Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What I Read in November Part II . . .

What I Read in November Part II . . .

Penelope's Postscripts by Kate Douglas Wiggin-- Historical Fiction

This is the first and last episode in the Penelope series. It takes place just after A Catherdral Courtship and features cameos from the characters of that novel. As Penelope and friends travel through Europe, she jots down impressions in her diary. These impressions are not as polished or as amusing as her other extracts. The descriptions are not as detailed and the story focuses a lot on other characters. It concludes with Penelope telling us what she's up to now in 19__.

Penelope's Irish Experiences by Kate Douglas Wiggin-- Historical Romance

Penelope, now a matron; Francesca, happily engaged and Salemina, still single; ate traveling together once again. "Himself" (Penelope's husband) is busy with business matters back home and Ronald Macdonald can't leave his parish. The trio of friends travel through each of Ireland's 4 provinces and encounter a noted scholar, his children, a tragic romance and several notable locals. Traveling with them is Brenella, a young woman from Salem traveling to Ireland in search of her relatives. After collapsing on Salemina's trunk, the older lady took the younger one under her wing and employed her as a maid. Brenella will do anything for her beloved employers, but where will she go once the summer ends?

This book starts off great, with a tongue-in-cheek scene where Penelope realizes that she and her friends are like characters in a three volume novel! Salemina refuses to have anything to do with such stuff and nonsense but Penelope knows better. Past events coupled with the charm of Ireland may work their magic on her. As with the previous books, there's tons of local color which is very charming and funny. However, this time the author footnotes her literary references, explains things in the text and sometimes focuses too much on Irish poetry and not enough on the plot. There's also a fair amount of social commentary. During this time the Irish question was foremost on every Briton's mind and the author has Penelope wonder philosophically on why the Irish are so poor and ragged and an entire section is devoted to Irish grievances against the English. All that was a bit too much for me. The plot came to a very slow conclusion. I would have liked more in the romance department, including more of an ending. It was very abrupt.

I would recommend this series to armchair travelers and those who love late Victorian era literature. If you L.M. Montgomery's novels I think you will like these. They're very charming and fun for the most part. I'm sad to leave my traveling companions behind but thanks to several universities and Google, we can read digital versions of these forgotten stories. Do try to find the versions with illustrations by C.E. Brock. They really add to the story and are very charming.

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