shadow-effect

Illustration by CARNELIAN

My Book Log

Here I have attempted to log the non-manga/light novel books that I read, as well as put my thoughts and notes related to those books. This is primarily for my personal benefit and I'm mainly putting this on neocities because I can imbed all the images and whatnot in html (I also can use this as an opportunity to shill books I like, lol). Most of these books are available online for free on sites such as the Internet Archive/Open Library, Project Gutenberg, HathiTrust, and Google Books as they are in the public domain if you're interested in reading them. I've tried to hide any spoilers.

Boys' school stories page/annex

The Lake Gun by James Fenimore Cooper - Short story, read 7/19/2023. Unlike The Spy, a novel by Cooper that I have tried reading before (I dropped it), I didn't find this difficult to read due to the dated writing style which sets the tone well. I found the folklore of Seneca Lake interesting, would recommend.

Picture of Seneca Lake from Wikimedia Commons

Betty at St. Benedick's : A school story for girls by Ethel Talbot - Novel, read 7/25/2023 - 8/1/2023 A British novel about a girl's adventures at boarding school. Almost a century old but holds up surprisingly well. Each of the 16 chapters were pretty short, so the book itself is pretty short. Short and sweet.

I'm interested in reading more old books about British boarding schools, there are more than I expected on Project Gutenberg alone, woah. Upon further research, the school novel was apparently a popular genre during Victorian times and up to WWII, however most novels in the genre have become obscure. I'm pretty interested in diving into this forgotten genre! I was able to find a chronological list of Victorian school novels on Victorianresearch.org on this page.

Tom, Dick and Harry by Talbot Baines Reed - Novel, read 8/1/2023 - 8/6/2023 A real hidden gem. It turned out being funnier than I expected and suspenseful at times too; I read like nine chapters in one day because I was so eager to find out what would happen next. The prose holds up surprisingly well despite being around 140 years old and using some dated and obscure words and 19th century UK slang. The relationships between the characters are rather heartwarming and it has good messages.

Unrelated to the books here, but I found an old but good Japanese to English pocket dictionary secondhand! I had been using online dictionaries so far but having one in my hands is great!

Penrod and Sam by Booth Tarkington - Novel, (re)read 8/5/2023 Well actually I just reread chapter 17, not the whole book. I read the original book a couple of years ago and remember it being funny so I decided to take a trip down memory lane.

Follow My Leader: The Boys of Templeton by Talbot Baines Reed - Novel, read 8/6/2023 - 8/12/2023 More slice of life oriented with a few overarching plot points that come together at the end. The message of, "Who you hang out with rubs off on you" is a core theme of the book but it's not really preachy and it's handled with tact. Less humor than Tom, Dick and Harry, but still pretty funny when it needs to be.

The Youngest Girl in the School by Evelyn Sharp - Novel, read 8/12/2023 - 8/21/2023 After the first three chapters the pace picks up a bit. It was written a bit more recently (1901) than the last two books I read, so some of the words are easier to understand, however I have encountered some of the same words. It's mostly slice of life with some comedic scenarios and some continuous plot points towards the end. Interestingly, compared to other books in this genre the protagonist's family members play a rather important role in the plot. All in all I liked it.

Night on the Galactic Railroad by Kenji Miyazawa - Novel, read 8/22/2023 - 8/23/2023 I wanted to read something shorter and knock off an entry in my plan to read list for once, so I went with this one. I've watched the 1985 anime movie adaptation and I've been interested in reading the book ever since. It gets more surreal and bizarre as the book goes on. It's an oddly uncanny yet comforting book. I liked it, but it's probably not for everyone.

Illustration by Hiroyuki Asada

The Fifth Form at Saint Dominic's: A School Story by Talbot Baines Reed - Novel, read 8/25/2023 - 9/4/2023 From what I've read it's the most well know book by Talbot Baines Reed, so I wanted to check it out. The chapters are pretty short and despite being one of the longer books that I've read at 383 pages. it's mostly slice of life comedy oriented, and there are plenty of goofy shenanigans although it gets more serious as it goes on. Of course, this books contains the moral messaging common in books for teenagers of the Victorian era, however it avoids being overbearing or sermonizing.

