Johnny Nolan isn’t tough enough to take care of his kids’ physical needs, but he cares for them emotionally in Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  Johnny’s arranging years in advance for his daughter to have flowers for her high school graduation is one of the sweetest tokens of a father’s love in literature.

Some of the most interesting father figures in vintage novels are men who acted as father to children who were not their own.  The man who brings up the orphaned Barbara Worth, who affords him respect but no love in Harold Bell Wright’s novel The Winning of Barbara Worth, is an extraordinary man.  So is the crotchety grandfather in  The Portygee. Saddled with care of a grandson, the old man has to learn to turn their mutual dismay into a relationship of mutual respect and caring. (Grandma helps a lot.)

East of Eden by John Steinbeck is a contemporary retelling of the Cain and Abel story.  A father raising two boys whose mother has deserted them, seems to have a knack for saying and doing the wrong thing, setting one son against the other. The novel weighs the roles played by genetics, nurture, and personal choice in determining what a child will become.

Enjoy and evaluate these fathers in vintage novels.

Mothers in Novels: Five Memorable Ones

Reading novels reminds us that there are all kinds of mothers, some of whom would never inspire a Hallmark card.

In honor of Mother’s Day, here are capsule summaries of five novels whose main character is a mother. Some of the novels will make you wish its leading lady had been your mother. Others will make you immensely grateful for the mother you had.

Three Loves, A. J. Cronin’s 1932 bestseller, is a novel about a woman who views herself as selflessly devoted to her family. The family views her as selfishly controlling. What happens when the devoted wife and mother realizes her devotion is rejected makes for riveting reading.

The Iron Woman by Margaret Deland  is novel for puzzle lovers. The novel follows four children as they attempt to carry out, against the wishes of their two mothers, marital plans made one summer afternoon under an apple tree. One of the mothers is the formidable owner of Maitlin Iron Works. The other is an equally formidable genteel widow. As to which is the better mother, there’s no contest. Readers must decide which of the two is the stronger.

The Family by Nina Fedorova (1940) is the story of a Russian emigrant family living in China in 1937. When the Japanese invade China, the mother has to decides to send the children off to what she can only hope will be a better life. Then she picks up the pieces of her life, and builds a new family in Tientsin.

Years of Grace by Margaret Ayers Barnes was not only a bestseller two years in a row, but garnered the 1931 Pulitzer Prize for literature. Its leading lady, Jane Ward, leads an unremarkable life. Always comfortably well-off, she makes a happy marriage and has three children. In the 1920s when her children are grown and have children of their own, Jane reflects on her life and wonders if she made the right choices.

The Battle of the Villa Fiorita by Rumer Godden takes a ‘sixties look at a mother whose life is not all that different from Jane Ward’s, but who makes different choices.

Youngblood Hawke: Insiders’ peek into the book business

Thomas Wolfe House in Asheville, North Carolina
Thomas Wolfe House in Asheville, North Carolina

Youngblood Hawke is Herman Wouk’s contribution to the shelf of novels by novelists about novelists. The novel has the usual plot complications readers expect as the rube with the typewriter is taken on, taken in, and taken over by shysters.

The story opens with Arthur Youngblood Hawke’s sale of his first novel to Prince House. The novel is promising rather than good.

Art figures he needs to write about seven books before he’ll know his craft. He aims to be first a successful author, then a rich one, living off his investments while he writes great books.

Art invests the income from his books in enterprises from hog futures and commercial real estate to self-publishing. His financial successes and failures are spectacular, but they are never what’s important to him. His world is the pad of lined yellow paper that he fills hour after hour.

Like most other novels about novelists, Youngblood Hawke contrasts the mercenary publishing world with the world of the art. But Wouk’s cast of colorful characters makes clear that the profit motive operates throughout society: even artists have to eat.

And the most tenacious of the followers after fortune may be somebody’s mother.

[Herman Wouk based Youngblood Hawke  on the life of Thomas Wolfe.  The photo above shows the boarding house owned and operated by Wolfe’s mother where Wolfe lived until he went to college.]

Youngblood Hawke: a novel
Herman Wouk
Little, Brown (paper)
© 1962
783 pages
1962 bestseller #4
My grade B+


© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

1921 bestselling novels slated for review here

The  top 10 bestselling novels of 1921 are listed below.  If you cannot find these in your local library, visit  Project Gutenberg  for copies you can download and read free.

The date on which the novel will be reviewed here is shown in brackets.

  1. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis [6-Aug-2011]
  2. The Brimming Cup by Dorothy Canfield [13-Aug-2011]
  3. The Mysterious Rider by Zane Grey [17-Aug-2011]
  4. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton [20-Aug.2011]
  5. The Valley of Silent Men by James Oliver Curwood [24-Aug-2011]
  6. The Sheik by Edith M. Hull [27-Aug-2011]
  7. A  Poor Wise Man by Mary Roberts Rinehart [31-Aug-2011]
  8. Her Father’s Daughter by Gene Stratton Porter [3-Sep-2011]
  9. The Sisters-in-Law by Gertrude Atherton [7-Sep-2011]
  10. The Kingdom Round the Corner by Coningsby Dawson [10-Sep-2011]

Project Gutenberg

Think you know your bestsellers?

Test  your knowledge of twentieth century bestselling novels with this quiz. The answer to each question is the title of a novel from an annual top 10 list. Hint: the answers are title from the first quarter of the century.

  1. He’s so indecisive.
  2. French bread.
  3. Adam put the blame on her.
  4. The prodigal’s destination
  5. Usually 18 or 21.
  6. The second king of Israel.
  7. Mars.
  8. A phrase describing humankind.
  9. The opposite of Wall Street.
  10. Always sees the glass half full

Answers next Wednesday.

© 2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni