Mrs. Tim of the Regiment

by D. E. Stevenson

Tim accompanies us to the gate, giving jocular advice to Betty as to her behaviour in school towards teachers and fellow scholars. Try to point out to Betty as we walk up the hill that of course it is ‘Only Daddy’s fun’, and she must be very good and quiet and do all she is told; to which Betty replies gaily, ‘Oh yes, I never take any notice of what he says.’ Feel that this is not quite the lesson I intended to impart, but am powerless to put my meaning into words.”

Mrs. Tim of the Regiment was effectively D.E. Stevenson’s first novel. It is steeped in the atmosphere and culture of England between the two world wars. She did write one before but it was 10 years prior. And this one started off her career as a much beloved and popular novelist. The book was originally a diary she wrote as a young wife of an army officer. She lent it to the mother of a new army wife to help her understand what her daughter was getting into. Acting on a suggestion, D.E.S. fictionalized it and it was published to great success. About a year later she continued Mrs. Tim’s adventures (and I use that term generously) with Golden Days. The version I read was the two books combined into one, originally titled Mrs. Tim Christie. I wanted to read it because it is highly rated, was published to great acclaim at the time, and was the book that started her career as an author. It is probably the series she was best known for (There were three more “Mrs. Tim” books to follow: two in the 1940s, one set during the war years, and one shortly after. The last one was published in 1952). The other reason I wanted to read it, was that I remember picking it up as a young girl, always being on the lookout for new authors when I had read and re-read all my favorites. I couldn’t get into it at all. It was a bad choice to start off with and I wish I had picked another one. But I thought that now, knowing and enjoying Ms. Stevenson and “getting” her now that I am very much older (very very), I would give it another try. And of course, there was the bonus that if I really liked it, I would have 3 others in the series to look forward to.

I chose to read it on audible narrated by Christine Rendel. She was excellent and a good actress with all of the different voices, but I found her voice too mature sounding for the young vibrant Mrs. Christie. The first part of the book had a lot of characters which I knew would not be on the scene for long as I knew Mrs. Tim would be moving on sooner or later, so I was not really invested in them. But it was very pleasant and somewhat entertaining. Mrs. Tim, Hester Christie, is a thoroughly charming, sensible, and nice woman. Reading between the lines, we know she is a beauty and is admired and respected by everyone. Her husband, Tim, seems like a good guy, a little typical with his old-fashioned masculine traits both good and amusingly clueless and transparent. Hester is devoted to him and we see him through her eyes, so we are pretty sure he is worthy of her love and returns her devotion. Also, they are the loving parents of Brian, 10, and Betty, 6.

Things pick up when Tim is transferred to Scotland and Hester is invited to visit a new friend, the trenchant, frank, and dignified Mrs. Loudon, at her estate in the Highlands. There we meet Guthrie, Mrs. Loudon’s son, who is in the toils of a frivolous, beautiful, rather common, and thoroughly unsuitable young lady. We have an encounter with a ghost and suffer with Hester when Betty sneaks out to look for kelpies in the river and gets lost in the mists. We help with an elopement between the offspring of two families who have been feuding for hundreds of years and deal with the obnoxious social-climbing Mrs. McTurk. Most interestingly we have the appearance on the scene of the handsome and amusing Major Morley, a friend from Captain Tim’s previous posting, who is head over heels in love with Hester. She is blissfully unaware of his feelings, but they are obvious to everyone else. Through it all, we have the muddled reminiscences of Mrs. Loudon’s garrulous elderly cousin. It is charming and amusing, especially with the wry perspective of the lovely inside and out Mrs. Christie. Unfortunately, all of the little threads end somewhat anticlimactically, with the least drama possible. In the end, even Major Morley leaves the scene right before Tim’s anticipated arrival, eliminating any chance for any kind of interesting interaction between the trio.

All in all, I did like the book, but in the context of listening to it while doing other things. I kept saying, “maybe I’ll give it one more session before moving on” to listen to some very anticipated recently acquired audibles. I kept giving it one more day until, before I knew it, I was painlessly finished with the book. But I probably won’t read the others in the series.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


By Rainbow Rowell

“I’m sort of… coming off a bad relationship”
“When did it end?”
“Slightly before it started.”

