The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield (1924)

The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield

An ahead-of-its-time novel, The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (at the time known as Dorothy Canfield), published in 1924 by Harcourt, Brace & Co., imagined a domestic role-reversal.

Quite a rare set of circumstances to consider in its time, Evangeline and Lester Knapp were both going through the motions of their proscribed gender roles as parents. An accident forced them to reverse roles out of necessity, and from that adversity, their family found strength and happiness.

Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1879 – 1958) was an American author, educational reformer, and social activist based in New England and identified most closely with Vermont. She earned a Ph.D in 1905, was able to speak five languages, and worked for the cause of refugees in Europe. Read More→

The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier (1957)

The Scapegoat Daphne Du Maurier 1956

The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier, published in 1957, was one of the British author’s successful mid-career novels, coming after Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, and My Cousin Rachel. In her skillful hands, this suspense novel makes an ingenious doppelgänger plot work on many levels.

In brief, it’s the story of a disaffected Englishman and an aristocratic Frenchman who meet by an accidental encounter and are at once struck by how much they resemble one another. John, an English academic, is compelled by Count Jean de Gué into switching places with him. What ensues is how he is swept into the count’s complicated intrigues and family life.

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The Reef by Edith Wharton (1912)

The reef by Edith Wharton (1912)

The Reef by Edith Wharton, published in 1912, came more or less in the middle of her novel-writing career. It came after the triumph of The House of Mirth and before her Pulitzer Prize-winning turn with The Age of Innocence.

The author herself wasn’t pleased with this book, writing her regrets over it to a friend not long after its publication, describing it as a “poor miserable lifeless lump,” and vowed that next time she was “going to do something worthwhile!”

Some critics tended to agree with Wharton’s self-assessment. The New York Sun’s review called The Reef “a bitter, disheartening, sordid story and we could wish that Mrs. Wharton would look on brighter and nobler aspects of life.”

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Film Adaptations of 17 Classic Children’s Novels by Women Authors

Mary Poppins Returns 2018

It’s fun and fascinating to watch film adaptations of classic children’s novels. Does the cast of characters match how you imagined them while reading? Is the film true to the book, or does it depart too much?

It’s a good idea to read a book first before seeing a film adaptation. That way, the cinematic visuals and actors don’t interfere with your imagination. Who can ever read the Harry Potter books again without picturing Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and the rest of the actors in the film series?

Film and television adaptations can be helpful for kids who aren’t big on reading. In those cases, having them watch the movie first might be a way to get them more excited about reading the book it’s based on. Then, comparing the film and written versions might spark lively discussions. Read More→

Katharine Graham, Legendary Publisher at The Washington Post

Katharine Graham

Katharine Graham (June 16, 1917 – July 17, 2001) is best remembered for her role as publisher and CEO of The Washington Post. She oversaw the newspaper’s involvement in the Pentagon Papers controversy and its investigation of the Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon’s resignation in late 1974.

Born in New York City, Katharine Meyer was one of five children raised in a family of great wealth. Her father, Eugene Meyer, was a multimillionaire and businessman who was  Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve from 1930 – 1933. Her mother, Agnes Ernst Meyer, was a politically active educator. Read More→

The Lost Books of Jane Austen by Janine Barchas (2019)

The Lost Books of Jane Austen

The Lost Books of Jane Austen by Janine Barchas (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019) is an ingenious, lavishly illustrated excursion through the printed history of Jane Austen’s books. Barchas contends that the cheap, sometimes shoddily produced printings of Austen’s novels helped keep her work affordable and in the public eye.
From the publisher: In the nineteenth century, inexpensive editions of Jane Austen’s novels targeted to Britain’s working classes were sold at railway stations, traded for soap wrappers, and awarded as school prizes.
At just pennies a copy, these reprints were some of the earliest mass-market paperbacks, with Austen’s beloved stories squeezed into tight columns on thin, cheap paper. Few of these hard-lived bargain books survive, yet they made a substantial difference to Austen’s early readership. These were the books bought and read by ordinary people. Read More→

Johanna Spyri

Johanna Spyri

Johanna Spyri (June 12, 1827 – July 7, 1901) born Johanna Louise Heusser, was a Swiss author best known for her first and most successful book, the 1881 children’s novel Heidi.

Born in rural Hirzel, not far from Zurich, she grew up in a happy, cultured home in a literary environment. Her mother, Meta Huesser, was a popular songwriter and poet. Her father was a well-known and greatly beloved physician in Zurich. The Huessers opened their home to the intellectual and literary figures of that time and place.

In 1852, when Johanna was 25, she married a former schoolmate, Bernhard Spyri, who became an attorney. While the couple was living in Zurich, she began to tell stories to their son to amuse him, and her husband encouraged her to set them to paper. Read More→

“Patterns” by Amy Lowell — from Men, Women and Ghosts (1919)

Men, women and ghosts by Amy Lowell

“Patterns,” a poem by American imagist poet Amy Lowell (1874 – 1925, was published in Men, Women and Ghosts (1919). It exemplifies the imagery-dense free verse for which she was known.

Though Men, Women and Ghosts  is a book of poems, Lowell begins her preface by writing that “This is a book of stories.” She goes on to say:

“For that reason I have excluded all purely lyrical poems. But the word ‘stories’ has been stretched to its fullest application. It includes both narrative poems, properly so called; tales divided into scenes; and a few pieces of less obvious storytelling import in which one might say that the dramatis personae are air, clouds, trees, houses, streets, and such like things. Read More→

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