A Traveller in Time by Allison Uttley

If ever the term “time slip” applied to a book, it’s this one: Penelope Taberner Cameron slips in and out of two time periods, the twentieth century and the late sixteenth century, like butter slipping about on a plate. She never knows exactly when or how she will slip out of her own time at Thackers, the Derbyshire farm that belongs to her great aunt and uncle, and into another time, the time of Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, and the Spanish Armada. And no one in either period seems to worry too much about Penelope’s odd absences and re-appearances. It’s a sort of ghostly time travel, although it’s clear that Penelope never becomes a “ghost” in either time that she visits.

This British classic was published in 1939, and the pacing and language reflect the publishing date. Penelope’s adventures, and indeed her personality, are rather languid and slow-moving, even though the excitement of a plot to rescue Mary Queen of Scots from her English captivity does something to enliven the novel. A lot of time is spent describing farm life in the 1930’s as Penelope and her sister and brother come to spend their summer holiday, and then an even longer term, with Aunt Tissie and Uncle Barnabas. Then, there’s also a lot of description of what it was like to live in Elizabethan England. I can see how some children and teens would grow impatient with all of the descriptive passages, but I loved it all, as well as the historical aspects of the novel.

There was a BBC series of five episodes made in 1978 based on this book by Ms. Uttley, but it’s not widely available outside of Britain. Alison Uttley was also a prolific author of very popular books for younger children in England, including a series of books about Sam Pig and another about Little Grey Rabbit.

Wikipedia contrasts time slip novels like A Traveller in Time, where the protagonist has no control or agency in going from one time to another, and time travel books, in which characters use a device like a time machine or a magic talisman to make the time travel happen. Even with time travel books, however, the device often gets lost or malfunctions, leaving the characters marooned in another time period. In Traveller in Time, Penelope worries about getting stuck in the 1500’s, and at one climactic point she almost dies while she’s visiting the sixteenth century, an event which she thinks would surely cause her to also die in the twentieth century. Time slipping and time traveling is fun to read about, but I think it would make my head hurt if it actually happened to me.

If you could time slip or time travel, what time period would you like to visit? What is your favorite time slip or time travel book? (Mine are the Connie Willis books: The Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout and All Clear.)

New York Herald Tribune Spring Book Festival Awards

In 1937 two awards of $250 each were established by the New York Herald-Tribune for the best books for younger children and for older children published between January and June. In 1941 the system of awards was revised. Three awards, of $200.00 each, were given to the best books in the following three classes: young children, middle-age children, and other children. Each year a jury, composed of distinguished experts in the field of juvenile literature, was chosen to make the selections.

1937 Seven Simeons, by Boris Artzybasheff. For younger children. Illustrated by the author. (Viking.)

The Smuggler’s Sloop, by Robb White III. For older children. Illustrated by Andrew Wyeth. (Little.)

1938 The Hobbit, by J. R. Tolkien. For younger children. Illustrated by the author. (Houghton.)

The Iron Duke, by John R. Tunis. For older children. Illustrated by Johari Bull. (Harcourt)

1939 The Story of Horace, by Alice M. Coats. For younger children. Illustrated by the author. (Coward.)

The Hired Man’s Elephant, by Phil Stong. For older children. Illustrated by Doris Lee. (Dodd.)

1940 That Mario, by Lucy Herndon Crockett. For younger children. Illustrated by the author. (Holt)

Cap’n Ezra, Privateer, by James D. Adams. For older children. Illustrated by I. B. Hazelton. (Harcourt.)

1941 In My Mother’s House, by Ann Nolan Clark. For younger children. Illustrated by Velino Herrera. (Viking.)

Pete by Tom Robinson. For middle-age children. Illustrated by Morgan Dennis. (Viking.)

Clara Barton, by Mildren Mastin Pace. For older children. (Scribner.)

1942 Mr. Tootwhistle’s Invention, by Peter Wells. For younger children.
Illustrated by the author. (Winston.)

I Have Just Begun to Fight: The Story of John Paul Jones, by
Commander Edward Ellsberg. For middle-age children. Illustrated
by Gerald Foster. (Dodd.)

None But the Brave, by Rosamond Van der Zee Marshall. For
older children. Illustrated by Gregor Duncan. (Houghton.)

