Friday, 15 March 2013

Read in 2013 - 9: Susan Clegg and Her Love Affairs

Sounds promising, doesn't it! And yet this was one of the books I was tempted more than once to put aside, and as soon as I have finished writing this review, I am going to delete it from my kinde.

What was wrong with it? Everything: there were no love affairs, and Susan Clegg is a most annoying character, non-stop talking and so full of self-righteousness you would certainly avoid her company if she was someone you know in real life.
To do the book at least some justice: it was meant to be humorous, and probably was seen as that when it was first published.


The author, Anne Warner, lived from 1869 to 1913. and I did not manage to find out much more about her; there is the first paragraph of a biographical sketch on BookRags, telling us that "in her day Anne Warner was considered one of the best American humorists. Although her humor is less subtle, she was compared to New England writer Mary E. Wilkins Freeman [equally unknown to me]. Warner's character Susan Clegg was compared to Alice Hegan Rice's Mrs. Wiggs [never heard of her], and she also has much in common with Marietta Holley's Samantha [Samantha? Marietta? Huh?]. Warner's reputation is based on her Susan Clegg stories, which are almost entirely written in the form of anecdotes told by Susan Clegg to her neighbor and friend Mrs. Lathrop, who rarely says anything but is a wonderful listener. Warner's greatest wit [if that was her greatest wit, I'm afraid I won't waste time on her less witty moments] is displayed when Susan shares her opinions on men, many of which remain as fresh as when they were first written." 

The biographical sketch is right in that the book is made up almost entirely by what Susan Clegg tells Mrs. Lathrop, with very little of the storyline happening while the reader is reading it. It sounds an interesting concept, and I am sure much more could have been made of the original idea, but I'm afraid I was mostly annoyed by Susan Clegg's endless chatter. Still, somehow I did care enough to want to find out what was going to happen, because there IS a story, which has obviously started in one of the previous books:

Mrs. Lathrop and Susan Clegg are neighbours and friends. The son of the former has left the small town years ago for the Klondike, and now comes back a millionaire, much to Susan Clegg's and his mother's delight. Susan thinks they are going to get married but is in for a big shock when she goes to meet Jathrop (yep, that's his name) at the station.
Nevertheless, the millionaire lavishes huge sums of money on his dear mother and her best friend, even having both their houses completely rebuilt, which results in the two of them having to stay with various other inhabitants of the small town over the summer.
Susan, true to her way of never being in the wrong and nobody else ever being quite up to her lofty level of doing things exactly as they should be done, is not the most welcome of guests (understandably!) and makes quite the round of the small community. To top it all off, a cyclone destroys several houses and delays the work on the rebuilding of Susan's and Mrs. Lathrop's houses.

Eventually, though, the two ladies can move back in, and the millionaire son returns from a long yacht trip with his millionaire buddies.

There is a wedding in the end, although not quite as imagined at first.

All this sounds like it could make quite an entertaining story, and it possibly is for some, just not for me, I'm afraid.

Just to give you an idea of what about 95% of the book is like, here is one of the very first paragraphs:

"We was talking about dreams," Susan was saying; "it's a very curious thing about dreams. Do you know, Mrs. Lathrop," wrinkling her brow and regarding her friend with that look of friendship which is not blind to any faults, "do you know, Mrs. Lathrop, they said down there that dreams always go by contraries. We was discussing it for a long time, and they ended up by making me believe in it. You see, it all began by my saying how I dreamed last night that Jathrop was back, and he was a cat and your cat, too, and he did something he wasn't let to, and you made one jump at him, and out of the window he went. Now that was a very strange dream for me to have dreamed, Mrs. Lathrop, and Mrs. Lupey, who's staying with Mrs. Macy to-day and maybe to-morrow, too, says she's sure it's a sign. She says if dreams go by contraries, mine ought to be a sign as Jathrop is coming back, for the contraries is all there: Jathrop wasn't a cat, and he never done nothing that he shouldn't—nor that he should, neither—and you never jump—I don't believe you've jumped in years, have you?"
Had I known there and then that this kind of paragraph was here to stay, I would have given up on the book.  My advice: don't read it, unless you find that type of humour hilarious.

25 comments:

  1. I'm heeding your advice, dear heart!

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  2. I know one should give a book more chance than just its first paragraph but - Ouch Even that one paragraph hurt. I think you get a little medal for reading on...

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    1. A medal! Now that you mention it, yes, I think I do deserve one.

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  3. Oh, Meike, I can't believe the amount of perseverance you must have! I will avoid this...There was a type of American humor at that time which certainly doesn't seem amusing now! Mrs.Wigg, btw, is Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch and was considered a sort of children's classic. I've read it and it's somewhat interesting, but very dated and I think no one reads it anymore.

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    1. Somehow, I can't believe it, either... But I finished it, and now it's gone from my kindle.
      Mrs. Wiggs still does not ring a bell, but I've probably not missed out on much there :-)

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  4. OK, it seems that's one I can safely skip... I guess with some old books there's a reason why one has never heard of them! :)

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    1. You're so right about that, Monica :-)

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  5. Thank you for the review! I'm currently waiting for the 9th book in the Maisie Dobbs series to come out, I just love them! It's like "Nancy Drew" for big girls! LOL!!!

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    1. I've heard loads about the Nancy Drew and Maisie Dobbs books, but never read any of them so far. Maybe I should change that!

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  6. Actually the title would have put me off so to have got through the paragraph you quoted was a major step in my eyes.

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    1. It was a major step indeed, Graham!

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  7. I think these books were supposed to show a sort of homespun comically expressed wisdom from the mouths of the uneducated, and having to be filtered through a lot of nonsense. Sometimes Mark Twain had this sort of humor, but of course, he did it a lot more successfully.

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    1. That's true, Kristi; Mark Twain's wit was sharper, and I enjoyed the book I last read by him very much (I reviewed it on here, too).

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  8. Oh lord, how unutterably dreary. Sadly I think we've all met people just like Susan Clegg in the real world ...

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    1. Yes, I wonder whether the author wrote these books with someone specific in mind.

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    2. Hope not! But since I'm too young to have met the author in person, I guess I'm safe -- for now!!! :)

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  9. Remember, that book I told you about..."Sailing Alone Around The World"? That book is still waiting for you! :-)

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    1. Thank you for reminding me of it, Kay! You know what it's like - my (mental) list of books I really want to read grows almost daily :-)

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  10. Sounds like a book that i wouldn't bother to read :-/ I've just learned how to borrow eBooks from our public library using OverDrive Media Console...not bad for someone who was born in the 1950s! lol I've bought books from iTunes before but they were relatively expensive.

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    1. It's the huge choice of free ebooks I love about the Amazon kindle store - my local library does offer ebooks, but sadly not for the kindle. You're right in not bothering with this one!

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