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review 2020-06-10 17:31
Little Lord Fauntleroy, Frances Hodgson Burnett
Little Lord Fauntelroy - Frances Hodgson Burnett,John Boyne

Here's an amusing tale of rags to riches and the impact that has on those surrounding the young protagonist. Charming and occassionally surprising. Perhaps not as good as The Secret Garden, where our protagonists are allowed flaws but I'm glad I got round to this one.

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review 2020-05-16 20:06
Busman's Honeymoon: A Lethal Play, or, Sayers's Last Word on Peter and Harriet
Love All and Busman's Honeymoon: Two Plays by Dorothy L. Sayers - Dorothy L. Sayers,Alzina Stone Dale

   “PETER (frowns): You know, Harriet, this is one of those exasperatingly simple cases. I mean, it’s not like those ones where the great financier is stabbed in the library –

   HARRIET: I know! And thousands of people stampede in and out of the French window all night, armed with motives and sharp instruments –

   PETER: And the corpse turns out to be his own twin bother returned from the Fiji Islands and disguised as himself. That sort of thing is comparatively easy. But here’s a dead man in a locked house and a perfectly plain suspect, with means, motive, and opportunity, and all the evidence pat – with the trifling exception of the proof.”

Lord Peter Wimsey’s final full-length murder investigation first saw the light of day as a play – like the subsequent novel, titled Busman’s Honeymoon – co-written with Dorothy L. Sayers’s friend from her Somerville College, Muriel St. Clare Byrne. Although it enjoyed a successful run after its November 1936 Birmingham and December London 1936 premieres, the play’s success was transferred entirely onto the novel of the same name published the following year, and the playscript was never reprinted after its initial 1937 Gollancz first edition. It took another half century, the acquisition of the original manuscript and a wealth of associated papers by the Marion E. Wade Collection at Kent State University’s Wheaton College, and the express (and narrowly limited) consent by Sayers’s son Anthony Fleming for the play to be republished, along with the drawing room comedy Love All (in manuscript, alternatively titled Cat’s Cradle), which Sayers wrote together with another Somerville College friend, Marjorie Barber.

 

In the novel Busman’s Honeymoon, Sayers elaborates on the plot and the themes addressed in the play, but she remains faithful to the stage version in every respect, entire lines of dialogue are taken from there, and the play of course distills down the basic structure of the action, merging the demands of dramatic sequencing and those of a detective story scrupulously based on the fair play rule according to which, in the authors’ words, “every clue must be shown at the same time to the public and to the detective”. The detective is not to have any secret knowledge or other advantage over the audience (nor vice versa), and comparing their play’s structure to that of “a Three-part Fugue, moving contrapuntually to an ordered resolution”, the playwrights continue to explain in the authors’ note:

“It was necessary to invent a technique to express this formula, since the novelist’s approach by argument and explanation is clearly unsuited to the stage. For the First Act, in which most of the major clues are introduced, the method chosen is that of visual presentation. The clues as to Means are displayed, silently but conspicuously, down-stage, while at the same time the animated discussion of trivialities up-stage holds the ear and divides the attention of the audience. The producer’s task is thus to play, as it were, two independent tunes concurrently, concentrating upon inessentials in order to disguise, without concealing, the essentials of the plot-structure.

 

In the Second Act, the method, while still contrapuntal, is slightly varied. While the inquiry is ostensibly directed to Motive, the information actually conveyed to the audience chiefly concerns Opportunity, or the lack of it. Here, Superintendent Kirk’s unwavering canto fermo is contrasted with the freely moving descant played by Peter, who hovers continually above the action, sometimes in concord and sometimes in passing discord with the set theme. The producer may note the visual symbolism, whereby Kirk remains throughout firmly planted in his chair, while Peter wanders about the stage, darting in upon the problem from all angles.