Botchan by Natsume Sōseki - Novel, read 9/4/2023 - 9/13/2023 I decided to read this book after stumbling upon it on Wikipedia and learning that it is a classic of Japanese literature and is read in many Japanese schools. I found the setting and plot interesting despite the somewhat slow pacing. It's done in a point of view style and follows the life of a teacher from Tokyo in a small Japanese village and is a commentary on Japanese society in that time (It was published in 1903). The chapters are pretty short and the English translation (atleast the one I read on Wikisouce) is well made.

Cover of the English audio book available on Librivox

Beowulf by Unknown (modern English translation by Seamus Heany) - Epic poem, read 9/14/2023 - 9/22/2023 | I decided to try reading an epic poem since I've never gotten through one (and also because I got it secondhand physically). It's more exciting and easier to read than I expected. I also wasn't expecting it to be as short as it was. I recommend the modern English audiobook by Seamus Heany (it's slightly abridged however).

Brother Cœlestin by Jaroslav Vrchlický - Short story, read 9/23/2023 I found this in a collection of short stories from the Balkans on Wikisource. It was really weird. Maybe there was some symbolism that I missed or something.

Miss Nonentity by L.T. Meade - Novel, read 9/23/2023 - 9/29/2023 Decided to read after stumbling upon it on the Internet Archive and was intrigued by the title. I was actually familiar with the author as she had written several popular school stories for girls (however this isn't one of them) Interesting plot and the chapters are pretty short with swift pacing. It had quite a lot of twists and turns and had good drama without being melodramatic. I enjoyed it.

A VISIT TO THE ASYLUM FOR AGED AND DECAYED PUNSTERS By Oliver Wendell Holmes - Short story, read 9/30/2023 A humorous short story from the 1860s. As you may have guessed it contained plenty of puns. Quite an enjoyable little read.

Three Men in a Boat : (to say nothing of the dog) by Jerome K. Jerome - Novel, read 10/2/2023 - 10/9/2023 Now this is a curious little book. Originally written in the 1880s, it's a humorous novel consisting of several episodes in a boat trip on the Thames River in England. It's written in a point of view style and the narrator makes several lengthy digressions with varying levels of relevance to the chapter at hand. Some aspects in the description of the river and the towns on it seem like a travel guide, and you could probably use it as one. All in all a fun read.

The Hill by Horace Annesley Vachell - Novel, read 10/11/2023 - 10/13/2023 | Back on the boarding school novel train again, however this book was written in 1905 and is therefore considered Edwardian literature and not Victorian literature, despite this, many of the plot conventions are typical of earlier works in the genre. The chapters are pretty long and there aren't a lot of chapters considering the length of the book (some 340 odd pages). I quite enjoyed it, on my first day of reading I got past page 100! It doesn't really have a 'main' plot per se, but I wouldn't consider it pure slice of life. Compared to other books in this genre there isn't as much comedy and it has an interesting feel to it. The main conflict reminds me of a subplot in Tom, Dick and Harry but in TDaH it was only a subplot as I mentioned before, and it was handled in fairly comedic manner compared to The Hill. Also, in a manner rather atypical for these books this one contains no illustrations.

The conflict in question (spoiler) Two boys vying for the friendship of a third.

Love and Alchemy translated by Robert K. Douglas - Short story, read 10/14/2023 Originally published in Chinese, I found it in a collection of translated Chinese short stories, however, I was unable to find out who the original author was. I decided to read it because the title stuck out to me. It was interesting.

The Burglar's Daughter by Margaret Penrose - Novel, read 10/16/2023 A really short morality oriented children's book from over a century ago. It's about a girl and her mother after her father gets arrested for burglary (hence the title), and the assistance they receive from kind hearted strangers on account of their honesty.

Her Son by Horace Annesley Vachell - Novel, read 10/18/23 - 10/22/2023 I decided to go into this book more or less blind since I liked this author’s writing style, and I find it interesting and quickly paced so far. The plot concerns a young woman and the son she adopts under unusual circumstances (if I said anymore I'd give away too much) The main plot actually gets going around page 50-ish after a lot of setting up. Got past page 100 on day one. It was interesting and had lots of twists and turns.

The Choir School of St. Bede's by Frederick Harrison - Novel, read 10/24/2023 - 10/27/2023 A rather short (around 100 pages) late nineteenth century school story, aka a type of novel this blog is no stranger to. Jokes aside, it was pretty nice. Also this one's set at a day school (not a boarding school) which is worth mentioning.

John Verney by Horace Annesley Vachell - Novel, read 10/29/2023 - 11/2/2023 Was looking through some books on the Archive instead of reading something on my WTR list (as usual) and found this. It's actually a sequel to The Hill that follows the main character as an adult. It was interesting.

