Monday, March 30, 2009

Sue Barton, Visiting Nurse

Helen Dore Boylston, il. Major Felten (jacket)
1938, Little, Brown

Not many of the houses looked prosperous and most of them were grimy; yet the street had charm, for traces of another era lingered in the crookedness of windows and doors, in the casual little yards, in old-fashioned wooden porches elaborate with scrollwork. New York roared around the street and above it. An icy wind from the harbor swept through it, blowing paper into the faces of pedestrians and tearing at the "For Rent" sign swinging over the door of the smallest house on the street - a tiny red brick house with green shutters and a white door.

Sue Barton and her friend Kit Craig have graduated from school and come to New York City (all 3 boroughs) to work for the Henry Street Visiting Nurse Service, a branch founded by Lillian Wald to improve slum conditions. In distinctive blue uniforms and toting large medical bags, they learn on the job about the challenges facing poor immigrants in neighborhoods all over New York. Their good friend Constance Halliday is not there because she's going to get married, but Sue has postponed her marriage to Dr. William Barry to work for a few years. Sue loves her work with Henry Street, and the excitement and novelty of New York, but as the year wears on and Bill gets impatient for their wedding, she feels torn between the job she loves and the man who loves her.

For a heroine in 1938, Sue's pretty gutsy about her own career ambitions. She does, finally, find a compromise to giving up her work and giving up her boy, but she gives him some pretty tough arguments first. The slums and streets of the city are given the same sort of colorful/crowded/exciting treatment that they usually get, and remind you irresistably of a Cagney movie. Descriptions of the poor immigrants and blacks Sue works with feel dated, particularly some dialogue, but the author clearly wants to communicate the both the wide range of peoples in New York and their essential decency, which are both very modern and pleasing attributes. Sue helps a depressed young Polish girl, an Irish child, a Polish woman, and assorted people of no distinct ethnicity, as well as several African-Americans (not so called in the book, of course); more importantly, she is helped by a bustling Italian woman, an Irish cop, a rabbi, and others. One oddity is the utter lack of any Catholic priests, considering the many Poles, Irish and Italians.

The style is plain and not particularly evocative or involving. The character of Sue is strong and vibrant, and the engine for the whole book. Her delight in the streets of New York, the people she meets, etc., lend the rather prosaic descriptions their power. The imagination fills in quite a lot from other books and from movies. There is a mystery, a romance, and a wedding, but the main story is the hard work of the nurses in a big city teeming with poor and working people.

Other Books

Sue Barton
Sue Barton: Student Nurse
Sue Barton: Senior Nurse
Sue Barton: Visiting Nurse
Sue Barton: Rural Nurse
Sue Barton: Superintendent Of Nurses
Sue Barton: Neighborhood Nurse
Sue Barton: Staff Nurse

Carol Page
Carol Goes Backstage
Carol Plays Summer Stock
Carol On Tour

Other information
The Tiny Pineapples website contains a frighteningly complete list of nursing-themed books.

Other Editions


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Along The Shore

Along The Shore: Tales Of The Sea
L.M. Montgomery, edited by Rhea Wilmshurst
1989, Bantam

... something broke loose in her soul and overwhelmed her, like a wave of the sea. She must go at once - at once - at once. Not a moment could she wait.

Rhea Wilmshurst, a professional editor and Anne fan discovered that Montgomery had produced a very large volume of short stories that had been uncollected. She pulled the best and grouped them by theme. In this collection, all the stories are linked by the ocean, a central Montgomery locale providing romance and drama.

There are sixteen stories in this collection, so I will comment only on a few.

In The Magical Bond Of The Sea, a fisherman's teenaged daughter, restless and longing to see the world, is tempted away from her home village by a wealthy couple who want to adopt her. Typical Mongtomery themes - a poor child of unusual spirit rouses a wealthy person's familial interest; a sensual young woman misunderstood as proud is as elemental as the natural world around her, and can only marry a man of similar background; wealth and culture pall as nature and simplicity do not.

A young minister falls deeply in love with a mysterious young woman who lives in isolated, churchless freedom with her old heathen of a father in Four Winds. A mystery, romance and classic moralistic ending, it's by far the most Montgomery story in the collection, and very enjoyable.