This book was not for me. If I hadn’t been listening to it on my way to and from work and when walking, I probably would not have finished it. On the other hand, I may have liked it better if I had read it instead. It got pretty tedious with the To: Jennifer Scribner-Snyder From Beth Fremont and visa versa with every email of which this book is mostly comprised. You can’t skip over it when you’re listening to it. I found Lincoln hopeless and sad and the girls silly and uninteresting. Beth and Lincoln didn’t even meet until a few pages from the end. I didn’t laugh once. Rainbow Rowell has a good reputation and rave reviews from almost all readers. I don’t get it. I’m willing to blame this on the format and give her another chance at some point. This was her first book so maybe she gets better

Rating: 1 out of 5.

March 2, 2018

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet

By Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

Earlier tonight, Caroline asked me to take a turn about the room. She’s gotten this new fitness band that buzzes when she’s been sitting for too long.

If you are going to read this, read this using your Kindle app, rather than your Kindle. That way you can hit the included links, and go right to the YouTube episodes that this epistolary type novel accompanies. I did enjoy this modern take on Pride and Prejudice even with only bothering to look at a handful of the episodes. The updates to the 19th century novel were cleverly and humorously done. Kitty is Lydia’s cat; Mary is a goth-emo accountant major and cousin; Mr. Collins is a tech startup C.E.O and Catherine de Bourgh is a venture capitalist. Instead of our swim coach Wickham seducing our lovable party-girl Lydia, and promising to marry her,  he tricks her into making a sex-tape and then ransoms it for money. Every parallel with the original is fresh and funny. It actually does provide some insights into the dilemmas and conflicts in the beloved Austen novel that modern readers will enjoy.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

August 18, 2017

Every Boy’s Got One

By Meg Cabot

“I’ve never enjoyed myself more than I have the past forty-eight hours, during which I’ve been trapped in a car with one of the worst drivers I’ve ever seen, run up the Spanish Steps and then down again so I could be on time to wait in line to perjuer myself at the American consulate. And I’d like to continue doing those sorts of thing with you on a regular basis for the foreseeable future.”

Every Boy’s Got One is another fizzy romance just like the previous two in the series. Again, it is written all in emails, and journals. I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as the first two. The use of the epistolary form was handled clumsily and lazily in this one, to the point that our heroine is transcribing a climactic conversation while it is happening and the hero is actually commenting on the font she is using. Self-parody on the part of Meg Cabot? Maybe. But if so, it was self-indulgent and maybe a whiff disrespectful to the reader? Maybe? I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

It was seriously lacking much of a plot. In the previous two, we had an almost murder mystery, mistaken Identity, quirky and funny secondary characters, vicious office politics, serious legal problems, and really bad people to root against. Other than the two protagonists misunderstanding and disliking each other at first and how they come to value each other and fall in love in the course of the book, there isn’t much to this one. All problems and conflicts are wiped away fairly easily and “off stage” albeit cutely. There was no anticipation of how a major conflict, conundrum, or misunderstanding was going to be solved. Also, the romance struck me as a mutual crush, rather than a great love. Ironically, this was based on Meg Cabot’s real-life elopement with her husband of 25 years!
That all said, it was cute and amusing, and kept me reading, chuckling, and engaged.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

February 11, 2019

The Boy Next Door

By Meg Cabot

“It’s only until Mrs. Friedlander gets better.

And when is THAT going to be? Earth to Mel. Come in, Mel. The woman is in a COMA. Okay? She is COMATOSE. I think some alternative arrangements for the woman’s pets need to be made. You are a DOORMAT. A COMATOSE woman is using you as a DOORMAT.

A delightful frothy romance written entirely in emails to and from our heroine and her friends, love interest, coworkers, family, and acquaintances. It is well-written and engaging. The protagonists are likable, even endearing. I didn’t think anything could be lighter than Sophie Kinsella, but apparently Meg Cabot has managed to make her adult novels even lighter (if this is representative) and just as fun. It is utterly predictable and I usually do like more depth and emotion, but I couldn’t resist the charm. It is full of cultural references (who knew Winona Ryder dated Chris Noth?!) which dated it considerably, but was also part of it’s quirky nostalgic appeal, for me. I can’t resist going on to another one immediately.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