More thoughts (spoiler) A lot of the plot revolves around British politics around the time that it was written in 1911, so you'll have to do a bit of research in order to really understand that aspect. Because of this subject, of course certain opinions/viewpoints held by some characters haven't aged very well.

The Human Boy by Eden Phillpotts - Novel, read 11/3/2023 - 11/8/2023 A collection of humorous short stories set in an English boarding school told in first person POV by various narrators. It was rather amusing, if not a bit unhinged.

A World of Girls: The Story of a School by L. T. Meade - Novel, read 11/8/2023 - 11/20/2023 Despite not being on my WTR list, I actually intended to read this book ever since finding it on Project Gutenberg a few months ago. It happened to be one of the more popular girl's schools stories when it was written in the 1880s. The chapters are really short and the pacing is rather swift. I'd say that it really gets going around chapter 7. It was a fun and heartwarming read. I'd say It's a good entry point for getting into girl's school stories.

The Legend Of The Willow tree (retold) by Unknown - Short story, read 11/21/2023 I found this in an old collection of several nature related stories and poems called The Topaz Story Book, according to the book it’s a retelling of an old Japanese legend. It was really short.

The Scarf Of The Lady (A French Harvest Legend) Adapted by Hermine de Nagy - Short story, read 11/21/2023 Another short legend from the same book. It takes place during the Middle Ages.

The Queer Little Baker Man by Philia Butler Bowman - Short story, read 11/22/2023 From the same collection as the previous two short stories, this one has a theme of thankfulness.

The Battle Of Life by Charles Dickens - Novella, read 11/23/2023 - 11/30/2023 I found this short novel in a collection in Christmas stories by Charles Dickens, however this story isn't actually Christmas themed. The chapters are rather long and there's a nice audio book recording of it available on Librivox and the Internet archive.

The First Christmas Tree by Henry Van Dyke - Novella, read 12/1/2023 A nice short adaptation of the legend of the origins of the Christmas tree in Germany.

A Christmas Fairy by J. S. Winter And Other Stories by Frances E. Crompton and Mrs. Molesworth - Compilation, read 12/3/2023 A collection of three short children's stories published towards the end of the 19th century. As the title indicates, the first is Christmas themed. There are also several nice illustrations.

Old Christmas by Washington Irving - Novel, read 12/5/2023 - 12/7/2023 | A collection of "sketches" about Christmas traditions in England from the perspective of a traveler. It's a cozy Christmas read and makes for good listening as it has a good audiobook available for free on Librivox.

A bunch of keys; where they were found and what they might have unlocked. A Christmas book - Compilation, read 12/8/2023 - 12/13/2023 A collection of more or less unrelated stories by various authors published as a "Christmas book" from 1865. It is titled a Christmas book because many of these sort of story collections were published to be given as Christmas presents in Victorian times despite the contained stories not having a holiday theme. The ending of the first story leads to the rest. Started off listening to the audiobook on Internet Archive while I was doing something else. All of the stories contain keys in them somewhere and they're all rather well written.

The Old Man's Christmas by Ella Wheeler Wilcox - Short story, read 12/14/2023 - 12/15/2023 A short story about the importance of treating people well. Found in the compilation book, "A Budget Of Christmas Tales."

The Schoolboy’s Story by Charles Dickens - Short story, Read 12/16/2023 A Humorous little story about strange pupil and later teacher at the same school.

Our School by Charles Dickens - Short story, Read 12/16/2023 A short story about the recollections of a school after it’s closing (unrelated to the story above).

A Christmas Tree by Charles Dickens - Short story, read 12/17/2023 Another one of Dickens' Christmas stories, this one is a rather fanciful one focused on traditional Christmas scenes.

What Christmas Is As We Grow Older by Charles Dickens - Short story, read 12/18/2023 A rather bittersweet story about the Christmas and the reminiscences of Christmas as we go through life

The Poor Relation's Story by Charles Dickens - Short story, read 12/19/2023 A Christmas-y little story about what really matters in life

Nobody's Story by Charles Dickens - Short story, read 12/20/2023 A rather poignant short story about all of the unnamed masses throughout history, and how the welfare of everyone is just as important as the welfare of everybody else. Not as Christmas-y as the others but still good.

The Child's Story by Charles Dickens - Short story, read 12/20/2023 A short story about the journey of life.