 

In Act III, Scene 1, which for the purposes of the plot establishes Motive, the attention is held by yet another theme. This, introduced in the First Act and kept moving by occasional passages in Act II, here emerges into prominence. The human and emotional aspects of the situation, as it affects the private lives of the characters concerned, become the main source of interest. An effort is here made to do for the detective play what has already been achieved for the detective novel – that is, to combine it with the comedy of manners, and so bring it back into the main line of English dramatic tradition. In this scene, the masks are dropped all round: [along farcical-comedy and tragi-comedy lines by others and] along romantic-comedy lines by Peter and Harriet, the complete sincerity of whose emotion is the touchstone by which all the rest of the action must be tested.

 

In the final scene, both the disguised and the ostensible clues extracted from the previous scenes are presented and a fresh in a visual reconstruction to solve the problem on purely theatrical lines; and at the same time the emotional elements are brought into harmony.”

In a lengthy introduction, the book’s editor, Alzina Stone Dale, elaborates on the genesis and various birthing stages of the play, and the book’s no less than four appendices reproduce significant additional materials; including the authors’ stern warning to producers as to the truly lethal risks of the murder method employed here, coupled with several-pages-long minute instructions how Peter’s reconstruction of the crime at the end of the play should be faked, so as to avoid actually endangering anyone on stage (first and foremost the actor playing the murderer, who ends up caught in and unmasked by his own trap in the reconstruction).

 

Another appendix reproduces Sayers’s handwritten notes on the major characters:

“PETER will be 45 next birthday; & though his small bones, whippy figure & fair colouring give him a deceptive appearance of youth, his face, in its rare moments of repose is beginning to show the marks set there by time & experience. At first sight one would say that the lines of brow & chin ran back rather alarmingly; but this, too, is largely an illusion, due to the dominance of the high, beaked nose which is, one feels, a tradition handed down from the Norman Conquest or thereabouts & somewhat exaggerated in the transmission. The steadiness of the grey eyes & long, humorous mouth is reassuring, & there is certainly no lack of physical health or vitality; yet the acuteness of the facial angle, the silvery pallor of hair & skin, the slight droop of the eyelids, the sensitive and restless hands, & above all a certain nervous tautness of gesture & carriage – these signs perhaps convey a warning that the family blood will not stand very much more this kind of thing, & that in marrying a commoner he has shown no more than a proper consideration for posterity. His social poise is inborn; but his emotional balance appears to be rather a matter of discipline applied partly from within & partly by training and circumstance; his outbursts of inconsequent gaiety are the compensation for the exercise of a rigid control in other directions. A natural sweetness of disposition, allied to a freakish sense of humour & assisted by a highly-civilized upbringing, makes him easy enough to get on with, but to get within his guard is difficult. The light, high, over-bred voice is his own; but the drawl, like the monocle, is part of the comedian’s make-up which he can & does put off when he is in earnest. […] Nor does he hold any surprises for Bunter, who has known him from his teeth to his toe-nails for twenty years. How far Bunter has it in him to surprise Peter is a matter for infinite conjecture.

 

[…]

 

HARRIET is 30 years old, tall, strongly-made & vigorous in speech, movement & colouring. She has dark hair & eyes & a skin like honey; her face has more character than beauty, but the older she grows the handsomer she will become. […] Past unhappiness has matured but not tamed her; she has not learnt, & never will learn, self-discipline as Peter has learnt it. What she has got & what he loves her for, is an immense intellectual sincerity. She will commit endless errors of judgment & hold to them in the face of any emotional attack; but if her reason can be persuaded, she will admit the error freely & without rancor. It is evident that she will never be happy unless her passions & her reason can march side by side; & she is lucky to have found a man honest and unselfish enough to refrain from using her heart as a weapon against her conscience. Indeed, in this respect he is the more vulnerable, & it is her honesty that will prevent him from turning the same weapon against himself. The fact that they both have the same educational background is probably a considerable factor in the establishment of a common understanding; & though you might think that they are the last people who should ever have married one another, Oxford will in the end be justified of her children.”

