Book descriptions

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen—plot summary and analysis

The first novel intended for publication by Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey was originally titled Susan. Completed in 1803, it wasn’t published until 1817, the year of the author’s death. This  coming-of-age novel’s heroine, Catherine Morland, at first young and rather naïve, learns the ways of the world in the course of the narrative.

Set in Bath, England, the fashionable resort city where the Austens lived for a time, Jane Austen critiques young women who put too much stock in appearances, wealth, and social acceptance. Catherine values happiness but not at the cost of compromising one’s values and morals. Read More→

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The Gardenia by Vera Caspary (1952)

Even by her usual standards, Vera Caspary’s novella The Gardenia had a very quick route to the screen. Published in early 1952, producer Alex Gottlieb bought the film rights on September 3, 1952, and engaged Fritz Lang to direct (Caspary had no input into the script).

This overview of The Gardenia, the basis for the renowned 1953 film The Blue Gardenia, is excerpted from A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Fiction of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth ©2022. Reprinted by permission.

By November 24, 1952, the final shooting script was ready, a distribution deal was struck with Warner Brothers on the 27th, Lang began shooting on the 28th, and finished on Christmas Eve. Read More→

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Cimarron by Edna Ferber — the 1930 Novel and the 1931 Film 

Cimarron by Edna Ferber was a 1930 novel by the prolific American author that was quickly adapted to film, earning accolades and winning 1931’s Academy Award for Best Picture. Though it wasn’t the first of Ferber’s novels to be adapted to film, it was a far more expansive (and expensive) production. It paved the way for more Hollywood blockbusters based on her books.

Cimarron (from a Spanish derivation meaning “wild” or “unruly”) takes for its subject the Land Run in Oklahoma territory in 1889. A 1930 review described the book in a nutshell:

“It depicts the opening up of that great territory known as the Run of ’89 — the fantastic scramble when oil was discovered. The story is told through the experience of Yancey Cravat and his young wife who went to seek their fortunes in the new territory. Always a mysterious character with a shadowy past, Cravat is one of Miss Ferber’s best creations.” Read More→

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The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams turns 100

The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) by Margery Williams was published in 1922 and has been in print ever since. The best-known book by British-born author Margery Williams Bianco (1881 – 1944), it has been a children’s classic for generations. In 2022, we celebrate the hundredth anniversary of its publication.

The story is at its heart about the transformative power of love. The original edition was illustrated by William Nicholson, and has been through numerous editions, with artwork by various illustrators.

A 1924 review in The Detroit News observed,  How Toys Become Real is the inner story of The Velveteen Rabbit, but there’s no syrupy moral to it. It’s just that if a toy is loved enough, it finally, through the alchemy of love, becomes real.” Read More→

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Anzia Yezierska on Her Struggle to Write Bread Givers (1925)

Anzia Yezierska (1890 – 1870), a Polish-born, Jewish-American writer was in her early teens when her family immigrated into the United States during the mass Jewish immigration between 1880 to 1924. They settled and lived in the immigrant neighborhood of the East side of Manhattan.

Bread Givers (1925) remains her best-known novel among a body of work that reflected the Jewish immigrant experience in America of the early 1900s. To set this kind of story down with a female perspective was quite a rarity in her time, reflecting the author’s  unflagging determination. Read More→

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