The Old Lady's Story by Charles Dickens - Short story, read 12/21/2023 The Dickens marathon continues apparently. This "Christmas" short story differs from the others in that it is only a Christmas story in an older, looser, sense as it is actually a rather nice ghost story told in first person POV and set during Halloween or All Hallows Eve, but considered a Christmas story as telling or reading ghost stories at Christmas time was a Victorian Christmas tradition.

The Christmas Tree and the Wedding by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (translated) - Short story, read 12/22/2023 From a collection of translated Russian short stories from the late 19th and early 20th century. It was a bit humorous but rather serious towards the end.

The Christmas Princess by Mrs. Molesworth - Short story, read 12/22/2023 A wintery sort of fairytale about a princess with a heart of ice. I enjoyed it.

Widow Townsend's Visitor by Anonymous - Short story, read 12/23/2023 A sweet little Christmas story from the book "A Budget Of Christmas Tales". Without spoiling anything, it reminds me somewhat of a Hallmark movie (in a good way).

My Christmas Dinner by Anonymous - Short story, read 12/23/2023 A humorous short story about a man who doesn't receive a Christmas dinner invitation he desires, despite turning down about a dozen invitations in expectation of receiving it.

Angela's Christmas by Julia Schayer - Short story, read 12/24/2023 A sweet short story about compassion set between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The Peace Egg by Juliana Horatia Ewing - Short story, read 12/25/2023 A story about a family reunited by a children's play on Christmas Eve.

The Poor Traveller by Charles Dickens - Short story, read 12/25/2023 Another one of Dickens' Christmas short stories that isn't necessarily Christmas themed. This one's about a young man who enlists in the army as a last resort but ends up turning his life around.

Female friendship : a tale for Sundays by Anonymous - Novel, read 12/26/2023 - 12/27/2023 A conduct of life/morality oriented short novel from 1824, it follows for a brief time the school days of, but mainly the employments of, two upper class young women who have fallen on hard times. It was rather didactic yet wholesome with a happy ending. Another one of my random Internet Archive finds.

The Friends; or, The triumph of innocence over false charges - Novella, read 12/28/2023 A short childrens novel about honesty set in an English boarding school. From the same time period as the last book that I read (1822).

A Description of Millenium Hall by Sarah Scott - Novel, read 12/28/2023 - 1/9/2024 I found out about this book via its Wikipedia article but that was during the Christmas season so I waited on reading it until now. The writing style is more complicated than what I'm used to as this novel was published in 1762, despite the fact that it's taking me longer to read, I'm enjoying it and I recommend the audiobook from Librivox as it's easier to listen to than to read if you aren't used to reading books this old. The chapters are really long despite the book itself not being all that long at 282 pages. The plot concerns the description of a female utopian community known as Millenium Hall and it's inhabitants by a traveler, this is summed up by the original full title, 'A description of Millenium Hall, and the country adjacent: together with the characters of the inhabitants, and such historical anecdotes and reflections, as may excite in the reader proper sentiments of humanity, and lead the mind to the love of virtue. By a gentleman on his travels.' I liked it more than I was expecting to and I'm glad that I decided to read it.

Oudendale : a story of schoolboy life by R. Hope Moncrief - Novel, read 1/9/2024 - 1/10/2024 As you can most likely tell from the title, this is an English school story. This one's a bit older than the others that I've read, being published in 1864. Due to the pacing, I got nearly halfway through on day one (around page 140). One of the reasons why I wanted to try reading an older school novel is to see if some of the genre conventions remained the same. While a few plot threads were similar to those featured in some of the other school stories written during the later part of the Victorian era, in terms of how the plot and characters are handled, this one was on the more morally didactic side. In case you're wondering where I even found this book, I found it on victorianresearch.org's school story DB page and read it on HathiTrust.

St. Winifred's: or, The World of School by Frederic William Farrar - Novel, read 1/10/2024 - 1/15/2024 As is evident from the title, this is yet another English school story (these are just going to be a thing on this blog apparently). I've decided to continue my experiment as to the similarities and differences in school stories published during the mid 19th century and those published in the late 19th century. As of 1/12 I'm past the 100 page mark (it's over 400 pages long). Enjoying so far. Due to the way that this is paced (most likely resulting from the fact that it was originally published in weekly installments) I find it hard to stop reading even once I reach a stopping point, but at the same time I don't want to practically speed run it. Structure and tone wise it would be described as character driven slice of life and focuses heavily on the moral development of the main characters through various dilemmas as well as in their interpersonal relationships, and I would consider it more explicitly Christian in nature than some of the later published school stories previously covered on this blog. Despite fitting pretty easily into the slice of life genre there are definitely some rather serious moments, and despite the aforementioned more blatantly religious nature of this work I think that it stops rather short of preaching to the reader. I enjoyed it.