 The 1980s' version of Harriet and Peter: Harriet Walter and Edward Petherbridge -- in the small screen adaptation of Gaudy Night

   HARRIET: Oh, my dear: What is happening to us? What has become of our peace?

   PETER: Broken! That’s what violence does. Once it starts, it catches us all – sooner or later.

   HARRIET: Is there no escape?

   PETER: Only by running away … (Pause) … Perhaps it might be better for us to run. If I finish this job, someone is going to hang. I have no right to drag you into this mess … Oh, my dear, don’t upset yourself so. (He goes up to her.) If you say the word, we will go right away. We’ll leave the whole damnable business ... and never meddle again.

   HARRIET: Do you really mean that?

   PETER: Of course I mean it. I have said so. (His tone is that of a beaten man. He crosses and sits on arm of chair by table L.)

   HARRIET: Peter, you are mad. Never dare to suggest such a thing. Whatever marriage is, it isn’t that.

   PETER: Isn’t what, Harriet?

   HARRIET: Letting your affection corrupt your judgment. What kind of life could we have if I knew that you had become less than yourself by marrying me?

   PETER: My dear girl, most women would consider it a triumph.

   HARRIET: I know. (Gets up and comes down-stage.) I’ve heard them. ‘My husband would do anything for me.’ … It’s degrading. No human being ought to have such power over another.

   PETER: It’s a very real power, Harriet.

   HARRIET (decidedly): Then we won’t use it. If we disagree, we’ll fight it out like gentlemen. But we won’t stand for matrimonial blackmail.”

Busman’s Honeymoon, Act III, Scene 1

I just love that dialogue (which is contained both in the play and in the novel). It’s what epitomizes Peter and Harriet to me – and it just might explain, too, why Sayers didn’t finish a single further novel featuring them but, rather, only gave us glimpses at their married life in a couple of short stories. Because really, what else is there left to be said after this?

 

 

Dennis Arundell and Veronica Turleigh, who played Peter and Harriet in the 1936-1937 theatrical run of Busman’s Honeymoon (images from IMDb)

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review 2020-03-28 18:22
Lord Holt Takes a Bride by Vivienne Lorret
Lord Holt Takes a Bride - Vivienne Lorret

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

Winn doesn't want to marry the man her father picked out for her, he's callous and in love with his mistress. When her friends come up with a plan for her to become a runaway bride, she at first scoffs but after mistakenly receiving a gift that was supposed to go to his mistress from her husband-to-be on the morning of her wedding, she decides to run.

Asher has always been at the mercy of his gambling father but he finally has a plan to get out from under his schemes, until he runs into some curious debutantes and he ends up kidnapped. Needed money and fast, he devises his own kidnapping plot.

Plans go awry as Winn and Asher traverse the English countryside and they find that maybe love isn't as far or impossible as they thought.

 

She was the heiress he intended to kidnap.

 

First in the Mating Habits of Scoundrels series, Lord Holt Takes a Bride, started off as a fun, fluffy road adventure romance. Winn and Asher had a sweet chemistry that brought a much appreciated lightness to these currently heavier real world times. Winn's friends were good secondary characters who got introduced and pleased enough to bring interest to future books in the series but I wish they could have shown up more towards the end as their connection with Winn was missed. Asher came on the page with a lot of intrigue, a treasure map and villainous father, but his connection with his friends was a bit murky and his background with his father ended up feeling more fantastical because of how his father was able to pull off such schemes.

 

It would be simple . . . As long as he didn’t allow anything else—like an inconvenient, passing attraction—to distract him.

 

I enjoyed Winn's character but her constant dragging herself down about her looks became tiring and sad. There is a tiny little side story, reconnecting romance between her parents and due to her or what the reader first perceives as her unhappiness, Winn's mother constantly makes little comments that become not so innocuous because of how they bite, about Winn's weight. Throughout the majority of the story Winn thinks about how even though Asher is acting and saying how attractive she is, that he can't possibly truly be thinking this. The continuous reiterating of these thoughts by Winn somewhat dragged down what the lighter fun tone for me.

