Monday, March 6, 2017

The Day of Glory, Dorothy Canfield

These days, I seem to lose the ability to write coherent sentences after about 7.30 in the evening. It is really cutting into my blogging time, particularly when my weekends get busy. Maybe the time change this weekend will help, with the longer light in the evenings.

I ordered my copy of this book back in January. I had pretty much given up hope of it, figuring it was lost in the mail, when it turned up in my mailbox on Friday. I was immediately intrigued, because it is a small book, only six chapters, less than 150 pages in my Henry Holt edition. I was also intrigued by the 1919 publication date, which suggested a connection to the Great War - as did the title of one of the pieces, "France's Fighting Woman Doctor." It turns out that the entire book is about France in the war years. It felt like a companion to DCF's 1918 book, Home Fires in France.

But this book felt different than most of the collections of her short stories that I have read.  Except for the first chapter, "On the Edge," these pieces read more like magazine articles than fiction. Most have authorial comments in the first person. The second chapter, "France's Fighting Woman Doctor," is a profile of a real person, Dr. Nicole Girard-Mangin, whom DCF seems to have known personally. According to DCF, the authorities who called her to military service didn't realize she was a woman until she arrived at the front (according to Wikipedia, she volunteered for service). I loved learning about her. And having read a bit about medical service from British and American nurses, it was so interesting to see it from the French side.

"Some Confused Impressions" describes a day spent "Near Ch√Ęteau-Thierry, July, 1918," where the author meets French troops and civilians, as well as United States soldiers recently arrived in France. The last chapter, "The Day of Glory," is an account of the November 11th armistice in Paris. Only one chapter doesn't deal directly with the war, "Lourdes," focusing instead a day at the shrine among the pilgrims.

There are authors whose work I enjoy, whose books I buy, that I read and re-read. Then there are the authors whose work so resonates with me that I want to read - and own - everything that they have written. Dorothy Canfield is one of those authors, though I haven't really looked for her children's books yet (other than Understood Betsy). I think of them as the "complete" authors, and the list includes Jane Austen, Dorothy Dunnett, Kate O'Brien, Maura Laverty, E.O. Somerville & Martin Ross, even Laura Ingalls Wilder. It doesn't include Georgette Heyer (because I don't want to read her medieval historical novels), Dorothy L. Sayers (I feel no call to read her Dante translation), or even Anthony Trollope (ditto his book on Cicero or his biography of Thackeray). Do you have authors like that?

It's 7.24, and I feel my brain turning into a pumpkin!

10 comments:

  1. Now that you've asked about it and I've really put my mind to it, I'm realizing I may not have ANY "complete" authors -- even Diana Wynne Jones, my all-time favorite, has a few books that I'm just as happy to live without. I'd pick them up if I happened across them at a library book sale, but not go out of my way to find them. Huh. I wonder what this says about me as a reader.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Maybe that you aren't quite as obsessive about your favorite authors?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hmmm, complete authors? That is an interesting question. Jane Austen, definitely. Laura Ingalls Wilder and L.M. Montgomery from when I was a kid. But other than that? There are always one or two books I am just not interested in. Now I am going to check out your "complete authors" that I haven't read. After all, you are the blogger that introduced me to Dorothy Dunnett so I am all set for the next great find.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad that you've enjoying Dorothy Dunnett! And I think you still have the Nicholas books, and the Dolly mysteries - not to mention Thorfinn in King Hereafter!

      Wtih my "complete" authors, I may end up not liking all of their books - but I usually don't find that out until I've collected all that I can find! And usually after they've sat on the TBR shelves for quite a while...

      Delete
  4. I have authors like that, too. I agree with you on Laura Ingalls Wilder and Jane Austen! But I'm also drawn to authors like Henry James, Rosamond Pilcher, Edith Wharton, Barbara Pym, and Simone St. James. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, Barbara Pym for me too - though I'm a little dubious about the later books that were completed by someone else. I still have them on the shelves - and also a book of her letters & journal entries.

      Delete
  5. Years ago I binged on the books of favourite authors so that in no time I had read them all, but now I tend to take my time. I love Trollope but like you I wouldn't be interested in his non-fiction books. I'm slowly gathering all Rumer Godden's books at the moment and Penelope Lively.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Penelope Lively is on my list as well, though there are a couple of books of hers that I don't enjoy and haven't kept - but I still wanted to read them all. Now that I think about it, I still have some of her children's books to track down.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I didn't know Trollope wrote on Cicero (see, even if you don't want to read it, you're still helping out! Not that I want to read it either.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember reading that it was a labor of love, but also in part because he wanted to be seen as a Serious Author.

      Delete

Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!