Orville College: A Story by Mrs. Henry Wood - Novel, read 1/15/2024 - 1/30/2024 Yes, yet another school story. This one takes less of a slice of life approach and has a decided focus on a series of unusual events following the commencement of a new term and the arrival of a new student and a new teacher, and the rather serious consequences of those events. There are various plot threads that all contribute to the main plot and all get tied up neatly in the end - even rather minor ones introduced towards the beginning. Another point of contrast in terms of plot compared to other school stories that I have previously covered is this one being set at a rather small private boarding school compared to a large public school, in this I mean the distinction between 'public school' and 'private school' in 19th century British terms; a public school is managed by a board of trustees although by modern legal standards is essentially private, whereas a private school is managed by an individual, and also tend to be smaller. In technical aspects, the chapters are longer than what I've previously encountered in stories that were originally published in serial format. This novel was also published in two volumes of around 300 pages each when published in book format making it to be around 600 pages in total, so it took me a bit longer to read than these sorts of books typically do, but I'm glad that I did.

Chums at Last : A Tale of School Life by Mrs. G. Forsyth Grant - Novel, read 1/31/2024 - 2/5/2024 I had actually planned on reading a book by this author some months ago since I came across her name in my research of victorian schoolboy stories, but as I was unable to find digitized texts of any of her books at the time I stopped looking. Fortunately, I managed to find at least one of her books available scanned on HathiTrust by searching on the Online Books Page. I nearly reached the 100 page mark on 2/1. At times the plot and style is more in line with the more sentimental school stories of the early ~ mid Victorian era, which is interesting considering that this one was published in 1899. This book is also a bit shorter than the other school novels that I've read at around 260 pages. I enjoyed it.

Who Did It?: or, Holmwood Priory by Henry Cadwallader Adams - Novel, read 2/6/2024 - 2/25/2024 A pretty funny slice of life oriented school story set at a private boys boarding school that was formerly a monastery (hence the subtitle). All though not a full-fledged mystery, as the title might suggest, a few small yet important mysteries are integral to the plot, particularly towards the middle of the story. Interestingly, although published (serially) in 1881 it is set several decades prior in the 1810s as is indicated by passing references to events of the early 1800s, such as the Napoleonic Wars. In terms of style it's quite reminiscent of the school stories of Talbot Baines Reed, although this isn't all that surprising as this novel is contemporaneous to several of Reed's school stories. It was a fun read and I enjoyed it.

Basil, the schoolboy, or, The heir of Arundel by Edward Monro - Novel, read 2/25/2024 - 2/28/2024 Another school story, one of the sentimental, pious variety, published in 1854. I discovered this book on Google Books when I was doing some research about the genre it belongs to. The pacing is rather swift (this wasn't published serially). It's about an orphan of mysterious parentage who's sent to a small private boarding school upon his mother's death. As you would expect of something with a plot of this nature the tone would be considered rather heavy, although there are a few moments of humor, they tend to be of the ironic sort as the result of certain characters' moral failings. As I have mentioned previously this book was published in '54 so structurally speaking it's a rather atypical school story due to it predating the more formative and influential works in the genre. Due in part to this (although not solely because of it), it was a rather interesting book with quite a few twists and turns and suspenseful moments that weren't easy to predict. I enjoyed it.

Stories of Whitminster by R. Hope Moncrieff - Novel, read 2/29/2024 - 3/5/2024 A lighthearted school story following a series of loosely connected comical incidents at a fictional English grammar school told from the perspective of a former pupil. I decided upon reading this book since I wanted to read a school story published in the 1870s. It was really funny and I enjoyed it.

Gerald Eversley's Friendship by J.E.C. Welldon - Novel, read 3/5/2024 - 3/7/2024 Another school story. The plot focuses on the titular protagonist's friendship with a boy quite different from himself. This particular novel dates from 1895 but is set at some time during the 1860s and early 1870s, and is rather reminiscent in certain aspects of school stories published during that decade in regards to it's focus on the vicissitudes of the friendship between two boys, as well as it's more overtly religious tone (this makes sense, the author was a clergyman, of his published writings this is the only novel). It was interesting.

