The Christmas Season in Books
Brief Reviews of Some of the Best
Canada's Day of Glory. By F. A. McKenzie. (William Briggs, Toronto). The author of this book is, perhaps, our best known Canadian War Correspondent; yet he has never begun to put into his newspaper work anything like the vividness and sustained interest the reader will find in “Canada’s Day of Glory.” Probably we may blame the censorship for this or the high cost of cable tolls; for in this book he has shown that he possesses not only that faculty of keen observation which we might expect from ar. old newspaperman, but a nice sense of humor and of proportion.
Probably as the end of the fighting had drawn nigh before this book was ] completed—it carries the reader up to the days of the big advance of Auçust, and the beginning of the end—some relaxation of the censorship was beginning'; at all events, there are many things touched on in the book which, for whatever reason, have never been gone into before, and they are just those things which the laymen is most curious about It does not purport to be so much a connected narrative, as sketches and impressions of a man who has, apparently, been anything but a long-range observer. Certainly, no more intimate and interesting book on the Canadian Army has been written.
It contains, for example, perhaps as good an impression of General Currie as could be put in a dozen pages.
The author has little use for the Boche, although he never fails to give him due credit for his fighting qualities; he has seen enough of his work at close range to warrant the intensity of feeling he displays. Mr. McKenzie was on the ground, for example, soon after the bombing of the hospitals at Etaples; and the sights he saw there causes him to re-echo the sentiment which another observer of the scene expressed to him: “May God damn and h'ast for ever the Huns who did this!” There is one much advertised crime of the German army which Mr. McKenzie •says he has never been able to verify; that is the crucifixion of the Canadian sergeant.
Of the big events in which the Canadians participated most prominently, such as Vimy and Passchendaele, there is a very clear and detailed description ; and there are striking pen pictures of the leaders of the Canadian army, as well as some notables in the “foreign
As the author is endeavoring not so much to tell a connected story as to give what might be called an expansion of the most striking things in his notebook, the arrangement of the book is rnther unusual, but not unpleasing. It is a volume well worth adding to any well-selected war library.—T.M.F.
Joan and Peter. By H. G. Wells. (MacMillan Co. of Canada.) Education in England in the Victorian age is revealed in “Joan and Peter” as a faulty process, for the defects of which Great Britain has paid dearly in the Great War, and for which defects British commerce, industry, and business may still have much to pay. The criticism
loses none of its edge by being wrapped in the fabric of the youthful lifestory and love-story of Joan and Peter. The educational methods peculiar to the middle and upper classes in England are dissected, and their imperfections indicated as with the point of the scalpel. The process does not suggest vivisection, for in those later Victorian systems of education the author finds little that can be called vitality.
“Life,” he says “never stands altogether still, but it has a queer tendency to form stationary eddies, and very much of the education of middle-class and upper class youth in England had been in an eddy for a century. The still exquisite and impressionaDie brains of the new generation came tumbling down the stream, curious, active, greedy, and the eddying scnools caught them with a grip of iron, spun them around for six or seven precious years
and at last flung them out....... In
this manner did High Cross School grind and polish its little batch of boys for their participation in the affairs of the greatest, most civilized and most civilizing empire the world has ever
Relentlessly, and in detail the wretchedly the criminally inadequate “educational”!?) routine of High Cross School is described as an example of the worst sort of English private preparatory school. The author allows that there are better managed schools in England, but finds perfection or even near-perfection in none. He makes his search in the person of Oswald Sydenham who wishes to give Peter a decent education, an education that will be of some practical use to him. Oswald has oeen abroad in Africa, and knows the need. It was not Oswald, however, who put Peter into High Cross School. That was the wicked work of Lady unarlotte Sydenham, who is undoubtedly the “villainess” of the book. Peter runs away from High Cross School, which, to tel) truth, savors quite considerably of “Dotheboys Hall.” Its proprietor is a wastrel with a smattering of Cambridge. Its masters are equally worthless as trainers of young minds. Lazy, crafty, Noakley, who manufactures rain with a watering pot from an upper window to avoid having to take the boys for the morning run, is one of them. Kahn—the Alsatian—is another. There were many German or half-German teachers in Britain in the later Victorian period, and they were not the marvels of efficiency which those very Victorian days used to imagine all things German must be.