1943 Five Golden Wrens, by Hugh Troy. For younger children. Illus-
trated by the author. (Oxford.)

These Happy Golden Years, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. For middle-
age children. Illustrated by Helen Sewell and Mildred Boyle.
(Harper-.)

Patterns on the Wall, by Elizabeth Yates. For older children.
(Knopf.)

1944 A Ring and a Riddle, by M. Ilm and E. Segal. For younger children.
Illustrated by Vera Bock. (Lippincott)

They Put Out to Sea, by Roger Duvoisln. For middle-age children.
Illustrated by the author. (Knopf.)

Storm Canvas, by Armstrong Sperry, For older children. Illustrated
by the author. (Winston.)

1945 Little People in a Big Country, by Norma Cohn. For younger children. Illustrated by Tashkent Children’s Art Training Center in Soviet Uzbekistan. (Oxford.)

Gulf Stream by Ruth Brindze. Illustrated by Helene Carter. For middle-age children., (Vanguard.)

Sandy, by Elizabeth Janet Gray. For older children. (Viking.)

1946 Farm Stories. Award divided between Gustaf Tenggren, illustrator, and Kathryn and Byron Jackson, authors. For younger children. (Simon & Schuster.)

The Thirteenth Stone, by Jean Bothwell, illustrated by Margaret Ayer. For middle-age children. (Harcourt)

The Quest of the Golden Condor, by Clayton Knight. Illustrated by the author. For older children. (Knopf.)

Other than The Hobbit and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s These Happy Golden Years, has anyone read or reviewed any of these prize-winning books? I know of the authors Jean Bothwell, Elizabeth Janet Grey, Armstrong Sperry, Roger Duvoisin, Elizabeth Yates, John Tunis, and Ann Nolan Clark, but not these particular books of theirs.

FNFC: Sully and The King’s Speech

We watched two of the movies on my Friday Night Film Club list this past week, one on Thursday night and the other on Friday. And in both cases the person who chose the movie wasn’t there to watch it. Oh, well, the rest of us enjoyed the movies.

Engineer Husband and I went to see The King’s Speech when it first came out in theaters. It meshed well to watch it again this week after I had just finished watching season one of The Crown, about the first several years of the reign of Elizabeth II, George VI’s daughter and heir. In both The Crown and The King’s Speech, David (aka Edward, Duke of Windsor), the abdicating king and George’s older brother, comes across as a despicable and selfish brat. Maybe he really was. I’m not sure how much happiness he gained by giving up the crown for the sake of his love for the twice divorced Wallis Simpson, but then again he probably wouldn’t have been too happy as king either. George VI and Elizabeth II aren’t exactly portrayed as “happy”, but definitely satisfied with their fulfillment of what they each perceive as their duty to the nation. Anyway, I can recommend both The King’s Speech and the Netflix series The Crown. Much food for thought.

Sully, also based on a true story, was a thought-provoking movie, too. It’s a a 2016 drama, directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Todd Komarnicki, based on the autobiography Highest Duty by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow. Sullenberger, aka Sully, is the pilot who landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River after a bird strike took out both of the plane’s engines in mid-flight. This heroic landing and the rescue of all 155 passengers and crew on board happened almost exactly eight years ago on January 15, 2009.

Tom Hanks plays Sully, and as usual, he does an excellent job of making us forget about Tom Hanks and think instead about the pilot and his ability to make a split-second decision that will either save or cost the lives of all the people on board the airplane. Inevitably, I wondered whether I could function as well in a crisis as Sully and his co-pilot did, not a crisis in flying a plane, of course, since I don’t know how, but some other life-threatening crisis where I had to make a life-or-death decision. I just don’t know. How can one train for such a thing?

If I were to choose one of these two movies over the other to recommend to you, I’d choose Sully, I suppose. Although The King’s Speech is fascinating in a historical sense and as a story of one man overcoming adversity, the “overcoming” involves some misplaced and over-dramatized Freudian analysis of George’s childhood that probably had very little to do with curing his stuttering. But then again, maybe he did stutter because they made him switch from being left-handed to right-handed or because his nanny disliked and mistreated him. Who knows?