A Sweet Girl Graduate by L. T. Meade - Novel, read 3/8/2024 - 3/23/2024 A novel set at a fictional women's college during the the 1890s. I had this book saved for a while and decided to read it when going through some books I had saved online. It takes a few chapters to get going, which isn't too long because the chapters are fairly short. It would best be described as a slice of life drama and there are various concurrent plot threads that are all handled nicely. Despite being published over 130 years ago it feels quite timeless and is easier to get into than some of the other Victorian era books I've read. It's worth adding that this edition from 1910 on Internet Archive has some nice pen-and-ink illustrations. I really enjoyed it.

The Adventures of a Three-Guinea Watch by Talbot Baines Reed - Novel, read 3/24/2024 - 3/27/2024 The story of the life of a pocketwatch and the lives of it's various owners told from the perspective of the pocketwatch itself. Several of the watch's owners lives are interconnected by way of ownership of the particular watch. Although there are a few places where explicit moralizing crops up, I wouldn't consider it preachy. It's worth noting that although this is not a school story, the first ten chapters take place in a public school. All in all it was very enjoyable and I'm glad that I read it.

Schoolboy Honour: A Tale of Halminster College by Henry Cadwallader Adams - Novel, read 3/28/2024 - 4/10/2024 A school story (in case it wasn't evident from the title). This one is all the way from 1861 and is set at a fictional English public school. It would probably be considered slice of life, however it's a very plot oriented slice of life story, so probably slice of life drama. Something that I find rather interesting about this novel is that although it was written in the '60s, a decade in which school stories tend to be more of the morally and religiously didactic type, this story has rather little overt moralizing. Similarly, the sentimentality associated with that decade is notably absent from this story as well*. It's on the longer end of the spectrum as regards school stories at 401 pages and the individual chapters are rather long. The writing style (and this due no doubt in part to the actual age of this work) would be considered 'prosy' but not poetical and the author uses only one Greek quotation if I remember correctly**. It was a really enjoyable read.

Somewhat related observations

*The reason why this is noteworthy is because during the 1850s and 1860s sentimentality wasn't seen as being entirely 'unfit' in books for boys as it came to be seen in the following decades of the 19th century due to changes in the perception of masculinity in Victorian society which was in turn due to a complex array of societal factors which is really outside of the scope of this blog but I just wanted to make that addition.

**Greek and Latin quotations are surprisingly common in schoolboy stories, especially older ones. This is due mostly to the fact that middle and upper class education placed a heavy emphasis on classical learning and therefore such references would not have been entirely alien to the target audience at the time.

The Willoughby Captains by Talbot Baines Reed - Novel, read 4/11/2024 - 4/27/2024 A lighthearted school story about the departure of the title school's current captain, and his unlikely successor who has his work cut out for him.The little incidents of school life are depicted in a lively and comical manner and a particular focus is given to the intricacies of classroom politics, however the main plot concerns an incident involving a tampered rudder line that throws an anticipated boat race, and the search for the culprit. Even though it is a heavily plot oriented novel it's very episodic in structure (this isn't surprising as it was first serialized weekly and then published in book form later on), as the thirty-six chapters are rather self contained so to speak. In many particulars the story treads ground familiar to school stories although it does so in a creative and refreshing manner. All round a balanced and well written novel.

The Carved Cartoon; A Picture Of The Past by Austin Clare - Novel, read 4/27/2024 - 4/30/2024 A juvenile historical fiction novel set during the 1660s depicting a fictionalized account of the youth of English carver Gringling Gibbons. I stumbled upon this book while reading about historical fiction written during the Victorian era (this novel was published in 1874) and being intrigued by the synopsis was fortunate to find several digitized copies available to read online. It's rather quickly paced and the prose style is quite vivid, the descriptions of the Great Plague of London and the Great Fire of London in particular which both figure into the plot are told with captivating detail, enhanced by quotes from primary sources woven into the dialogue at particular times. Aside from Gibbons, several other real life historical figures figure (pun unintended) into the narrative as well as locations and other historical events. Although there are a few technical inaccuracies they are rather inconspicuous and the work is quite well researched. Even though the narrator's voice can be a bit didactic at times, it isn't particularly obtrusive and the integration of moral purpose into the story is handled with tact. All in all a very enjoyable read.

