Flipping the pages on the calendars this morning, several days past the turn into August, and rather in shock that we are in the eighth month of the year. What happened? Where did the time go?!
Looking over my Century of Books Project list of completed reads, it occurs to me that I may have to buckle down and do some more strategic reading to fill in some of the yawning gaps, namely those in the last three decades of my century, which I decided would cover the years 1900 to 1999. To date I have been reading largely at whim, with oodles of “double-up” years. It’s been fun, but now I need to get serious. 😉
By the numbers:
- Years read and reviewed: 56/100
- “Extra” books read/reviewed: 28
- Grand total to date of Century reviews: 84
- Century years left: 44
- Months of 2014 left: 5/12
- Books-per-month I need to read and review to meet my goal: 9-ish
I do have some qualifiers already read but not yet reviewed, which I haven’t counted, so the last number is not quite as scary as it could be. Though I have just completed my first re-read of the century, too much time having passed since the original reading to allow for a good post. (The Little Straw Wife, by Margaret Belle Houston, first read way back in February.)
I’ve finished one decade of the Century, 1900-1909, and a mostly pleasant one it was, too. A nice mix of classic children’s stories and vintage bestsellers and completely new-to-me discoveries. Here’s the briefly annotated list. (Scroll down for my “best” and “worst” awards.)
- 1900 ~ Unleavened Bread by Robert Grant ~ My rating: 8/10. A self-centered, humourless and hypocritical woman claws her way to the society position she claims to be hers by right of birth. An interesting American novel which foreshadows similar works by Sinclair Lewis.
- 1901 ~ My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin ~ My rating: 8.5/10. Teenage Sybylla struggles against an unkind fate, is wooed, and rejects conventional relationships with men, all set against the blazing background of Australia’s drought-stricken bush in New South Wales.
- 1902 ~ Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling ~ My rating: 7.5/10. A collection on fables explaining how things got the way they are: the Whale with his baleen throat, the Camel with his hump, and the Alphabet’s origin, among others. Some are wonderful for reading out loud to the young ones, others are best enjoyed as interesting period pieces. Good reading for the adults of the family, if you are at all a Kipling aficionado
- 1903 ~ Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin ~ My rating: 7.5/10. The classic juvenile novel about an eleven-year-old girl coming to live with two strict spinster aunts.
- 1904 ~ The Treasure by Selma Lagerlöf ~ My rating: 10/10. An excellent short novella about love and revenge. A 16th Century Scandinavian winter setting and ghosts. Brrr.
- 1905 ~ The Princess Priscilla’s Fortnight by Elizabeth von Arnim ~ My rating: 7.5/10. German Princess Priscilla escapes the courtly life with her elderly friend, the palace librarian. The two set up house in rural England, but soon run into unplanned-for difficulties. A witty light farce with a mildly predictable moral.
- 1906 ~ The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett ~ My rating: 8.5/10. A gorgeous gothic thriller/romance following the varied adventures of two wealthy American sisters as they travel to England ten years apart. Gentle Rosy marries a wicked nobleman; ten years later her younger sister Betty mounts a rescue mission.
- 1907 ~ New Chronicles of Rebecca by Kate Douglas Wiggin ~ My rating: 6.5/10. Further details on Riverboro life, with eventual strong hints as to the ongoing evolution of the relationship between Rebecca and much-older “friend” Adam Ladd.
- 1908 ~ The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart ~ My rating: 5.5/10. Super-confusing and not very mysterious American country house mystery, salvaged somewhat by the amusing narrator, a middle-aged, opinionated, self-described spinster, Miss Rachel Innes. A classic of crime fiction which I’m happy to have ticked off the list, but this reading will likely do me for many years to come. Though I am still keen to read more of MRR’s mysteries; they are definitely enjoyable as well as slightly annoying.
- 1909 ~ A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter ~ My rating: 6/10. Downtrodden but plucky half-orphan Elnora roams the Limberlost Swamp hunting leaves and bugs to finance her higher education.
And the bonus books:
- 1903 ~ Also: Brewster’s Millions by Richard Greaves aka George Barr McCutcheon ~ My rating: 7.5/10. A young man inherits two fortunes, but under strange conditions. He must spend one million dollars – without divulging the existence of the second legacy, and under strict conditions – in order to inherit seven million. Needless to say, his friends think he has gone mad, and much hilarity ensues as they try to save Monty Brewster from himself.
- 1904 ~ Also: Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson ~ My rating: 3.5/10. Thousands loved this when it was first published. One hundred and ten years later, I am less than impressed. An Amazonian jungle romantic tragedy between an aristocratic Venezuelan hiding out from the consequences of a failed political coup, and a mysterious “bird girl” who guards her section of the forest against all intruders.
- 1904 ~ Also: Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter ~ My rating: 7.5/10. One-handed but plucky orphan Freckles wins hearts, vanquishes evildoers, and wins love while employed as a timber guard in the Limberlost Swamp.
- 1905 ~ Also: The Orchid by Robert Grant ~ My rating: 6.5/10. A socialite sells her child to her first husband to finance her second marriage.
- 1906 ~ Also: The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlof ~ My rating: 10/10. An appealing vintage children’s classic. Swedish farm boy Nils is transformed for his misdeeds into elf-size, and is now able to understand the speech of animals. His quest for redemption and a way to break the curse carries him over Sweden on the back of the farm’s white gander. A marvelous read-aloud, standing up well over a hundred years after its original publication.
- 1908 ~ Also: The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp by W.H. Davies ~ My rating: 9/10. The famous poet’s early years as a tramp in Britain and North America.
- 1908 ~ Also: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame ~ My rating: 10/10. Rat and Mole “messing about in boats”; Toad getting up to no good in his dreadfully large motorcar; Badger coming to everyone’s rescue; absolute bookish delight for adults and children alike.
Top 3 “I know I’ll read it again” Books:
- Unleavened Bread by Robert Grant ~ 1900.
- Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin ~ 1903.
- The Princess Priscilla’s Fortnight by Elizabeth von Arnim ~ 1905.
- A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter ~ 1909, tied with Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson ~ 1904.
- Runner Up: Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter ~ 1904.
Hidden Gem Award:
- The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp by W.H. Davies ~ 1908, tied with My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin ~ 1901.
- Runner Up: The Treasure by Selma Lagerlof ~ 1904.
Great Big Disappointment:
- Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson ~ 1904.