September 10, 2018

Dear Mr. Knightley

By Katherine Reay

I thought I would really really love this book. I like the two other books I read by the author. I thought they were well written. I love Daddy-Long-Legs and Jane Austen, and epistolary novels in general. But I didn’t love this. I’m not going to rant and rave about it. I will just say that the main reason was that I didn’t like Sam, the heroine. I didn’t understand her, I was bored by her, and she was a real pill throughout the whole book. I was over her at the 4% mark when she was at the end of her rope and out of nowhere she was gifted a full scholarship to Northwestern’s prestigious School of Journalism, and she wanted to ungratefully wheedle out of journalism and into English literature. And the book itself, Sam’s journey to be her real self, whatever that means, was so long, repetitive, and boring. I don’t understand why people cared about her and loved her so, like the Muirs and Alec. Maybe because she looked like Anne Hathaway? And since I didn’t value Sam, I didn’t get the romance that went on and on. And then she turned on him for no reason (not talking about the big reveal here, but her rage when he went to New York.) I did like this wise quote towards the end:

Self-protection keeps you from love, Mr. Knightley—all love. I am so sad at how I’ve kept them at a distance—the Muirs, Alex, Father John, Kyle, Hannah . . . anyone and everyone who has ever stood by me. I played God in our relationships. I determined their value and their worth by how much I let them in, by how much I let them determine my worth. I’m not God.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

July 7, 2020

Dear Enemy

By Jean Webster

“Dear Judy: Your letter is here. I have read it twice, and with amazement. Do I understand that Jervis has given you, for a Christmas present, the making over of the John Grier Home into a model institution, and that you have chosen me to disburse the money? Me – I, Sallie McBride, the head of an orphan asylum! My poor people, have you lost your senses, or have you become addicted to the use of opium, and is the raving of two fevered imaginations? I am exactly as well fitted to take care of one hundred children as to become the curator of a zoo.”

“You remember that illuminated text over the dining-room door–“The Lord Will Provide.” We’ve painted it out, and covered the spot with rabbits. It’s all very well to teach so easy a belief to normal children, who have a proper family and roof behind them; but a person whose only refuge in distress will be a park bench must learn a more militant creed than that. The Lord has given you two hands and a brain and a big world to use them in. Use them well, and you will be provided for; use them ill, and you will want,” is our motto, and that with reservations.”

This is an old favorite from my childhood. A sequel to the much more famous Daddy-Long-Legs, it is a much better book. Sallie, the heroine, is a charmer. Open, gregarious, brave, funny, compassionate, and a modern woman. There is a sweet romance, and some real drama and tear-jerking moments. Sallie is a society girl who takes over the orphanage that her friend Judy from DLL was raised in. She is bored with her easy meaningless life. She takes the old-fashioned behind-the-times orphanage by storm. We learn the stories of the orphans, some funny, some heart-rending. Sallie and Judy’s friends and Sallie’s fiancé have minor roles. Sandy, the local Scottish doctor, plays a major role and has a backstory of his own. One of the modern ideas Sallie has in her toolbelt is, unfortunately, eugenics. Today, the notion is anathema, but back then it was considered to be modern science and embraced by many intelligent professionals. Try to ignore those parts.

The novel is a series of Sallie’s letters to Judy and others detailing her triumphs and challenges in her new position. I love epistolary novels because of this book. Oh! and the letters are illustrated with Sallie’s very cute drawings!

 **5 out of 5 stars**

Rating: 5 out of 5.

April 3, 2018

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

By Mary Ann Shaffer

Some Books you Read, Some Books you Enjoy. But Some Books Swallow you up Heart and Soul.—-Joanne Harris

I was completely transported by this book. It was partly on its own merits, but also because it forcibly reminded me of another book which is very dear to my heart, Dear Enemy by Jean Webster. It has been a long time that I kept putting off finishing a book because I didn’t want it to end. I researched Charles Lamb, the Guernsey Islands, Its occupation by the Germans, read about the upcoming movie, went back and read the first several letters at the beginning of the book, looked at 3 episodes of the mini-series Island at War, etc. etc. I really can’t say more. It just meant too much to me: “I’ll write no more of this, and I hope you’ll understand if I do not care to speak of it. As Seneca says, “Light griefs are loquacious, but the great are dumb.” There was grief in this book, but there was so much more besides.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

March 30, 2018