The Caged Lion by Charlotte M. Yonge - Novel, read 5/1/2024 - 5/23/2024 A historical fiction novel set in England, Scotland, and France during the late middle ages. Another book that I stumbled across in my various reading, this one was originally published in 1871. The plot involves and references several real-life historical events and figures, a military campaign during the Hundred Years War in France towards the middle of the book in particular playing a prominent role, although many of the main characters (including the protagonist) are fictitious. The plot involves many twists and turns and moments of suspense throughout its narrative consisting largely both of interpersonal and political drama. The writing style is interesting; it's typical mid-century victorian prose but it also incorporates words and phrases from the middle ages in order to add to the immersion so to speak, much of the dialogue is similar in that many of the characters talk in a style similar to upper-class characters in victorian novels however their speech is augmented by particular antiquated words and phrases in order to add to the atmosphere and avoid anachronisms as much as possible. Structure-wise the chapters are quite long and of a rather uniform length and the pacing is rather swift, despite being around 285 pages long it felt as if it were around 400 pages due to the amount of content. Due to the setting, there is a lot of technical information that the reader needs to know in order to understand many aspects of the plot and the various ways in which the writer does this avoids tedious exposition dumps. It was an exciting read and I enjoyed it.

My Schoolboy Friends: A Story Of Whitminster Grammar School by R. Hope Moncrieff - Novel, read 5/24/2024 - 6/4/2024 An easy-going slice of life comedy school story told from the protagonist's point of view. The chapters are rather uniformly short and self-contained and the structure is overall very episodic. Tone wise the story is lighthearted and down-to-earth and there's little serious drama, although there is the occasional sprinkling of mid-century victorian sentimentality*. I wasn't aware of it initially, but this is actually the first book in a series of four novels set at the same fictional grammar school published between 1870 and 1874, the third of which is actually Stories Of Whitminster, a book which I read a couple of months ago wholly unaware that it belonged a series because it didn't really have any obvious continuity with the previous book in the series. Enjoyable read and I look forward to reading the next book.

More about this in particular (spoiler) Up until last chapter, when the tone shifts quite dramatically, although definitely not without precedent or foreshadowing, and serves as a transition into the sequel.
Random technical note Both ATCL and HathiTrust have the subtitle listed incorrectly as 'A Story Of Westminster Grammar School'.

George's Enemies: A Sequel to "My Schoolboy Friends" by R. Hope Moncrieff - Novel, read 6/5/2024 - 6/10/2024 As you can infer from the subtitle, this is the sequel to My Schoolboy Friends and the second book in the Whitminster Grammar School pentalogy*. It picks up where the previous book ended after a timeskip of just over a year and is narrated by the same protagonist as the first, although it is as much about him as his titular friend, George. There are a couple of new characters and the characterisation of those introduced during the previous book remains consistent. George's Enemies would be considered a slice of life comedy like its predecessor retaining the same episodic structure as the first book, however there are some more serious plot points throughout the story compared to My Schoolboy Friends where most of the more serious elements were intended as foreshadowing. Towards the middle of the story a plot point regarding the disappearance of various sums of money and schoolbooks is introduced and the search for the thief occupies most of the second half of the book. I'd say that it was as good as the first book and I enjoyed it.

Technical note and correction I was wrong when in my previous entry I said that this was a series of four novels because apparently there is a fifth book in this series titled The Holiday Task: An Occasional Magazine of Contributions by the Pupils of Whitminster Grammar School and Their Friends published in 1875 that isn't listed on ATCL but is listed on the author's Wikipedia article. Such errors and exclusions are not surprising since this kind of media predates the internet by so long that information related to it available online consisting of anything other than digitized texts is scanty.

A Peck of Troubles: An Account of Certain Misfortunes which Happened to Certain Young People of Whitminster by R. Hope Moncrieff - Novel, read 6/11/2024 - 6/19/2024 The fourth book in the Whitminster Grammar School series, this one is a collection of short stories set in or around the school in the surrounding town, similar to the preceding book, Stories Of Whitminster. Each of the six chapters are fairly long and self contained and three of them are further divided into smaller chapters. The stories take place at various times between the previous three books and mostly feature new characters, however some from the previous books do make an appearance. It was an easy and fun read.