In A Sandshore Wooing, a flibbertygibbit becomes entangled in high romance when an ardent suitor and a grimly determined aunt collide. Montgomery's capable of light humor, but this is an unusual heroine for her, and it's a nice change of pace.

In A Strayed Allegiance, a beautiful, dignified woman faces the agony of having her lover fall instantly out of love with her and madly in love with another of Montgomery's untamed beauties, all while maintaining her civilized manners and nobility. A rare portrait of a woman too decent to fight back, and too hurt to recognize that the cause of the pain isn't worth debasing herself.

In The Waking Of Helen, a thoughtless young artist arouses the passions of a neglected young woman, then panics and 'drops' that he's got a fiance.

And one comment on A House Divided Against Itself, the final story in the book. In it, two ornery brothers share a house until one brings home a statuette he's won at a raffle. A statuette of a naked woman. The story is quaintly amusing, but the final declarationhas one brother furious that the other one has painted the statuette bronze. It was bad enough to have a nude female figure in their house, it went against decency, but...

"Think I'm going to have an unclothed nigger sitting up there?"

Okay, the story was published in 1930. In Canada. And the characters were cranky old white men living in an isolated rural area. And hugely sexist, weird old white man, to boot. But, still...

The Magical Bond Of The Sea
The Life-Book Of Uncle Jesse
Mackering Out In The Gulf
Fair Exchange And No Robbery
Natty Of Blue Point
The Light On The Big Dipper
An Adventure On Island Rock
How Don Was Saved
A Soul That Was Not At Home
Four Winds
A Sandshore Wooing
The Unhappiness Of Miss Farquhar
A Strayed Allegiance
The Waking Of Helen
Young Si
A House Divided Against Itself

About the Author

About the Editor
As a professional editor myself,I appreciate the comment about her editorial skills at this memorial from her alma mater, the University of Toronto

Books by L.M. Montgomery
Anne Of Green Gables (1908)
Anne Of Avonlea (1909)
Anne Of The Island (1915)
Anne Of Windy Poplars
Anne's House Of Dreams (1917)
Anne Of Ingleside
Rainbow Valley (1919)
Rilla Of Ingleside (1921)
Chronicles Of Avonlea (1912)
Further Chronicles Of Avonlea (1920)
Emily Of New Moon (1923)
Emily Climbs (1925)
Emily's Quest (1927)
The Story Girl (1911)
The Golden Road (1913)
Pat Of Silver Bush (1932)
Mistress Pat (1935)
Kilmeny Of The Orchard (1910)
The Blue Castle (1926)
Magic For Marigold (1929)
A Tangled Web (1931)
Jane Of Lantern Hill (1937)
The Road To Yesterday (1974)
The Doctor's Sweetheart (1979)

Short Story collections edited by Rhea Wilmshurst
Akin To Anne: Tales Of Other Orphans (1988)
Among The Shadows: Tales From The Darker Side (1990)
After Many Days: Tales Of Time Passed (1991)
Against The Odds: Tales Of Achievement (1993)
At The Altar: Matrimonial Tales (1994)
Across The Miles: Tales Of Correspondence (1995)
Christmas With Anne, And Other Holiday Stories (1995)

Anne of Green Gables websites

There are many websites and forums devoted to Anne and her creator. One clearinghouse of them is Tickled Orange

Montgomery's books star Prince Edward Island, which has responded gratefully to the tourism results.

Prince Edward Island tourism site

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pagan's Crusade
Catherine Jinks
1992, Omnibus Books (Australia)
2003, Candlewick Press (U.S.)

They've come at last, after all this time. The Infidels. Practically on the doorstep. And it's not a surprise. That's what's so awful. Everyone born here - we all knew they would come. Everyone born here is born waiting.

In 1187, Pagan Kidrouk is a Jerusalem street urchin with a penchant for making unwelcome wisecracks to much, much larger men. He flees a lot of troublesome gambling debts by taking a job inside the highly secured walls of the headquarters of the Templar knights, where a reluctant but understaffed Order makes him a squire. The orphan and former monastery brat is not thrilled to be assigned to Lord Roland, possibly the most sincere and noble Templar knight in existence, and Lord Roland has his doubts about Pagan. But history overwhelms all their concerns when Saladin leads his forces to the very gates of the city.