 

The Shettlemane title was nothing more than a heap of debt and shame, growing larger by the hour.

 

Like I said, the first half of this was pretty light and fun but the second half had the road romance adventure feeling a bit dragged out as the story seemed to become a bit lost in its place. One too many misadventures, villains chasing Asher because of his father, and Asher in awe of Winn a lot with her putting herself down, it began to meander and slow. Winn's parents' tense relationship actually started to intrigue me more as emotions were brimming from these two as Asher and Winn's began to stall.

 

And you’re the adventure I never expected.”

 

The ending gave us a reveal and misunderstanding that had Winn immediately thinking the worst of Asher and it had a going through the motions angst ending and extremely serendipitous tie-in for Asher that left me wanting a return to the fun, light, and easy feeling from the beginning. The first half was a fun romp, while the second half lost some of the story's great easiness but if you're looking to disappear into a light road romance this would fit the bill and has some promising heroines for future books in the series.

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review 2020-03-15 13:06
Whose Body? - Notes on a Re-read
Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #1) - Dorothy L. Sayers

LoL. This book was so much better on the re-read. Whose Body? was still a far cry from the quality of the rest of the series, but knowing the characters better from the other books gives this story so much more life and depth. 

 

I may have laughed out loud when Peter argued with his brother about Peter's hobby of sleuthing:

‘I do wish you’d keep out of the police courts,’ grumbled the Duke. ‘It makes it so dashed awkward for me, havin’ a brother makin’ himself conspicuous.’

‘Sorry, Gerald,’ said the other, ‘I know I’m a beastly blot on the ’scutcheon.’

‘Why can’t you marry and settle down and live quietly, doin’ something useful?’ said the Duke, unappeased.

‘Because that was a wash-out, as you perfectly well know,’ said Peter. ‘Besides,’ he added cheerfully, ‘I’m bein’ no end useful. You may come to want me your-self; you never know. When anybody comes blackmailin’ you, Gerald, or your first deserted wife turns up unexpectedly from the West Indies, you’ll realise the pull of havin’ a private detective in the family. “Delicate private business arranged with tact and discretion. Investigations undertaken. Divorce evidence a speciality. Every guarantee!” Come, now.’

‘Ass!’ said Lord Denver, throwing the newspaper violently into his armchair.

Hehe. Those of you know, will know. But this made a lot more sense on re-reading. 

I also enjoyed Peter's relationships with all of the other main characters much more because of knowing how these will develop.

 

It is such a strange first novel for a series, tho. There is a lot more of the feel of a Stevenson story to this than there is of Conan Doyle. This is changed in the later books, of course, but on the re-read I was reminded of a particular Stevenson short story (to name it would be a spoiler). 

 

Still, I really liked re-reading this, and would rate the book much higher if the onslaught of Wimsey (which is toned down in the books that follow) weren't such a distraction from the mystery and hadn't, after my first encounter with this book, made me put off reading the second for so long. 

 

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review 2020-03-07 06:26
Book Review: The Quiet / Crazy Easter Day
The Quiet/Crazy Easter Day - Jill Roman Lord

The Quiet Crazy Easter Day is a really cute book. It will make children understand Easter and the season in why we celebrate it. It really is something lovable and enjoyable. The book is padded and good for little ones.

The pictures are vibrant and tell to story. The words rhyme to make it fun. I enjoyed the rhyming though out the book. It is not all that hard to see what the book is about. How would you celebrate if you were there when the lord was reborn.

There no book so far that does this for little children that make it this easy. Little children as young as 2 can look at the pictures and enjoy it as well as children as for can learn to say some of the words. Read along with a parent there. It that sweet and cute.

 

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