Sully is a more straightforward hero story certainly with an obstacle to overcome, namely the investigation after the emergency landing by National Transportation Safety Board, but all’s well that ends well. And as the characters in the movie point out in 2009, “it’s been a while since New York had news this good. Especially with an airplane in it.” After a year like 2016, it’s good to watch a movie about someone competent but humble, and even heroic coming out of New York.

This Friday’s movie will be Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man with Henry Fonda, Vera Miles, and Anthony Quayle. Watch it with us if you’d like to join in.

The Three-Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway

The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory by Julie Checkoway. “For readers of Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat comes the inspirational, untold story of impoverished children who transformed themselves into world-class swimmers.”

The author, Julie Checkoway, is a National Endowment for the Arts individual artist grant recipient and a journalist for the New York Times and other respected publications. She chose a really good and inspiring Olympic story, from poverty in the sugarcane fields of Hawaii to Olympic glory in the swimming pool. However, the execution and the storytelling just weren’t up to par.

I read the entire book, and I’m glad I know the story of these swimming champions from Hawaii and their eccentric Japanese-American coach. However, I feel that the same story in the hands of a Laura Hillenbrand or John Krakauer could have been so much better. I never really understood what motivated the non-swimming coach, Soichi Sakamoto, to spend so much time and energy teaching a bunch of kids to swim competitively. Although Sakamoto is the central character in the book, he remains an enigma throughout, with a shadowy and stereotypical Japanese inscrutability. And when Ms. Checkoway moves the focus to other characters, one of the kid swimmers in training or the famous Hawaiian veteran swimmer Duke Kahanamoku or Sakamoto’s wife, that focus is still soft and indistinct. I never felt I knew any of these people or what they lived for.

Another problem with the story is the lack of suspense or dramatic tension. Almost anyone reading would know that the Hawaiian swimmers’ dreams of going to the Olympics in 1940, and Japan’s dreams of hosting the 1940 Olympics, were doomed by World War II. The only suspense that remains for us is to watch and read about how the characters in the book find out that that there will be no Olympics in 1940 nor in 1944. And after the war, the focus changes again to a new generation of swimmers who didn’t have to train in a sugar ditch and who are more “normal” and middle class and therefore less compelling and interesting than the original group of come-from-behind swimmers who somehow managed to learn to swim and win national championships in spite of their poverty-stricken beginnings.

I think Ms. Checkoway tried to to flesh out her characters and make them more knowable and therefore more interesting, but unfortunately, probably because of a dearth of people to interview almost eighty years after the fact, she often speculates or imagines what the thoughts and feelings of her characters might have been. As I just did. I really don’t know why the author couldn’t or didn’t find out more about what her characters were thinking and feeling, but I assume it was a lack of access to interviews of the characters themselves. Ms. Checkoway makes these sort of assumptions throughout the book, and I didn’t always agree with her imaginary attribution of feelings and thoughts to the people she writes about.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown are still the gold standard for Olympic narrative nonfiction. This book, while it has its moments, doesn’t even medal. Do you have nominations for the bronze medal in this genre?

Heidi’s Children by Charles Tritten

The two sequels to Johanna Spyri’s beloved Heidi, Heidi Grows Up and Heidi’s Children, were neither written nor endorsed by Spyri, but were adapted from her other works by her French translator, Charles Tritten, in the 1930s, many years after the Swiss author of Heidi died. Nevertheless, I read them both when I was a girl, wanting more Heidi, and I found them to be satisfyingly Heidi-like in style and substance.

I decided to re-read Heidi’s Children, after purchasing a used copy from a friend. It’s really a beautiful and intriguing story. In Heidi Grows Up, Heidi goes away to boarding school and then returns to Dorfli to teach in the village school. Eventually, she and Peter are married (as everyone who has read Heidi would know and want them to do). Heidi’s Children begins in the springtime with Heidi and Peter expecting their first child.

Several things about the ideas and perspective in this book impressed me.

Heidi’s and Peter’s attitude about marriage, unremarkable in the 1930’s when this book was published, seems charmingly antiquated in these oh-so-enlightened times:

“. . . with Spring would come one of the greatest joys that a young wife can experience. For both Peter and Heidi felt that no marriage was complete until it was blessed with children. Spring held this promise. Even at the wedding the great event had been prepared for and the cradle had stood ready. This was the custom. Often at a Grisons wedding, the cradle was prepared and a child walked with the bride and groom carrying wheat. This was a sign that the marriage would be fruitful, that there would soon be children.”

