Saturday, January 7, 2017


In 2015, after watching probably every film version of The Hounds of the Baskervilles ever produced, I decided to download a copy of the book from Project Gutenberg and re-read the novel. As I mentioned in a post from that time, I learned, shortly after reading the book, that The Hounds of the Baskervilles was among the top ten best selling books of 1902. Knowing that lead me to take a look at the entire list for that year and a desire to read a few of the books that were best sellers in 1902. As it turned out, counting the Conan Doyle novel, I read five of the top ten books for that particular year.

I've mentioned in more than one post that after learning of her through reading E. Phillips Oppenheim's memoir, Elizabeth von Arnim has become my current favorite writer. I ended 2016 by reading Arnim's most highly acclaimed novel, Vera, and began 2017 by reading Arnim's first book Elizabeth and Her German Garden. Although very different in tone, I loved both of the books and went to Project Gutenberg to download additional e-books of von Arnim's work. I immediately began von Arnim's 2nd book (and companion to her first) The Solitary Summer. Her third book is classified as "juvenile literature". Sadly, it is not available in e-book format. I downloaded the next two -The Benefactress and The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rügen. I've read 50% of The Benefactress and I'm looking forward to reading my 5th work by von Arnim.

I had already begun thinking of what books I might read following The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rügen and thought I might return to reading some of the top ten novels of years ago. Rather than go on to 1903 - which might have been a logical follow up to the 1902 list, I thought it might be better to jump ahead to 1917 and read the best sellers from one hundred years ago.

I looked at the list:

1) Mr. Britling Sees It Through by H. G. Wells
2) The Light in the Clearing by Irving Bacheller
3) The Red Planet by William J. Locke
4) The Road to Understanding by Eleanor H. Porter
5) Wildfire by Zane Grey
6) Christine by Alice Cholmondeley
7) In the Wilderness by Robert S. Hichens
8) His Family by Ernest Poole
9) The Definite Object by Jeffery Farnol
10) The Hundredth Chance by Ethel M. Dell

Number six, Christine by Alice Cholmondeley, threw me. Alice Cholmondeley was a nom de plume used by Elizabeth von Arnim.

Reading the wikipedia article of the novel, I've become fascinated by yet another side of Elizabeth von Arnim. The pen name was used by her in order to hide, from the public, the truth that the novel was not what the publishers claimed it to be. It was presented as a series of letters, written by a gifted young English girl studying in Germany just before the outbreak of World War I, to her mother in England. In actuality, Christine was a completely fictional work, written by von Arnim, for British propaganda purposes, in order to convince the American public to enter the war as Britain's ally.

In spite of this - or maybe because of this - I'll read Christine after I've finished reading The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rügen. It will be an appropriate way to begin my reading the 1917 best sellers. The rest of the list will be read in order.

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