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A Dangerous Inheritance, or, Sydney's Fortune

de Alice Wilson Fox

Altres autors: Gordon Browne (Il·lustrador)

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Afegit fa poc perAbigailAdams26, paleyh, bunwat
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Alice Wilson Fox, about whom I can discover nothing, appears to have been one of those early twentieth century authors of sentimental girls' fiction who slipped quietly into obscurity, never to be noticed again. I had certainly never heard of her, and might not have discovered her work, if a copy of her Hearts and Coronets had not come my way. I am so glad that it did, as her books incorporate some of the classic children's literature themes from that era into well-written, entertaining stories. I have been reminded, in the course of my reading, of the work of Louisa May Alcott and Frances Hodgson Burnett, as well as more recent authors like Joan Aiken.

A Dangerous Inheritance tells the story of Sydney Stonyman, a young American heiress who is left to the guardianship of an Englishman, Mr. Geoffrey Drury, when her father dies. Suspecting Sydney's ne'er-do-well uncle of foul play, Drury removed her to England, and placed her in the home of country vicar, Mr. Thorne, and his large family. Slowly emerging from her cocoon, and putting off her more unsociable ways, Sydney finally began to act like a young girl her age. But a series of "accidents" and near-catastrophes seemed to haunt her, until finally, while exploring a ruined tower with Edmund Thorne while on a seaside holiday, Sydney was kidnapped...

I enjoyed A Dangerous Inheritance immensely, and was amused by its combination of Gothic and sentimental motifs. The "wicked uncle" is something of a stock character, to be found in many, many works, including Georgette Heyer's satire of the character in her novel Sylvester. The scenes in which Sydney finds herself in Bristol reminded me strongly of Joan Aiken's novels, particularly the latter half of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Midnight Is a Place, in which former children of privilege must fend for themselves among the industrial poor. On the other hand, Sydney's unsociable, un-childlike disposition at the beginning of the story reminded me strongly of Mary Lennox in Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, just as her "tour" to reward the people who helped her reminded me of Sara Crewe in A Little Princess. Finally, the portions of the story which occurred on the farm in Wales were very interesting, primarily because Wilson Fox uses quite a bit of Welsh, which she then translates for the benefit of the reader. ( )
1 vota AbigailAdams26 | Jul 3, 2013 |
Three stars means I liked it. Which I did. It is a nice wholesome, sentimental, mildly melodramatic adventure in the same tradition as Little Lord Fauntleroy, or the Five Little Peppers, or What Katy Did.

The story is definitely of its time. In some ways that's a whole lot of fun. I really quite enjoy the bildungsroman aspect of these stories, where a child becomes a better character through exposure to good examples, plenty of fresh air and a modicum of hardship and danger. The Lady Bountiful chapter near the end when she comes back and rewards everyone who helped her in her trials and tribulations is just pure wish fulfillment fun. Also I always like that late Victorian convention of including an epilogue that shows what happens to all the characters after the book ends.

Its a very comforting world, where the good are rewarded and the bad are punished, and with some reasonable perseverence it is possible to gather happily around the warm family hearth of the rose garlanded ... well you know the conventions. Of course in some ways its also kind of silly. If I had to actually live with those conventions I wouldn't find them nearly as charming - distance helps me to regard this stuff with fondness.

The characters are vividly drawn, but simplistic. The wicked uncle is bad because.... well because we need a villain. He's just introduced at the outset as someone the family lawyer says was a disappointment to his family - someone who drinks and keeps bad company - nuff said. Later its suggested he may have had a head injury as a child.

The wholesome family with whom Sydney's guardian places her is known to be wholeseome because... well because a charming well bred person on the transatlantic liner said they were the right sort. And so they prove to be. Its very much a world where people are what they appear to be on the surface. Their manners and their clothing and their speech tell you what you need to know.

There are other examples of this same sentimental tradition that are better remembered, I think because they have some element that makes them a little bit exceptional. The Secret Garden for example because of the garden, the deep love of nature. Sydney's Fortune doesn't quite rise to the same level. But its still fun to read both on its own terms and as example of what was once a big category of juvenile fiction.

I also just loved that the copy I read had a sticker in the front showing that it had been awarded to a student at the United Methodist Sunday school in 1913 "for regular attendance and good behavior." Just like the story itself, a whiff of air from a different, past world. ( )
  bunwat | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Fox, Alice Wilsonautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Browne, GordonIl·lustradorautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
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