Who would think that almost a century after the time of this story, people not only would see children as a nuisance and even a curse rather than “one of the greatest joys” and a blessing and a promise, but would also devalue marriage itself to the point that it has become an unnecessary burden or a meaningless “piece of paper” to many?

I also like the way Heidi and Peter live with their extended family and in community. Heidi’s grandfather, the Alm-Uncle, lives with them, and so does Peter’s mother, Brigitta. Jamy, the village school teacher and a school friend of Heidi’s, boards with the family, and Jamy brings her little sister, Marta, to live with the family as well. Other visitors, such as Klara and Herr Sesemann, are in and out, and it’s just a wonderful picture of a loving community, several generations, helping and serving one another.

I also liked the themes of courage overcoming fear, forgiveness and understanding, visual images and stories as vehicles for knowing God and His love. Little Marta is a good replacement child character for little Heidi, and the grown-up Heidi is someone an adult reader feels as if she would like to have for a friend. Altogether, the Heidi series is a delight, even if the authors are two different people. Tritten writes of his justification for writing the sequels in his foreward to Heidi’s Children:

“I knew Madame Spyri as well as one human, even of a different race, could know another. Every book she wrote was a labor of love for the children she knew so well. Each was written in memory of that little ‘lost one’ who used to ask her to tell him what lay beyond ‘forever after.’ I know that she never refused to grant a child’s wish as long as she lived.”

We Never Stood Alone by Bob DeGray

If you like both World War II fiction and Christian fiction, We Never Stood Alone should be your next read, for sure. My pastor wrote the book, so maybe I’m prejudiced, but I found it absorbing, impeccably researched, and also full of spiritual and practical truth. I certainly can’t say all three of those things about many books that I read.

The novel is set in the fictional village of Stokely on the Thames River in south central England in 1939 as war clouds loom on the horizon. Free Church pastor Lloyd Robins, worrying over the continual drumbeat of bad news from the continent and the ringing in his bad ear, is trying to remain faithful to the Lord he came to know in the last war and hopeful in the face of the coming storm. His wife, Annie, is his support, but she has her own struggles and storms to walk through. Both Lloyd and Annie, as well as the other members of Stokely Free Church, must learn to sense the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as they necessarily depend on Him in a time of profound danger and uncertainty.

Yes, there are those many, many other members of Stokely Free Church and other inhabitants of the village of Stokely. You almost need a list of characters to keep them all straight, and obliging author that he is, Mr. DeGray has provided just such a list on his blog, World War 2 Christian Fiction. Consult the list when you read, as needed.

When I read good books, I am usually reminded of other good books or movies or even TV series. We Never Stood Alone reminded me both of Downton Abbey and of Jan Karon’s Mitford/Father Tim books. The Downton Abbey connection is, of course, found in the sheer British-ness of the setting and characters as well as the intertwined stories of all the village people in community. Community is a central theme of the book as is the daily efficacy of prayer and Scripture, two Christian disciplines which also intertwine to keep us in community and in Christ’s presence. In this theme of Christian community among broken and average people, the village and people of Stokely in We Never Stood Alone most resemble Jan Karon’s Mitford community of normal, everyday people in the process of being transformed by a loving and immanent God.

To learn more about the book or the author or both, visit the author’s website, ww2christianfiction.com.

To purchase your copy, either as an ebook or in print, try Amazon.

FDR and the American Crisis by Albert Marrin

History professor Albert Marrin has been writing nonfiction narrative history for quite a while: his first book for young adults was Overlord: D Day and the Invasion of Europe, which was published in 1982. He has written more than thirty history narratives for children and young adults, including Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy, a National Book Award finalist.

In his latest book, Marrin returns to the World War II era and to the Great Depression and to the president who shepherded America through both of those crises, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR was a complicated character, and Mr. Marrin presents him—warts, strengths, and all—in the context of the events and attitudes of his time. FDR and The American Crisis is, above all, a comprehensive and balanced vision of Roosevelt, what he did for the United States and what he did to change the country, for better and for worse.

