Jul 25, 2010

The 1930's Mini-Challenge: Final Round-Up

1930's Mini-Challenge

The 1930's Mini-Challenge has been over for about a week now, so it's time for a final link round-up and to announce the winner of the promised giveaway. If you missed the first link round-up, you can click over and get some great recommendations of books from, about, or set in the 1930's.

Because we have to start somewhere, let us start with the latter - with historical fiction set in the 1930's. Susi at The Book Affair read The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry, a novel with parallel storylines, one of which is set in rural Ireland in the 1930's. Susi says, "I was utterly impressed by Barry’s style of writing and I found myself sympathetic towards the characters. And yet, a little nagging feeling inside of me keeps telling me that I didn’t love the novel as much as I loved others."

Ana T. at Aneca's World read Hemingway Cutthroat by Michael Atkinson, a fictionalised account of Hemingway's life in Spain in the 1930's. Ana had this to say: "While I found the beginning a bit slow there were still some humorous moments to keep me interested and after the action progresses to the murder investigation I was completely hooked. Not only because of the mystery itself but also because of all the information provided of the situation in Spain during that time." I know that historical fiction using real people divides opinions, but personally I'm intrigued.

Mee at Bookie Mee read Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mocking Bird, and liked it but with some reservations: "It is well written book full of gentle humor and I enjoyed reading it but there were very few things that made me want to pick up the book once I put it down. I wondered if the greatness of the book is mostly for the Americans. It seems to be The American book if you want to know about Southern US in 1930s. Is it great for nostalgic reason for the Americans? Is it as great looking from foreigner’s point of view who has completely different background and history? I wasn’t convinced."

She also read Will Eisner's A Contract with God Trilogy, an omnibus edition of three graphic novels set in 1930's New York, and she recommends it: "I encourage you to read all three of them if you can. Only then it would come full circle. In my mind all the little stories make one big tale of sadness and desperation, but also of hopes and luck. Like life itself.".

Trisha at Eclectic/Eccentric also has a graphic novel review to share - Incognegro by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece:"I went into this graphic novel expecting an education on race relations in the 1930s and what I got was an entertaining mystery which was also powerfully informative and moving."

Still on historical fiction, Shannon at Giraffe Days read The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell and found that "what makes this story so beautiful and flow so well, is the prose. Told mostly in present tense, it shifts to past effortlessly, usually without me even noticing."

Finally, Sakura at Chasing Bawa reviewed The Einstein Girl by Philip Sington, a mystery set in 1930's Germany which surpassed her expectations: "The Einstein Girl brings history, science, war and the workings of the human heart together in a quiet, unassuming way which slowly unfolds and becomes a deep, sorrowful study of hope vs. reality."

1930's Book Covers

Moving on to books actually written in the 1930's, Iris at Iris on Books read and enjoyed Noel Streatfeild's classic Ballet Shoes. Iris says, "There is one more thing I kept thinking about while I read this book and that was that I couldn’t help but feel that Streatfeild shows a lot more respect and understanding towards a children’s mind than most of the contemporary authors that I read when I was younger." I completely agree that Streatfeild shows complete respect for her young readers, and I love her for it.

And while we're on children's classics, raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading reviewed several Newbery Medal winners from the 1930's, including a biography of Louisa May Alcott, Invincible Louisa: "It seems to be a well researched book, and it is full of facts and people. The Alcotts moved around a lot, and were never very settled. It still reads well, but it feels like a scholarly biography and report about her life."

Stu at Winstondad's Blog read Blaugast by Paul Leppin, a Czech novel from 1938, and thought that it "show[ed] the darker side of the beautiful city of Prague at the eve of world war two" and was "one of the best books i ve read set in the pre war era".

Tea Lady at The Gliterring Burn reviews A Handful Of Dust by Evelyn Waugh and says: "This despair at modern life reminds me of another famous novel from the 30s, Brave New World. There is no mention of WW1, apart from a few sentences about a character being too young to have fought, but there is a feeling of the shock and numbness that often follows catastrophe. People are determined to enjoy themselves and yet have forgotten how."

Birdie at Birdie's Nest was a fan of The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen (which I've been dying to get my hands on for ages): "This book is one that revels in its own language and the passage of time. It's beautifully written, by turns lingering and staccato. This is not a book to consume quickly on the beach. Rather, it would be more suitable to a rainy afternoon (or series of afternoons) with a pot of tea and no particular deadline. It is a beautiful book that deals with its difficult topics in a surprisingly candid, but never vulgar, manner."

Shannon at Giraffe Days also read Bowen's novel, and though she struggled with it somewhat, overall she was a fan: "This is a quiet, carefully paced story, one of intimate drama and slowly revealed truth. It’s a successful novel, and you feel taken care of while you read – you’re in the hands of a clever, skilled writer who draws poetic scenes."