In laying bare the defects of the later Victorian educational system Mr. Wells does not overlook the elementary schools, or even the nursery itself. To read “Joan and Peter” is to begin to understand why some English people of supposedly decent education are so desperately “bad at arithmetic.” Miss Mills, to whose elementary school Peter went, had the haziest possible ideas on the subject herself, but she taught arithmetic by weird and
wonderful methods, other subjects also. Peter and Joan were frequently puzzled, as many other little British boys and girls have been, by the inconsistencies of their “education" at that early stage. At first the defective methods of education are encouraged, considered excellent by well-meaning, unthinking, faddist guardians, and even (as in the case of High Cross School) forced upon Peter. Later in the story comes Oswald who discovers with fury the desperate desultoriness of English upper and middle-class education. Oswald, after hard searching, hunts up a public school rather better than the average, a school which upholds the traditions of English public school life, with some modern improvements such as “big, business-like chemical and physical laboratories” and “mathematical teaching carried on in connection with work in the engineering and physical laboratories instead of being a mere drill in examination solutions.”
So go the unsparing incisions of the scalpel, until in burning indignation Wells writes this indictment of the whole system, social as well as educational. for they are too intimately interlinked to be dealt with entirely apart:
“Germany is no longer the villain of the piece. Youth turns upon age, upon laws and institutions, upon the whole elaborate rottenness of the European system, saying ‘What is this to which you have brought us? What have you done with our lives?’ ”—N.M.
The Magnificent Ambcrsons. Booth Tarkington. (Wm. Briggs). Booth Tarkington has been placed by his admirers on a high pedestal. He has become, in fact, almost a tradition among the younger American writers and the critics "who stand out against the suggestion that America is not producing much in the way of literature. It has perhaps been true that Tarkington has been rather overestimated and over-lauded. Certainly, however, he has established a solid claim to the laudation of his admirers in the book that he has just produced. “The Magnificent Ainbersons” is a serious and successful effort to depict a vital phase of American life. It is in a sense a complement of “The Turmoil,” which was written around the growth of a pleasant little town into a busy, smoky, industrial city. The second book, goes a step further and shows the changes that come in the wake of civic progress. The Ambersons were the aristocrats of a Middle Western town, and young George Amberson Minafer, grandson and heir, recognized to the full the importance of the position he had been born to fill; so much so, that, he declined any professional training and looked forward to a future in which he would administer his estates, engage in philanthropic work and lead movements. The townspeople did not like George and they prayed he would get his comeupanee. He got it; when the town outgrew its old bounds and his grandfather’s in-
vestments shrank and the magnificence of the Ambersons paled before the opulence of of a newer aristocracy. Young George’s illusions were shorn away one by one and lay about him in shreds at the finish. It is an engrossing book. In the beginning it runs along in an atmosphere of good cheer with a background of real and thoroughly likable people. Gradually a sterner thread creeps in and the concluding chapters are cast in a sombre mold. Even the fact that the conventional happy marriage is brought in does not remove the suggestion of gloom that the inexorable shearing of the magnificence of the Ambersons has created. Tarkington has written a story that will stand as a monument to his art. Although he is one of the fortunate coterie of authors who can get any price they want from the magazines and sell anything they write, he has rigidly refused to conform to the standards of the best seller and the popular magazine. His central character, George Amberson Minafer, gains the hearty dislike of the reader at the start and retains it almost undiminished throughout, although at the conclusion a genuine degree of admiration is mingled with it. An author who can build a book around such a character and make it thoroughly readable, has accopmlished something.—T.B.C.
Treat ’Em Rough. Ring W. Lardner. (George J. McLeod). Here we have the Busher in Uniform. It seems superfluous to explain who the Busher is, but perhaps there are some who have never read the baseball stories in which he has figured and have never plumbed the significance of that now classic phrase, “You know me, Al.” The Busher, therefore, is one Jack Keefe, a pitcher, right-handed, with the Chicago American Baseball team, otherwise the White Sox, who for some years past has amused the American reading public with the recital of his experiences through the medium of letters to his friend A!. The public, let it be said further, has taken the Busher to its bosom, and loves every hair of his ignorant, bumptuous, empty head. The Busher in the army is not as funny, however, as he was in baseball. There is a grimness, even about a training camp, that cramps the fun-making proclivities of the ingenious Lardner. The letters in which Jack Keefei tells AÍ. about the army are, of course, packed full of fun, but there is not the spontaneous quality as of old. Even at that, of course, “Treat ’Em Rough” is a gloom-dispeller and well worth reading.—T.B.C.
Deep Furrow«. By Hopkins Moorhouse. (George J. McLeod.) Very few books succeed in striking the imagination of the reader as does Deep Furrows, by Hopkins Moorhouse. As its name might suggest, it is a tale of strife,limned by the high lights and shadows of real agricultural life in the Great West. The romantic story begins when the first smoke of the threshers of wheat hung in “funnelled smudges” adown the prairies. It runs on through a chain of eventful months nil filled with human interest stories. It reveals in actual incidents of the awakening consciousness of the men on the farms, through the chief activities of sueh men as W. R. Motherwell, “that man Partridge” and J. W. Scallion in these early days,
when as one moving settler said: “Gdd Almighty aint nowheres near here ! He didn’t come this far West—stopped down at Rat Portage!”