In addition to my appreciation for its even-handedness, I was most impressed with the personal tone of Mr. Marrin’s very detailed, yet broad, narrative. Mr. Marrin is 79 years old. Born in 1936, he actually remembers some of the events of Roosevelt’s presidency and of the second World War. And he’s not afraid to gently insert himself into the narrative with an “I remember” or a “we all wonder if” statement. In addition, Marrin isn’t reluctant to share his own informed opinion when it’s appropriate:

“Critics branded Hoover a ‘do-nothing’ president who let Americans suffer due to his commitment to old-fashioned ideas. It is untrue.”

“The media developed a teenager’s crush on the Red Army.”

“Convinced of his own virtue and wisdom, he (FDR) thought too highly of his personal charm and powers of persuasion. He misjudged the murderous Stalin.”

“Those who praised him (FDR) as a saintly miracle worker are as wrong as those who bitterly cursed him as a monster.”

Bottom line, I learned a lot from reading FDR and the American Crisis—and I learned it in a throughly pleasant and absorbing read. Mr. Marrin once said in an interview, “Kids are very bright. I’m not going to write down. If anything, I’ll have them read up to me.” This book is not dumbed down, nor is it a breezy hagiography of a famous president. Any high school, or even college, student looking for both an in-depth and readable introduction to FDR and his presidency could not do better than to read Mr. Marrin’s book first.

Poetry Friday: Winston Spencer Churchill

Winston Churchill was a fascinating man, and he cultivated many vocations and avocations: soldier, politician, journalist, essayist, biographer, historian, bricklayer, painter, pilot, architect, lecturer, spymaster, head of the navy, member of Parliament, and Prime Minister—just to name a few. However, I’ll bet you never thought of him as a poet.

All students of World War II remember those inspiring and memorable speeches he gave in the House of Commons, on the radio, and in political gatherings. His speeches were carefully formulated, written out and memorized, with stage directions to himself such as “pause here” or “fumble for the correct word.” The orations he gave were typed up (by secretaries) in broken lines to aid his delivery, ‘speech form’ or ‘psalm form’, as William Manchester calls it in his biography of Churchill, titled The Last Lion.

'Churchill, Winston' photo (c) 2010, SDASM Archives - license: http://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/So, after Chamberlain’s betrayal of Czechoslovakia at Munich, Churchill declaimed:

The whole equilibrium of Europe
has been deranged,
And the terrible words
have, for the time being,
been pronounced
against the Western democracies:

“Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.”

And do not suppose that this is the end.
This is only the beginning of the reckoning.

This is only the first sip–
the first foretaste of a bitter cup
which will be proffered to us year by year–

Unless–
by a supreme recovery of our moral health and martial vigor,
we arise again and take our stand for freedom,
as in the olden time.

Or on October 1, 1939, Churchill spoke the following rather lyrical thoughts on Russia in his first wartime broadcast over the BBC, just after the Russian/German joint invasion of Poland:

'IMG_0510' photo (c) 2014, zaphad1 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia.
It is a riddle
wrapped in an mystery
inside an enigma.

But perhaps there is a key.
That key is Russian national interest.

It cannot be in accordance
with the interest or safety of Russia
that Germany should plant itself
upon the shores of the Black Sea.

Or that it should overrun the Baltic States
and subjugate the Slavonic peoples
of southeastern Europe.

No, it doesn’t scan or follow a regular meter, but Mr. Churchill’s “poetry” certainly follows the conventions of free verse with its parallelisms and vivid images, and as I read, I can hear in my mind the familiar voice of Winston Churchill with its rolling cadences and barking baritone:

I would say to the House,
as I have said to those who have joined this Government:
“I have nothing to offer but good, toil, tears, and sweat.”

You ask, what is our policy?
I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air,
with all our might and with all the strength God can give us . . .
That is our policy.

You ask, what is our aim?
I can answer in one word: It is victory,
victory at all costs,
victory in spite of all terror,
victory however long and hard the road may be;
for without victory, there is no survival.

'Winston Churchil' photo (c) 2010, Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/On June 4, 1940:

We shall not flag or fail.
We shall go on to the end.

We shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,
we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.

We shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
We shall never surrender.

Finally, perhaps Churchill’s most famous poem/speech, broadcast on June 18, 1940 after Petain’s surrender of Vichy France to the Nazis:

Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization.
Upon it depends our own British life,
and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire.

