Book Reviews

Thus Far and No Further by Rumer Godden (1946)

Thus Far and No Further by Rumer Godden is this prolific midcentury novelist and memoirist’s first memoir, published in 1946. It chronicles her brief sojourn in Kashmir India, where she lived briefly with her two young daughters on a tea plantation.

Though not as enduring as her novels nor her other memoirs, this slim book, her sixth overall, was well received by readers and critics.

Godden’s characteristically evocative writing captures the time she spent in Rungli Rungliot in Darjeeling in Northeast India. Some of the editions of this now rather obscure book are, in fact, titled Rungli Rungliot. Read More→

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The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery — Two 1926 Reviews

L.M. Montgomery (1874 – 1942), the Canadian author best known for her Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon series, wrote just two novels intended for adults — A Tangled Web (1931) and The Blue Castle (1926). Presented here are two reviews from the year of the book’s initial publication.

Now in the public domain, The Blue Castle has been published and republished in numerous editions in print and audio. While the book may not be as beloved as Montgomery’s more famous series, it did make its mark.

For the first time, the story is being adapted for film. It’s hard to say when (or ultimately if) it will be released, but here’s the news of its potential adaptation. Read More→

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Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers (1941)

Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941) by Carson McCullers suffered a fate common to sophomore efforts that follow hugely successful first novels. Just twenty-three when her first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, came out the year before (1940),  it established her as a literary wunderkind.

Reflections in a Golden Eye, conversely, received mostly poor reviews, critics unsure of what to make of the young author’s use of the literary device termed “the grotesque” in fiction — a hallmark of fellow Southern author Flannery O’Connor and others.

McCullers’ work was primarily associated with the genre of Southern Gothic, which the Oxford Research Encyclopedia defines as follows:  “Characteristics of Southern Gothic include the presence of irrational, horrific, and transgressive thoughts, desires, and impulses; grotesque characters; dark humor, and an overall angst-ridden sense of alienation.”

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Zora Neale Hurston’s Seraph on the Suwanee: Views from 1948 & Beyond

Seraph on the Suwanee, Zora Neale Hurston’s fourth and last published novel (1948), was an outlier  among her works, which included numerous short stories and ethnographic collections. The reason: it was her only book that was written about white people — specifically, Florida’s “white crackers.”

Exploring the cultural differences between the meek and colorless heroine, Arvay and her handsome, enterprising husband Jim, the novel received mixed-to-positive reviews by the white press.

Some reviewers bent over backwards to praise the fact that a Black writer produced a novel that wasn’t about race issues, bringing to light the lives and dialect of the turpentine people of Florida. Read More→

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The Bird’s Nest by Shirley Jackson — three 1954 reviews

Of the six novel Shirley Jackson (1916 – 1965) completed in her lifetime, The Bird’s Nest (1954) is one of the lesser known and read, compared with the 1948 short story, “The Lottery,” or her late novels, The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962).

Yet like all of Jackson’s works, this one is deserving of reconsideration. Though just forty-eight when she died, she left behind a large body of fiction and nonfiction works that have influenced generations of writers who came after her.

Elizabeth Richmond, the novel’s main character, has multiple personality disorder. As her psyche splinters, she harbors Bess, Beth, and Betsy. You’ll find a thorough plot summary here. Read More→

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