A Civil Contract



by Georgette Heyer

Published 1961

If you would like to read a book on how to be a good wife, this is it.  Jenny, a rich young heiress, marries a poor but titled young man, as a business arrangement rather than a love match.  Indeed, the young man, Lynton, is in love with another woman, Julia.  But he sets aside his feelings for the sake of practicality–his father, a gambler by nature, drained the family coffers dry before his death.  With a mother and sister to provide for, Lynton accepts the proposal of Jenny’s father–money in exchange for Jenny’s launch into genteel society.

Jenny, however, has secretly loved Lynton for some time, and is determined, not to make him love her, but to make him a good wife.  And that, I think, is why I enjoyed this book.  Jenny’s motives are pure.  She marries Lynton, and works hard to learn his ways and to please him, not because she has any yearning for a title or to attend exclusive parties (indeed, she finds that her life is happiest at Lynton’s family estate in the country), but because she simply loves Lynton and wishes his life to be happy and comfortable.

Lynton, it is only fair to say, treats Jenny very well.  Although he does not love her in a romantic way, he is always kind and patient, grateful for her efforts.  At one point in the story, he runs into Julia at a party.  She suggests that, since she is also to be married, that Lynton and she could engage in a extra-marital relationship, a common enough happenstance in a time where love matches were the exception and not the rule.  But Lynton refuses this tempting offer, determined to do right by Jenny, to treat her with the respect and honor that she, as his wife, deserves.

Heyer’s books are always happy in the ending, so it is no giveaway to say that Lynton comes to appreciate and love Jenny, and to realize that Julia’s fastidious and expensive temperament would never have suited him.  Jenny’s practical and sincere affection, not only for Lynton, but for Lynton’s home and lifestyle, make her a superior wife for Lynton in every way.

While some may deride this book for being dull, and Jenny being a little too housewifely, I found it to be refreshing.  While a long-term relationship can (and usually is) founded on passionate love, endurance comes from something deeper and steadier.  Lynton and Jenny discover that, and while there is never a moment where they leap into each other’s arms and embrace passionately, they do come to realize that a large part of a happy marriage is comfortable companionship and shared work and interests.  While this book may not get a very high grade from the romantics, I think that this couple has a far better chance of a still being happily and contentedly married in fifty years than most fictional couples.


House of Many Ways



by Diana Wynne Jones

Published 2008

In this sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle (following, it appears, Castle in the Air),  a young girl heads off to house-sit for a relation (by marriage) whom she has never met.  Of course, it turns out that the relation is a wizard and his house is, to say the least, a bit unusual.  As with Castle in the Air, old friends return (Howl is, if possible, even more annoying in this book than the first) and complicated plot twists abound.

While I really enjoyed this book, I will say that the villain, a strange creature whose name I can’t remember, really gave me the weirds, as it reproduces by inserting its eggs into innocent passersby (usually they are not even aware that this has happened).  If the egg-host happens to be male, the young hatch from the eggs and kill the host while emerging (!?!?!?) and if the egg-host is female, she gives birth in a  normal fashion, except instead of having a baby, she has a humanoid version of this creature.  And there’s just something about having some strange monster lay eggs in you when you don’t even know it that seems extra gross to me.  So I didn’t like that.

But the humor was strong and the dialogue delightful.  And, per usual when reading a Jones book, I could barely put it down.  4/5.

The Code of the Woosters



by P.G. Wodehouse

Published 1938

If you’ve read more than five of my posts, you’ve already realized that I am a huge fan of Wodehouse.  His mastery of description is beyond compare.  His characters are hilarious, his plot lines ludicrous, and he somehow manages to write entertaining and involving stores without a single true villain.

The Code of the Woosters is one of my very, very favorites of his (which is saying a lot).  Bertie is in prime form in this cow-creamer focused adventure.  Wodehouse’s plots are far too convoluted to attempt to summarize (whenever you do, it sounds ridiculous bizarre instead of hilarious).  I simply do not understand how, at the end of every single chapter, he can find one sentence that leaves feeling as though the rug has just been jerked out from beneath you, and whirls you into the next chapter.

All I can say is what I say every time I review a Wodehouse book: if you haven’t read one, your life has, hitherto, been a waste.  I recommend rectifying the situation ASAP.

The Farthest-Away Mountain



by Lynne Reid Banks

Published 1976

This is a happy little story about a girl who travels to a mountain.  Along the way, she meets an amiable frog, some sad gargoyles, a dreadful giant, a wicked witch, and a pterodactyl.

While an enjoyable tale, it is aimed for slightly younger readers, and the characters do not possess much depth.  It was a nice once-read, but not a book I particularly want to purchase for my personal collection.  3/5.

Castle in the Air



by Diana Wynne Jones

Published 1990

Well, after reading Howl’s Moving Castle for a second time, I wanted to give the two sequels a whirl.  However, sources seemed to differ on which came first, and both Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways claimed to be “the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle.”  So I just went with which one was published first, and that seemed to be correct.

Castle in the Air is not what I would call a “direct” sequel.  The main character is someone completely new; the adventures don’t even start in the same country as Howl.  However, old friends do eventually appear on the pages (much to my delight).  Like most of Jones’s books, I found myself wanting to read it again as soon as it was finished–her endings are always a bit abrupt, but leave me with the feeling that, had I known everything I know now, I could have gotten a great deal more from the beginning, if that makes sense.

Overall, this book was lots of fun, with very likable characters–a very cranky (and literal) genie, a flying carpet that works best when you’re sleeping, a lovable carpet seller, and more.  I really enjoyed it, and definitely recommend all three of these books.  4/5.