Hitler knows that he will have to break us on this island
or lose the war.

If we can stand up to him all Europe may be free
and the life of the world may move forward
into broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail, then the whole world,
including the United States,
including all we have known and cared for,

Will sink into the abyss of a New Dark Age
made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted,
by the lights of perverted science.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties,
and so bear ourselves
that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth
last for a thousand years,

Men will still say:
“This was their finest hour!”

A poet indeed.

Setting: 1936-39, Just Before the War

A friend of ours is writing a book of stories set in a small English village just before World War II, and I’m reading The Last Lion, the second volume of a three volume biography of Winston CHurchill, about the years from 1932-1940. So I’m particularly interested in the time period right now, especially in Europe and Asia. (I didn’t include books set in the United States during the 1930’s.) Do you have any recommended additions to this list?

Spanish Civil War:
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. Nonfiction.
Life and Death of a Spanish Town by Elliot Paul. Fiction.
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. Fiction.
Winter in Madrid by CJ Sansom. Fiction. Semicolon review here.

Sino-Japanese War and The Nanjing Massacre:
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. Fiction. Semicolon review here.
When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro. Fiction. Semicolon review here.
Living Soldiers by Ishikawa Tatsuzo. Fiction.
Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin, reviewed at Semicolon. Fiction.
The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder. Fiction. Reviewed by Nicola at Back to Books.
The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang. Nonfiction.
Dragon Seed by Pearl S. Buck. Fiction.

The Kindertransport, 1938-39:
Sisterland by Linda Newbery. YA fiction.
Far to Go by Alison Pick. Fiction.

Stalinist Russia, Before the War:
Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler.
Sashenka: A Novel by Simon Montefiore.

Britain, Before the War:
Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson. Fiction.
A Blunt Instrument and No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer. Fiction.
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. Fiction.
Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson, reviewed at Semicolon.
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940 by William Manchester. Nonfiction.
Several Agatha Christie mysteries take place during this time period, titles too numerous to mention.

Continental Europe, Before the War
Pied Piper by Nevil Shute.

No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer

I’m definitely a fan of Golden Age detective fiction—Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout, Josephine Tey—but I’ve read all the books I can find by those authors. And I’ve tried a few others that are supposed to belong to that particular club, Margery Allingham and John Dickson Carr in particular, and I just didn’t care for them. So, Georgette Heyer’s mysteries have that Christie/Golden Age flavor, and I’m pleased to find another writer from that era that I can recommend and enjoy myself.

No Wind of Blame has lovely, interesting characters, somewhat stereotypical but still memorable, and that’s what makes the book. There’s a fortune hunting Russian (or perhaps Georgian) prince with an impossibly long name, a histrionic and very wealthy Aunt Ermyntrude, a dogsbody poor relation with a pleasant personality and a pretty face, a very pretty daughter who tries on a new persona every time she descends the stairs, a smarmy neighbor who’s involved in some dubious business deals, and a police inspector with a refreshingly normal, down-to-earth take on the whole case. The case itself, a murder of course, is not the focus of the novel, and the solution is beyond my understanding and limited mechanical abilities. However, I didn’t care that I didn’t understand exactly how the murderer did it because I enjoyed the company, the dialogue, and the interactions between the characters so much.

I’ve read one or two of Ms. Heyer’s Regency romances, and although the wit and good characterization are still there, I don’t much like straight romance novels. An element of romance is good, but I prefer my love stories mixed up with something else, perhaps a good mystery. I plan to look for more of Ms Heyer’s mystery novels and see if they’re all as good as No Wind of Blame.

A list of Georgette Heyer’s “thrillers” or detective novels:

Footsteps in the Dark (1932)
Why Shoot a Butler? (1933)
The Unfinished Clue (1934)
Death in the Stocks (1935)
Behold, Here’s Poison (1936)
They Found Him Dead (1937)
A Blunt Instrument (1938)
No Wind of Blame (1939)
Envious Casca (1941)
Penhallow (1942)
Duplicate Death (1951)
Detection Unlimited (1953)

For a while Ms. Heyer published one thriller and one romance every year. However, her British publisher and her American publisher both disliked the book Penhallow, published in 1942, and she mostly stuck to romances with some historical fiction after that.