Literary Analyses

“Oho, What Next?” Stella Benson’s Edit of Pull Devil, Pull Baker (1933)

In the third chapter of Pull Devil, Pull Baker, “Oho, What Next? …” Stella Benson questions her role in this book: “Sometimes, I wonder whether I am editing the Count de Savine or he me. What seems to me the extreme remoteness of his point of view makes me quite giddy.”

This excerpt is from Nicola Darwood’s Afterword to Pull Devil, Pull Baker, originally published in 1933 and reissued by Boiler House Press (2022). All quotations come from the latter edition. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. Read More→

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Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (1814) — Plot summary and analysis

Jane Austen by Sarah Fanny Malden (1889) offers a 19th-century view of Jane Austen’s works. The following analysis and plot summary of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (1814) focuses on her third published novel, and the one considered most controversial.

Mansfield Park is the story of Fanny Price, sent by her impoverished family to be raised in the household of a wealthy aunt and uncle. The story follows her into adulthood and is a commentary on class, family ties, marriage, and the status of women. Read More→

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Elizabeth X, or The Secret of Elizabeth by Vera Caspary

Prolific American author Vera Caspary’s last published novel, Elizabeth X, was released first in the U.K. in 1978, the year before her autobiography, The Secrets of Grown-ups. It was reissued in the U.S. the following year as The Secret of Elizabeth.

This analysis of Elizabeth X, or The Secret of Elizabeth by Vera Caspary is excerpted from A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Fiction of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth ©2022. Reprinted by permission. Read More→

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Vera Caspary’s The Man Who Loved his Wife (& Other Diary-Driven Fiction)

“The trouble with being the author of one of the all-time classics of suspense is that people keep expecting you to be that good again; and I suppose I must regretfully say that Vera Caspary’s The Man Who Loved His Wife is no Laura,” began Anthony Boucher’s February 20, 1966 review in the New York Times.

“But it is an intelligent and largely persuasive novel of a laryngectomy subject with a powerful death wish,” continued Boucher’s review, “ and was it himself or one of his family that fulfilled the desire?

I suspect that Mrs. Caspary has cast as a whodunit a story that could have been more effective without the puzzle element; but it still is well worth one’s attention – especially for her unflagging skill in creating unpleasant people.” Read More→

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Myself vs. Myself: Save Me the Waltz and Other Writings of Zelda Fitzgerald

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald (1900 – 1948) is best known for two things: as the wife of celebrated writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, and for being the first true Jazz Age flapper and an icon of the new post-World War One era. However, she was also a talented writer, painter, and dancer in her own right. Here, we’ll explore Save Me the Waltz and other writings of Zelda Fitzgerald, which certainly deserve a fresh look.

Struggling first against the excesses of her own Roaring Twenties lifestyle and then against severe mental illness, Zelda never achieved the critical success of her husband nor had the chance to fully develop her skills. According to her daughter Frances (Scottie) Fitzgerald:

“It was my mother’s misfortune to have been born with the ability to write, to dance, and to paint, and then never to have acquired the discipline to make her talent work for, rather than against, her.” Read More→

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