Reviews by Leah A. Zeldes

The Bread Line

by Albert Bigelow Paine

Four friends come up with a pie-in-the-sky scheme to start a newspaper that's going to net them millions ... but getting it going proves tougher than they predict. The reader can likely predict what will happen just from the title, but it's a nice read anyhow, with a touch of romance.

Reviewed on 2015.11.20

Samantha at the World's Fair

by Marietta Holley

One of a series of humorous first-person novels purportedly by "Josiah Allen's Wife," Samantha, this one covers the Upstate New York couple's visit to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

It takes a while to get into Samantha's country dialect and I'm not entirely certain I did figure out all of it and she's pretty preachy, especially on the subjects of temperance and wimmen's, er, women's issues, and inclined to ramble. In fact, she doesn't even get to the fair till Chapter 10.

The story is even lighter on plot than "The Adventures of Uncle Jeremiah and Family at the Great Fair," and, despite funny bits here and there, less amusing overall. Although Holley includes lots of description of the fair itself, much of it reads as if she took it from "The Best Things to Be Seen at the World's Fair" or some other guidebook.

Chicago history buffs with an interest in the fair will likely want to read this for completism's sake, but there's not much here for anybody else. "Josiah Allen's Wife" published a slew of books and was apparently very popular in her day; perhaps her other volumes are more entertaining.

Reviewed on 2015.11.20

The Biography of a Prairie Girl

by Eleanor Gates

This story of a young girl growing up among settlers in the Dakotas is apparently a semi-autobiographical novel. However, the author decided, for some curious reason, never to refer to her protagonist, or anyone (except a couple of Indians and some of the family pets), by name, but rather by labels "the little girl," "the biggest brother," "the Swede boy," etc. That dulls the story, giving it a generic quality.

One can imagine "Little House on the Prairie" author Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose childhood encompassed the same period, reading it and thinking, "I can do better than this!" As she did.

Reviewed on 2015.11.17

The Man Who Knew Too Much

by G.K. Chesterton

A collection of short stories about Horne Fisher, a languid but intelligent man who's connected to many of the movers and shakers behind the government of England. He has a lot of esoteric knowledge, which helps him to deduce many shameful secrets and scandals, most of which he keeps to himself for the good of the country. Fisher is oblique and so are these stories.

Reviewed on 2015.11.17

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