Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Read in 2012 - 39: Miss Theodora

A book written in 1898 by Helen Leah Reed, an author who has no entry in wikipedia, although from what I can see on various websites offering free ebooks, she wrote quite a lot, and it is funny that someone like Mary Jane Holmes (see my previous post) would have been so popular, while Helen Leah Reed seems to have vanished without leaving much trace in terms of biographical information.

Like I said at the end of my previous post, not all books aimed at girls and young ladies from that time were as overly sweet and dramatically religious as "Aikenside"; in fact, there is quite a lot of humour in "Miss Theodora", and the characters in that story are neither entirely good nor entirely bad. 

Miss Theodora is an elderly lady who lives in Boston's West End, taking care of her young nephew Ernest. The book spans Ernest's life from when he is a toddler to the time when he is a happily married man, satisfied with his work and career, so different from what his dear aunt originally had in mind for him.

In the course of the book, the characters undergo the development one would expect from real people, without ever changing their core - just like real people. They come to change their opinions and their plans, their loves and their dislikes, and behave quite credibly throughout. For a book so old, some of the ideas presented in it (in the disguise of what the characters think, say and do, of course) are quite modern and would not feel out of place in a book written today.

There is material greed and disappointment in love and other matters; there are young people who are astonished to find out that the elderly ladies of their acquaintance have once been young and fun-loving just like themselves; there are people prejudiced against others for their race, or their social standing and profession, and there are people with sound heads on their shoulders who take no nonsense from anyone.

I enjoyed this book and was really pleased to see the outcome for both Miss Theodora and her nephew. It wasn't all completely foreseeable, although there weren't any extremely dramatic events, either (at least not presented that way).

Sadly, I could not find out much about the author; one page simply states "Ms. Reed was an early graduate of Radcliffe College in Cambridge, MA.", not even giving the years of her birth and death, which are given on another page as ca. 1860-1926. That's all!


  1. Sounds like an author whose works need to be better presented and re-explored. Thank you.

  2. From what you say, this sounds a bit like the work of George Eliot - it's one of the things I like about her work that the characters seem so real. Although you notice that strangely, they never seem to think about sex... so they are not real in that way.

    It's a pity if a good writer is overlooked. Perhaps someone who reads your post and decide to find out more about her....might even try to do it myself! although I suppose I'd better read the book first.

    1. Regarding George Eliot, I am not sure I have ever read any of her works; I might have done, but can't remember.
      Well, I am sure they did think about sex as much as everyone, but such private thoughts were not included into the story :-)
      It would be interesting to learn more about the author. If you find out anything, please let me know! I must admit I did not spend hours and hours on research about her, maybe half an hour.

  3. Thanks for the tip - as it's free on Kindle, I just downloaded it, so as not to forget about it, even if maybe it will be some time before I read it.

    1. You are welcome, Monica, and I hope you won't be disappointed. Some of the books I have downloaded to my Kindle have been there since March, when I first received it, but that's perfectly alright for me - I will get round to reading them all eventually :-)