Thursday, April 27, 2017

Two (Much Better!) Books.


Several years ago, I happened upon an illustrated copy of "Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes" by Robert Louis Stevenson; I raved and resolved to read more of this classic author.

Lately, I found a copy of "The Black Arrow", a late medieval romp through the English War of the Roses. Written in Victorian times, it must have been a sensation, since it featured a young noble woman dressing as a young boy to escape a fiendish guardian (about to marry her off to another villain for money, while he also steals her rightful legacy). Similar outrages are done to the hero, young Dick Shelton; he was orphaned by this evil guardian (adapt at manipulating laws, in a lawless time.) Of course, Dick and Lady Joanna are destined for one another.

Once your eye adapts to the "Shakespeare-lite" dialogue, in contrast with the more modern Victorian style test, it's a breeze.

It doesn't matter about the plot, "good" eventually prevails. Stevenson's writing crams so much action, drama, image, natural scenery, emotion and intrigue into short little paragraphs; it is amazing what talent he possessed. He died young, that's sad. No wonder the entire world mourned his death.

I know how I missed "Christy" by Catherine Marshall (published 1967) all these years. The marketing for the book made it "feel" like a "Sound of Music"-plot; it seemed like it would be sappy.

But I found a copy and approached it with new eyes. Considering the book is already half a century old and relates the experiences of a young volunteer teacher in East Tennessee 50 years before that, the story is remarkably fresh and current-feeling. The author died in the 1980's.

Christy wants to be independent, not just hang around her wealthy family in Asheville, NC until she marries a local scion and settles down. So she takes on the teaching assignment in the back country and is greatly challenged by the difference between her expectations and the reality; the hardships.

If you ever were tempted to skip vaccinations for infectious diseases like typhoid, this book will remind you why these diseases were a scourge and best avoided!

Of course there is some romance; she has so much to learn. Most people my age have read this book if they are interested; younger readers who like romance, coming of age and history would enjoy the story.

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