At no point in the narrative does the story lag. From the early fighting days of Partridge, through the exciting days when “Alex” Crerar of Russell, now Hon. T. A. Crerar, Minister of Agriculture, was made manager of the Farmers’ Grain Companies, adown the sinuous corridors of the Winnipeg business deals, over the bumps with the Grain Exchange and as the crest of the wave is passed the story moves along a current of great interest that cannot fail to hold even the man who has heard the old story told over and over again.
In no book of recent days has the charm ef the author been so big a factor in commending its pages to the reader. There is nobody, agriculturist or otherwise, who will not eagerly follow the story which fairly sweeps the reader through sensational pages with the keenest enjoyment.—F.M.C.
The Little Marshal and Other Poems. Owen E. McGillicuddy. (Frederick D. Goodchild, Toronto.) A collection of verses many of which have already appeared in various magazines both on this side of the Atlantic and in the Old Country, which the author, in response to the persuasions of his friends has here gathered together in one volume. They are the casual outside writings of a busy newspaperman and while an unpretentious collection it is not without real merit. “The Tale of the Years,” for instance, possesses strength and beauty beyond the ordinary and gives evidence of real poetic feeling.—C.M.A.
Our Admirable Betty. Jeffrey Farnol. (Wm. Briggs, Toronto, $1.50). Jeffrey Farnol has raised himself from the abyss of mediocrity into which he sank with “The Definite Object.” His new book is a distinct improvement over the last and, although he does not achieve the standard of "The Broad Highway” or “The Amateur Gentleman,” he presents a story that is entertaining and pleasing. Here is an author with a very great deal of dexterity and a genius for finding the atmosphere that satisfies the romance hunger of the public. But of originality he possesses none; not, at least, in “Our Admirable Betty.” Cleverly mixed though the ingredients are that go to make up this pleasing tale, they are all familiar. His characters are old friends. Sir Benjamin, Alvaston, Marshdale, the befriiled dandies; Dalroyd, the polished viliaim; Sergeant Zeb, the faithful soldier factotum; Mrs. Agatha, the trim-ankled, rosy-cheeked housekeeper; all old, old friends indeed. They have stalked and minced through countless other historical romances. Even their talks strikes no new or original chord. They indulge ir. much of “stop my
vitals” and “tip us your famble” and greet every situation with “egads.” One ejaculation of “strike me perishing purple” can even be traced back to Stevenson’s “St. Ives” and “strike me sky-blue scarlet.” They are not real people. But do not get the impression that this is not a good story. It is distinctly readable, getting better as the plot develops. The plot is ingenious and cleverly knit with a sufficient element of surprise to keep up the interest right to the finish in the love affair of Lady Betty and Major D’Arcy, which reached the avowal stage almost at the start. And speaking of Lady Betty, we have in her the day-dream heroine of every youthful masculine heart. She is beautiful, vivacious, witty, good, daring, courageous—oh, everything. And yet, paragon as she is, she makes herself very engaging to the reader. She is, in fact, the one great reason for the success of “Our Admirable Betty.”—T.B.C.
The Zeppelin’s Passenger. E. Phillips Oppenheim. (McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, Toronto). Here we have another audacious spy story to add to the record of the versatile Oppenheim. The plot perhaps is not entirely new. Indeed the situation as it touches Henry Cranston is vaguely reminiscent of Sir Percy Blakeney of Scarlet Pimpernel fame. Despised and almost betrayed by his fascinating young wife, who is ignorant of the real object of his periodical “fishing” excursions, Cranston “carries on” till the time is ripe for him to reveal his secret. At first sight he appears to be merely the typical English sportsman, nonchalant, unimaginative, lazy; his only conversation fishing, or to be more accurate, trawling and all that pertains thereto. His wife, the beautiful Philippa, disgusted with his seeming indifference to the war and considering him a firstclass slacker, comes under the influence of a fascinating spy, to whom she turns for sympathy. One cannot help feeling sorry for the charming villain who is so much more natural because he is only half a villain and is therefore not quite up to his job, which is just as well for all concerned though it gets him into deep water. Philippa can well plead the frailty of her sex in extenuation of her conduct in falling a prey to the blandishments of the plausible “Mr. Lessingham.” Indeed we can hardly blame her, for who but an accomplished philanderer and a most artistic villain would relieve the tension of a moment of imminent danger by telling the heroine that he loves her “as the flowers love the sun?”
As you can sec for yourself it is a plot, combining all the thrills of intrigue with a strong element of romance. Oppenheim readers will find in “The Zeppelin's Passenger” an engrossing story that will hold their attention to the last page.—C.M.A.