Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Place of Her Own (1962)

A Place of Her Own
Ann Mari Falk (translated from the Swedish by Annabelle MacMillan)
Copyright 1962
English translation 1964 by Harcourt Brace & World Inc.

"Since when did you begin to classify peopl eas 'nice' and 'not so nice'?" Lottie inquired.
"Yesterday," Stina said. "Back home everyone is pleasant."

15-year-old Stina Sandblom is leaving her island home after the death of her parents, and going to the big city, Stockholm, to live with her recently married sister Lottie and her husband Olaf. 

The young couple is welcoming, but their apartment is tiny, Lottie is pregnant, and Stina finds adjusting to her new school difficult.  A quiet person, she is bothered by teasing about her rural accent, and distracted by how hard it is to study in the cramped living quarters. But one girl seems nice, and Stina decides to take a chance  and invite Astrid home for a visit. 

And of course, a romance.  Stina falls for Markus, a studious and nerdy boy she treats with more affection than passion until he helps her solve a major problem - Lottie's newborn and the fraying nerves of his young parents is making study impossible.

Oh, how the baby cried! Olie paced the floor, holding his son in his arms. Finally he would begin to gurgle contentedly and put his fist in his mouth, but the minute he was put back in his basket, the noisy concert began afresh... But now Olie and Lottie had begun to quarrel over the most trivial matters - things they would have laughed at a few months before.

Nice problem novel from Europe.


About the Author
She seems to have written a number of books in various genres – some are clearly children’s picture books, some seem to be murder mysteries (going by the covers), but only one is pretty obviously also a young adult novel, Who Is Erika (1959)


Other editions

1972, Scholastic Book Services

Monday, April 4, 2016

Book Search!

A reader writes:

Hello.  I am on a quest to remember a book I read a long time ago.  I THINK the book involved twins.  One part I remember clearly, the girl or girls were giving tours in an old house.  They accidentally found a loose panel in a stair railing.  In it was a letter written by a man that was in love with the then owner of the house.  She was told about the letter and realized her love from long ago hadn't deserted her, he was waiting for her.  It was a touching story in a great book AND I can't remember the title!  Can anyone help me?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Vicki’s Mysterious Friend (1947)

Vicki’s Mysterious Friend
Emma Atkins Jacobs, il. Jean MacLaughlin
1947, The John C. Winston Company

Her upstairs room was none too warm in winter; so Vicki wriggled herself into a faded brown wool jersey and jerked the side zipper snugly into place.

A very promising beginning, with clothing porn.  In a small city in Washington, nineteen-year-old Vicki Burnett has been stand-in mother for her four younger siblings since their mother’s sudden death five years earlier.  She (of course) has someone to do the heavy lifting in Aunt Bertha, but it’s to Vicki that all the million small chores come – keep Bob (14) from drifting into trouble with his pals, wrangling the small children Donald (7) and chatty Susan and, most of all, dealing with pretty, popular little bulldozer…er, sister, Margery.  As the book opens, Margery blows into Vicki’s bedroom to demand big sis do some sewing for her (she’s got a hot date). Vicki weakly protests she has to work on her sketches (she’s a budding interior designer in college) but capitulates quickly.

At that moment the door burst open and Margery swept in. She wore a dark gray Chesterfield coat with a scarlet beret and mittens. Gold-blond curls framed her gay young face. Her eyes were very blue and her saucy mouth was vividly accented with cherry-red lipstick. She carried a green frock, which she tossed on the bed.

Somehow, it’s obvious the underlying theme of this book is going to be sister rivalry.  And indeed, a handsome young man soon arrives at the door.  He has nearly killed Donald, who was sledding on a dangerous street.  The kid’s fine, so we’re told – he then vanishes from the book.  He existed only to bring together Brian Royce with the mostly legal female members of the family.  They will fight over him like cats over a fish head.

And then we switch gears and discover that their father is sick.  He owns a bakery and his hard work and stress over supporting a large family have given him a “bad digestive condition” and his doctor says he needs a six months break in a warmer climate – say, southern California – to recover fully.  He stresses over who will run the business, and Vicki volunteers.

For a while, we watch Vicki struggle mildly to learn the baking business and make inexpensive décor changes to the shop and sign. She realizes how hard her father’s worked to support them all, and begins to wonder if she really wants to finish that design course instead of staying with the family business.

And then we switch out again.  While the above action was going on, Margery and Vicki had been jousting for the McGuff.. er, Brian Royce.  He seems a swell guy, charms the family, dates both sisters genteelly.  But Bob, drifting into a tough part of town, finds Royce in a seedy bar. The man manipulates Bob, who’s found himself in a bit of a argument with the bar owner, into keeping his mouth shut about seeing Bob in this disreputable place. 

The first half is snappy and interesting enough, if not fully realized. The mystery that begins with Royce’s strange, unsavory behavior simply ruins the book.

Other books by Emma Atkins Jacobs
The Secret Spring (1944)
Far West Summer (1949)
Trailer Trio (1942)
Smooth Sailing (1954)
A Chance To Belong (1953)
For Each A Dream (1958)

Kirkus review

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Book search!