From Tancred's Tower, you can see their flags quite clearly - flashes of color in the fitful gusts of wind. A hot, dry wind. Kicking up dust in their faces. Carrying snatches of sound across the city walls: the babble of voices, the clash of iron, the whinnying of horses and mules. Very quiet on this side. Everyone's watching. Like birds in a nest, watching a cat at the base of the tree.

Pagan's cheerful jokes and boundless energy are just right for his age and character; and Roland manages to be nearly saintly without being dull. The affection between the two is convincing, and the story balances neatly between convincing historic accuracy and an inaccurate but more appealing modern sensibility.

Other Books by Author
Jinks has written quite a few books in various categories, from children's to adults. The Pagan series includes:
Pagan In Exile (1994)
Pagan's Vows (1995)
Pagan's Scribe (1995)
Pagan's Daughter (2006) (published as Babylonne in the U.S. in 2008)

In Print?
Candlewick Press (U.S.)
Allen & Unwin (Australia)

Author's Website

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Aren't You The One Who..?
Frances A. Miller
1983, Fawcett Juniper

In this sequel to The Truth Trap, 16-year-old Matt McKendrick is living with the Ryders after convincing Mitch Ryder, a police detective, that he is innocent of the murder of his little sister. But there aren't any other suspects in the case, and the impression left on the public was that Matt killed deaf 7-year-old Katie. Which leaves Matt, who was attacked by an angry crowd in the previous book, anxious about meeting new people.

Every time he stuck his neck outside the Ryders' door, or got on a bus, or walked into a classroom, he was going to have to be ready for someone to say "Hey, aren't you the guy who killed a little girl and got away with it?"

This fear only intensifies when he visits Idaho, where he lived until his parents' death in a car accident months earlier, and discovers even his best friend since childhood, Gary, had assumed he'd murdered Katie. Betrayed, he wonders if he can really trust anyone to see him and disregard the newspaper stories.

Warring with this fear is his own impatient sense of duty and his natural friendliness. Jogging around the neighborhood, he runs into a vicious dog and finds himself arguing with the animal's careless owner over the hazzard it poses. And when he meets the Kennetts, he makes his first friends in Los Angeles. Like him, they're all athletes; Will's a runner, Meg rides, and Cary swims. When school starts and Matt has to cope with a few difficult people (including a coach who refuses to let Matt run on his track team), they're on his side. But the Kennetts have problems of their own. Their mother died only recently, and their father has withdrawn, leaving oldest sibling Meg to handle everything on her own. And on top of it all, their friend Don, who is limited by some sort of mental slowness with schoolwork but a natural with animals, is threatened with institutionalization by his foster parents. Matt, a natural defender of others, is outraged and joins Meg to help Don find a full-time job.

More insidiously, Matt's hard year has made him permanently aware that he can't take anything for granted. Not people's good impression and not the kindness of the Ryders, which he is achingly aware is not the same as the endless natural tolerance of a real family for a teenaged boy who speaks his mind. When Ryder, a temperamentally brusque man, is impatient with Matt's crusading zeal, the formerly headstrong teenager hesitates to push the issue, fearful of being thrown out if he angers the man too much.

Matt barely heard this apology. Mouth frozen around a half-formed sound, he stood paralyzed, seeing not the powerful police detective but a tired, generous man who had taken in a kid in trouble and given him everything he needed. Not because he had to, like a parent, but because he wanted to. He could stop wanting to...

And his own fear and desire to stay on Ryder's good side make him hate himself and distrust his own position in the household, leading to a misunderstanding that could prove catastrophic.

An involving novel which by its very nature is less overtly dramatic than The Truth Trap, but which deals believably with how the two main players in that drama, Matt and Ryder, might cope with the aftermath of the murders, the accusations, the assaults and the poisonous suspicions between them. It also introduces several characters who have also suffered a hard year, resisting the temptation to make Matt the saddest character ever.

Other books by the Author
The Truth Trap (1980)
Losers And Winners (1986)
Cutting Loose (1991)

Author Website