Westover of Wanalah (George Cary Eggleston, 1910)

In Virginia, in the 1850s, Boyd Westover falls in love with his neighbor, Margaret Conway. They’re engaged to be married when Boyd is caught up in scandal — he’s accused of breaking into a girls’ finishing school in Richmond. It was a case of mistaken identity and the matter is cleared up when the real culprit is apprehended, but it only marks the beginning of Boyd’s troubles.

Margaret’s father, Colonel Conway, has known Boyd all his life and couldn’t approve of him more. Of course, he knows the accusation is baseless and thinks nothing of it. Aunt Betty, however, is altogether a more conservative woman. She already disapproves of Boyd for his having the nerve to propose to Betty at his own home and not at her father’s, as convention demands. Boyd is bared from leaving the city pending trial and depends on the mails to keep in touch with his fiancee. Aunt Betty, seeing a way to sully the young man’s reputation, waylays Boyd’s letters to Margaret and ensures that Margaret’s are never sent.

The Colonel can’t understand Boyd’s silence and it puts a barrier between them after Boyd returns home, nor can Boyd understand why Margaret hasn’t replied to him, and southern notions of pride and convention forbid either from asking for an explanation. It takes the arrival of Millicent, Margaret’s friend, to break the stalemate. Millicent, a Boston native, is visiting the south for the first time. There are many things about Virginia she likes, but the poisons of pride and convention are not among them. With only a few words spoken in confidence to the interested parties, all of Aunt Betty’s scheming is undone.

Inscriptions: on the front flyleaf, “Nina G. Sanborn, Wilton, Maine, November 8th, 1912”. Directly below that, “Elaine E Holmes, Wilton, Maine, August, 1913”. Nina’s hand is neat enough, but Elaine’s is obviously very studied and practiced. I should not be surprised if she were a businesswoman.

Evergreen House (Louise Platt Hauck, 1943)

It’s WWII and Evergreen House, a stately old mansion in Kansas City, has opened its doors to servicemen training at the air force base with nowhere else to go. The novel is slight on plot, being more of a character study — Cynthia Barstow its chief concern. With Gran’s advancing age, the running of the house has fallen increasingly more on her granddaughter. All around her she sees a constant stream of men, most of whom she’ll never see again after they’re shipped out, and a fair number no one will ever see again. And she sees love affairs and hasty marriages — ill advised at times, perhaps, but all passionate. Cynthia accepts without complaint her responsibility to the house and to Gran and to the men, but at the back of her mind she worries that, when the war is over, when the men are gone and Gran too, she’ll be all alone in Evergreen House — the last of the Barstows.

Inscription: “Property of Norwich State Hospital Patients Library” says the plate pasted inside the front cover. Over it has been written “Discarded 10-29 – 48 Chappell”.

Shadow of the East (E.M. Hull, 1921)

Barry Craven travels to Japan, and just as his father had done before him, he begins an affair with a Japanese woman. And again like before, the woman becomes pregnant. However, Barry is shocked and sickened to discover that his beloved O Hara San is the child of his father’s mistress. O Hara San kills herself and Barry is haunted by grief. He would follow her to the grave were it not for John Locke, who on his deathbed entrusted his daughter Gillian to Barry’s care. The two marry. Barry falls in love with Gillian, but thinks himself unworthy of her or of anyone else; Gillian falls in love with Barry, but believes he only married her out of charity and has no feelings for her; and with typical English repression, neither can say anything.

The most surprising part of the story was that there was no surprise. It was perfectly set up that the baby survived and that Yoshio was hiding it from Barry. The book constantly drops hints that this was the case, and even until the last chapter, I was waiting for the shoe to drop — but it never did.

Inscription: at the top of the front flyleaf, “1921 Madeleine E. Gerald”.