A reader writes:
I am looking for a book printed sometime in the 1940 or 1950s. Set in pioneer America about a young woman, poor relation, unpaid servant type being forced to marry much older wealthy abusive widower. Rescued by long lost brother taken as a child during Indian raids. Girl is taken to woods by brother taught to  live in woods as mountain man type. Brother halls build sturdy cabin and such. Then one day disappears back to life he misses leaving sister to fend for self. After much time she rescues man from marauding Indians. Escape to Fort rescued at last minute by brother who has reverted to Indian. (Long but thought more detail better.)

I have to say, this one sounds wonderful and I'd like to read it myself.  Some of it is similar to a very, very good book from 1946 called Moccasin Trail by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. I don't think it's the same book, though.   Anyone?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

More long-lost books

Two more book requests!

1) I'm looking for a vintage teen novel from the fifties or sixties about a girl who goes out for cheerleader. On the day of tryouts she realizes she has chosen an outfit that looks almost like the uniform--white sweater and navy blue skirt. She's embarrassed about that but she winds up making the squad and a bunch of new friends.

2) I'm looking for a teen novel about a girl going to Marde Gras for the first time. She winds up walking thru the streets alone. At first she enjoys her freedom but then she playfully sticks her hands in a fountain that is changing colors. It turns red and that reminds her of blood. It's sort of a gothic mystery novel.

The first doesn't ring a bell for me, but the second reminds me of Phyllis Whitney, who wrote many gothic mysteries and some for teens. She did write a New Orealeans-set book, Creole Holiday (1959). Anyone else?


Monday, September 21, 2015

Another lost book

Another reader in search of a long-lost teen novel.  Anyone recall this one?

I'm looking for a book where a young girl was attacked from behind, hospitalized and was sent drugged chocolates which her nurses ate.  She recovered and went home to her father, David's estate.  Her boyfriend, a photographer, turned out to be the bad guy.  Her father's partner, Blair/Bruin protected her as best he could from everything,  Something about a boat explosion at the end.  Thanks if you can help me find this book!!


Monday, September 7, 2015

Flair for Fashion (1967)

Flair for Fashion
Betty Ferm
1967, Julian Messner
A Career Romance for Young Moderns

Her black hair was brushed to perfection and capped her head in a casual, to the shoulder length. A new white lace blouse enlivened the dark V of her jacket, and just the right amount of powder duster the tip of her slightly tilted nose.

And thus are we introduced to Ellen Matthews, en route to New York to claim her prize from fashion school; a six-month internship with Countess Gardella at the House of Etienne. 

She gave the gown a pin-tucked shirt waist bodice with a long, cuffed sleeve. The suggested fabric to be used was chiffon, with a low-cut matching colored slip. She added a billowing skirt and indicated that the half-inch belt was to have a round buckle made of the same chiffon.

This design wins her the internship, and is later dubbed Black Magic. It not only wins Ellen her shot at New York success, it will affect all her relationships at the House of Etienne.  Starting with the Countess’s son, Tony.  Because the Countess is ill when Ellen reaches New York, and Tony is in charge.  And her introduction to Tony is to overhear him say he needs an experienced assistant, not “some callow kid who’s still wet behind the ears.”

Meanwhile, in Ellen’s personal life, she’s bunking with conveniently placed relative Aunt Laura, who lives in New York and is largely dismissed by Ellen and her cozy nuclear family for being a finicky spinster. Already interested in the Saint Louis ingénue is handsome blond ad man Bill Jennings, whose company handled the contest for the House of Etienne.  Bill’s a slick native New Yorker whose innate sneakiness fascinates and repels Ellen in equal amounts.  And of course, she ends up with a thing for her dark, suave, faintly French boss, Tony. 

Extreme amounts of clothing porn.  Ferm describes what virtually everyone is wearing in virtually every scene, and makes it clear that this is Ellen’s fascination in life.  Which is great. 

He was very handsome in a black mohair suit with a woven silk tie. He wore a French-cuffed white shirt with jeweled cuff links that matched his tie stud….

The descriptions are rather flat and overdone.  This side is rather dull, for once. 

But the motivations, and the tale of a young, rather naïve girl thinking over her instinctive reactions to various situations – those are wonderful.  At one point, Ellen giggles at the complicated process of ordering wine, and Bill tells her something she had never considered before – that the fashion world involved more than creative design, that ordering wine and being a social creature was part of the business as well.  In another fine moment, Ellen’s assumptions about a fat friend – and about her boring, old maid aunt - are exploded. Just as Ellen is mentally giving both women – one thin and colorless, the other fat and dressed in loud patterns – a makeover, fat Mrs. Boorman stuns her:

“Of course,” Mrs. Boorman remarked, as they sat down at the table, “I could look even slimmer if I wore solid colors.” Ellen almost dropped her tomato juice. It had never occurred to her that Mrs. Boorman understood that.  She had assumed the heavy-set woman chose her flamboyant clothes from a lack of judgement.

Mrs. Boorman continues that she kept up with the styles for years, obediently changing with the times to suit each era.

“Then I decided to take a stand. I picked the colorful dresses I liked best and stuck with them. My daughters are horrified, but I’m happy.”

The romances were dull, the 1960’s swinging New York scenes hysterical –

Greenwich Village was alive with activity. Ellen caught glimpses of a dungareed girl with one blond braid down her back, a thin, bearded fellow with a canvas under his arm, a couple swaying jerkily outside a nightclub to a drum beat that echoed savagely from within…

- and Ellen’s career plots were as predictable as the romances.  But the underlying characterizations were very good, and the ideas good.  The larger teen romance itself was just not good.

Kirkus review