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Reviews by Leah A. Zeldes

Philistia

by Grant Allen

This wry novel on class conflict in 19th-century England chronicles the lives of four Oxford men from very different backgrounds and outlooks: Harry Oswald, a brilliant mathematician, although neither he nor anyone else can forget that his parents are plebeian grocers; Arthur Berkeley, a clergyman and composer with surprising origins; and the Le Breton brothers, sons of a military officer, gently-born but not wealthy — Ernest, a single-minded socialist, and the more conventional and selfish Herbert — as well as Oswald's sister, Edie, and Lady Hilda Tregellis, daughter of an earl.

The story isn't complimentary to the aristocracy or the period's status quo, and dwells on issues which, outside of the hereditary element, seem very relevant to the widening income gap in the U.S. today. It's interesting reading, with excellent characterizations, though it moves slowly in places.

Reviewed on 2017.01.09

Graustark

by George Barr McCutcheon

A classic romantic adventure of the early 20th century, first of a six-book series. If King Edward VIII grew up reading this sort of stuff, it explains a lot about his abdication. I don't suppose he did, though, since George Barr McCutcheon was American, with the period's usual American fascination with royalty combined with certainty that the American way is best and that Americans are naturally superior to all others.

While traveling cross country, Grenfall Lorry falls in love with a young woman he meets on a train, a Miss Guggenslocker from Graustark. She sails for her homeland almost immediately, however.

Unable to forget her, he finally resolves to travel to the tiny Eastern European principality to try to track her down. Arriving in her hometown, he discovers that Miss Guggenslocker isn't who she seemed.

Reviewed on 2017.01.09

The Gloved Hand

by Burton E. Stevenson

Strange lights and bizarre doings at an estate in the Bronx take lawyer Lester and newsman Godfrey on their weirdest case yet. Is the "White Priest of Siva" involved a genuine mystic or a fake Hindu humbug?

I agree with previous reviews that this isn't the best of the series, but I disagree that maligns Hinduism — it merely exhibits the uninformed views of it that the average New Yorker of 1913 might have had, which ignorance, of course, is what enabled the crime to occur. That Lester can make no sense of Hinduism in his first reading about it is unsurprising — it is an extremely complex and diverse collection of sects, and Lester, as we've seen in the earlier books of the series, isn't the brightest of Watsons.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who hadn't read the preceding volumes, but if you liked those, this one is well worth reading, and suffers mainly in comparison to the excellence of The Mystery of the Boule Cabinet.

Reviewed on 2016.07.17

The Warden

by Anthony Trollope

The start of Trollope's Barsetshire novels, "The Warden" satirizes both church sinecures and fiery reformers. The problem for modern U.S. readers is grasping the role the Church of England played in 19th-century British society. It also requires patience with Trollope's sometimes ponderous prose, and his tendency to make his characters well-rounded at the expense of their humorous qualities.

Reviewed on 2016.07.17

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