Tag Archives: Making Fate

Let’s Review

5 Sep

This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in Friday’s drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card!

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Chances are, you’re reading this post because you love Isabella Alden’s books.

From the time her first book, Helen Lester, was published in 1865, Isabella enjoyed success as an author.

By the late 1880s readers were buying over one-hundred-thousand copies of her books every year:

From The Brooklyn (New York) Standard Union, October 22, 1890.

When Isabella wrote her novels, there were no Internet sites like Goodreads or online retailers like Amazon for readers to post their reviews of Isabella’s books.

Instead, Isabella’s books were reviewed by literary editors in newspapers across the country.

When her novel Making Fate came out in 1896, a Boston newspaper declared:

Readers of all classes, from the serious to the frivolous, can read this story with entertainment and rise from its perusal refreshed.

The New England Farmer (Boston), August 1, 1896.

In 1901, a San Francisco newspaper reviewed Isabella’s novel, Pauline, and declared Isabella to be “a gifted writer.”

From The San Francisco Call, September 22, 1901. Click on the image to read the entire review.

Unfortunately, not all reviewers were so generous with their praise. One literary critic in a Pittsburgh newspaper wrote that Isabella’s 1902 novel Unto the End “is really not half a bad story in its way.” The critic goes on to classify Isabella’s readers among “those who ask from their literature nothing but that it shall not require them to think.” (You can read the entire review by clicking here.)

But reviews like “Pittsburgh’s” were few and far between. On the whole, Isabella’s novels were well received, and millions of Isabella’s faithful fans relied on those reviews to notify them when her new books were available for purchase.

Several times, in her stories and memoirs, Isabella mentioned keeping a scrapbook; it’s possible that’s where she kept clippings of her book reviews.

And if that’s true, she probably also kept reviews of the books written by her niece, Grace Livingston Hill.

Grace’s writing career took off in the 1900s. When her novel The Best Man was published in 1914, The Boston Globe’s literary critic praised the novel, saying it was “full of thrilling moments.”

You can click here to read the full review, which includes a very nice publicity photo of Grace.

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How about you? Have you ever written a book review and published it in print or online?

How much do you rely on other people’s book reviews when deciding what books to buy?

National Wear A Hat Day

17 Jan

January 17 is National Wear A Hat Day. In honor of the occasion, here are sketches of lovely ladies wearing hats that were popular at the turn of the 20th Century. Now yellowed with age, these black and white drawings were often used in advertisements and on trade cards.

Isabella Alden’s first book was published in 1865 and she continued to publish fiction through the 1920s. Her stories spanned many decades and she saw fashion styles come and go throughout her long life. These stylish hats might have been worn by Isabella’s heroines in her books, Making Fate, Overruled, As In A Mirror, Four Mothers at Chautauqua and Ruth Erskine’s Son, which were all published between 1895 and 1905.

Which hat is your favorite?

Black and White Bonnet 02 Black and White Bonnet 03 Black and White Bonnet 04 Black and White Bonnet 05 Black and White Bonnet 07 Black and White Bonnet 08 Black and White Bonnet 10 Black and White Bonnet 11 Black and White Bonnet 12 Black and White Bonnet 13 Black and White Bonnet 14 Black and White Bonnet 15 Black and White Bonnet 16 Black and White Bonnet 17 Black and White Bonnet 18 Black and White Bonnet 19

Glyde’s Sack

23 Dec

In Making Fate, Uncle Anthony whisked Glyde Douglass off to New York for a whirlwind visit. As the youngest of three sisters, Glydes clothes were hand-me-downs and she had to borrow one of her sister’s sacks to wear on the trip.

Although it was clear in the book that a sack was some kind of garment, “sack” is not a fashion term most 21st Century readers recognize. For a good description of a lady’s sack, there’s no better authority than Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, which was a popular women’s publication in the late 1800s.

According to Godey’s, a sack (or sacque) was a lady’s overcoat that was in fashion for several decades. Of varying lengths, it was usually hip length or reached to about a woman’s knees. It was sometimes styled to match a specific dress or it was made up in a neutral color so it could be worn over a variety of dresses.

The December 1853 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine featured this stylish sack:

Sack 3 Godeys December 1853 edited

Fall or winter sacque. This style of wrap is very pretty for misses.
It can be made of silk, or of any kind of cloth. It is trimmed with
a ruching of velvet, silk, or cloth, either of the same shade as the
material or darker. The latter has the more stylish appearance.
 

The June, 1863 issue of Godey’s included this drawing and description under the banner, “The Latest Style”:

Sack 2 Godeys June 1863 edited

Another pretty robe dress, with sack to match, very
suitable for traveling. This style of dress is to be had in
percales of neutral tints, and in wool goods, such
as taffetas and alpacas.
 

The May 1863 issue featured this description for a new sack design:

Sack Godeys May 1863 Detail edited

A very stylish morning costume for a watering-place. It is
made of white alpaca with one box-plaited flounce bound
with black on the edge of the skirt. Above the flounce is a 
lace-like embroidery, and three rows of black velvet. A
short sack is cut to the figure, but not fitting closely,
is worn over a white muslin waist. 
 

During their stay in New York, Uncle Anthony took Glyde on a wonderful shopping spree, purchasing many things for her, including a new sack in the latest style:

It was one of the newest styles, fine and heavy, and beautifully trimmed, yet simple enough for a girl of the most refined tastes. The quick eye of the saleswoman had caught the right size, and the garment fitted as though made to order.

“It suits me exactly,” Uncle Anthony announced, in his most complacent tone. “Your Aunt Estelle used to wear one very much like it. Go over to the mirror, little girl, and see what you think. If it pleases you as much as it does me, we will call it a bargain.”

No girl could have looked at herself in a full length mirror and caught such a reflection as Glyde did, without being pleased. Her face spoke for her.

“You like it?” said Uncle Anthony. “Glad of it. You may as well keep it on and have the other sent home. It is warmer than that; and this is a pretty cold morning.”

“But, Uncle Anthony,” she said, moving toward him and speaking low. Her appalled eyes had caught sight of the figure marked on the sleeve-card, and she did not know how to make her protest strong enough. “I truly do not need it; my sack which I have at home is warm; warmer than Estelle’s, and I do not mind its being a little old-fashioned; and indeed I cannot think that you know how very expensive this one is.”

“Yes, I do; I know exactly what it costs. You don’t suppose I am foolish enough to buy an article without finding that out the first thing, do you? I call it very reasonable for a garment gotten up in that style; it is well lined, you see, and will outlast three or four like that one you had on. The question is does it suit you as well as anything you see around here?”

“Oh, it could not be lovelier, but—”

“Then we won’t waste time over conjunctions, disjunctive ones at that. Just let the young lady wear it home, will you? And send the other to my hotel with the handkerchief, you know, and other things?”

The sympathetic saleswoman laughed; she had not had such an enjoyable customer in many a day. Her heart was in the entire enterprise. She led the way for Uncle Anthony with such promptness and success that several more bewildering purchases were made by him before he announced himself ready for luncheon.

Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

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