The Holiday Task: An Occasional Magazine of Contributions by the Pupils of Whitminster Grammar School and Their Friends by R. Hope Moncrieff - Novella, read 6/19/2024 - 6/23/2024 The fifth and final book in the Whitminster Grammar School series, The Holiday Task is presented as being an anthology of humorous short stories written by some of the students (characters from the previous books, mainly the first and second) over the course of the Christmas holidays. It's a rather short book at 127 pages long so it more accurately would be considered a novella rather than a novel. Amusing read.

The Prince and the Page: A Story of the Last Crusade by Charlotte M. Yonge - Novel, read 6/24/2024 - 7/2/2024 A historical fiction novel taking place right after the end of the Second Barons' War and the beginning of the Ninth Crusade (referred to as the last crusade in the subtitle), concerning fictionalized versions of the families of Simon de Montfort and Henry of Winchester over the course of several years during the mid 1200s. The story begins and ends in England, however the bulk of the book takes place around the Mediterranean and in the Holy Land during the Ninth Crusade. The cast is composed of a mix of fictitious characters and fictionalized versions of historical figures, and historical events such as the events of the battle of Evesham and the translation of the body of Edward the Confessor at Westminster Cathedral play prominent roles, the former taking place prior to the beginning of the story but influencing the characters and their actions greatly. As far as the plot's fidelity to actual history goes, it takes quite a few liberties (especially in the latter half of the book). Despite not being an entirely accurate portrait of the time that it deals with, The Prince and the Page is a finely drawn romance of the high middle ages. Enjoyable read.

Technical note If you plan on reading this book it is helpful to read a bit about the Second Barons' War and the Ninth Crusade in order to better understand the setting.

Tell England by Ernest Raymond - Novel, read 7/3/2024 - 7/17/2024 A novel about the First World War from the perspective of the young men that fought in it on the side of the British. I had this book on my plan to read list for a while after running into it at various times when researching literary depictions of public schools in the early 20th century as well as depictions of WWI during the interwar period as this book was published in 1922, and apparently was quite the success when it was, being considered a bestseller but having since fallen into obscurity. The 342 page novel is divided into two 'books', each further separated into two parts with individual chapters, the first of the two books titled 'Five Gay Years Of School' is about just that - five (for the most part) carefree years of school for the main character (from whose perspective the story is told from) and his friends as boarders at a fictional English public school during the early 1910s and is divided into Part I 'Tidal Reaches', and Part II 'Long, Long Thoughts'. Part I is quite lighthearted (something which serves to form a sharp contrast with the events of book II) and focuses on introducing and getting to know the main characters and has several incidents that wouldn't seem out of place in a late Victorian schoolboy story. Part II is more serious, develops and concludes plot points introduced in part I, and depicts the main characters on the brink of adulthood in the summer of 1914 that will find them fighting in the Great War.

Book II 'And The Rest - War' opens in May 1915 with the protagonist getting shipped off to Gallipoli and recounting of the events of the past year. As I stated previously it is not so much a story about the First World War, but rather a handful of people directly involved in it. The story is character driven, but at several points in Book II it is both directly and subtly through subtext impressed upon the reader that despite what plans for the future you possess, and no matter how much you may truly want to live, there's knowing what tomorrow may bring. Although I wouldn't consider it an explicitly antiwar work it certainly doesn't paint war in an appealing manner, and places an emphasis on the severed human ties that war creates. Despite this Tell England is an overall optimistic work and posits that in spite of it all, there is more beauty in life than ugliness, and sometimes from that very ugliness beauty arises. All in all a rather poignant novel that I really enjoyed.

More thoughts (spoiler) I had a vague idea of the overall plot of this book going into it so I told myself that I would try not to get really attached to any of the main characters because I knew that due to this being a book about war there's a high likelihood that they will die, and I was right in thinking that. I think that following a set of characters for several years from childhood to young-adulthood helped to make their deaths have more impact by showing their dreams and plans for the future, only to have them never put into action due to their early deaths.

The Christmas Goblins by Charles Dickens - Short story, read 7/18/2024 A short story about a cantankerous grave digger being taught to appreciate Christmas (and by extension life) by an unexpected encounter with goblins on Christmas Eve.

Billy's Santa Claus Experience by Cornelia Redmond - Short story, read 7/18/2024 A humorous little short story about a boy who pretends to be Santa Claus for his younger brother, but his plan doesn't quite go as expected. From the story collection, 'A Budget Of Christmas Tales'.

The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge - Novel, read 7/18/2024 - currently reading | Just started, thoughts pending.

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