Fleur Fisher at Fleur Fisher reads quite liked Sophy Cassmajor, a novella by Margery Sharp, though she wished it had been longer: "It offers both entertainment and food for thought before reaching a bittersweet conclusion. More please!"

Violet at Still Life with Books has this to say about Goodbye to Berlin, a collection of six short stories by Christopher Isherwood: "I felt quite sad to say goodbye to Berlin, and to Christopher Isherwood. I enjoyed his company as we navigated the cobbled streets, and he showed me, with his unerring eye for detail, a richly detailed snapshot of pre-war Berlin."

Carolyn at A Few of My Favourite Books shares a review of a lovely sounding Persephone title with us: Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson: "It is absolutely refreshing to read a book with at least half the characters being genuinely nice, good people (the other half are amusingly and increasingly out of control in meanness) and with a few small gentle romances that are quiet and unsentimental."

She also read Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford, and found it both "lovely and amusing".

Bina at If You Can Read This reviews a favourite of mine, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, and gives readers the following advice (which I enthusiastically second): "If you haven´t read Cold Comfort Farm yet, make sure to move it up your tbr pile, it´s such a gem."

Speaking of Stella Gibbons, the delightful Nightingale Wood was a popular choice for this mini-challenge. Shannon at Giraffe Days found that "There’s a lot of detail here, and it’s a different prose style than what is common these days. I could quote lots of passages, there’s some wonderful insightful lines here and yet more wit, but you’d be better off reading the book yourself and getting the proper context.", while Christina at Christina Reads! "...was expecting the humor, but wasn’t expecting the serious and strangely touching passages. The characters all have flaws, most of which are dull and ugly rather than spectacular, so in one sense it’s hard to root for them. Yet even the least sympathetic characters have a little spark that made me pity and love them."

There was also more than one participant to pick up the Persephone bestseller Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. One of them was once again Christina, who found Miss Pettigrew "sweet, charming, and completely captivating from beginning to end.". And to Carolyn at A Few of My Favourite Books, the novel "...has such a sparkling upbeat view of life, it gets a jazzy happy tune running through the blood."

Fleur Fisher read a very intriguing Capuchin Classics title, The Green Child by Herbert Read, but sadly she wasn't a fan. She says: "The Green Child is a novel in three very different acts. And for me, although there was some lovely writing and much food for thought, the book didn’t come together as a whole."

Raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading reviews Tangled Webs by L.M. Montgomery, one of her titles for adults: "LM keeps a large cast of characters unique, interacting, and easy to follow. I enjoyed most of the storylines although some were predictable. LM has a few story lines that she follows, but I enjoy her books because of the predictability." I know exactly what she means.

Alex at The Sleepless Reader had a lot of fun with P.G. Wodehouse's Thank You, Jeeves: "...what follows is utter confusion and the most comical and twisted events imaginable. Be ready to LOL. Several times."

Alex's other choice for the mini-challenge was Stamboul Train by Graham Green, which she enjoyed for the atmosphere but fears might be forgettable: "...train trips have this out-of-reality quality that make them the perfect setting for a good story. I’m thinking of course about Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, but also Highsmith’s/Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train and even the train scenes in Dr. Jivago and Harry Potter.".

Shannon at Giraffe Days reviewed another popular title, The Bront√ęs Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson, and enthusiastically declared it her "new favourite book".

And now for an American classic: Shelley at Book Clutter read All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren and was also very enthusiastic about it: "I humbly proclaim All the King's Men a masterpiece."

1930's Book Covers

Because we can't talk about 1930's literature without mentioning The Golden Age of Detective Fiction, here's what our participants had to say about the mystery classics they read: Nat at In Spring it is the Dawn read The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler and was a little let down: "Overall I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I’d hoped, but it was still worth reading for the experience. I’m also curious to perhaps try one of Dashiell Hammett’s books now, as Chandler was heavily influenced by Hammett and they are often jointly referred to as the masters of hard-boiled detective fiction."

Christina did read Hammett, specifically The Thin Man, and said, "I don’t want to spoil it, but the last line in the book is brilliant! Overall, I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy noir-type mysteries and dark, understated humor.".

Aarti at Booklust reviewed A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh and was "not really that impressed with this book." But she adds, "However, it is the first in what was a very successful series of mysteries surrounding Inspector Alleyn, so I will give Marsh another try.":

Raidergirl3 read another Mash title, Vintage Murder, and finds that "Marsh pales next to the Christie.". Speaking of Dame Agatha, she had this to say about Murder on the Orient Express: "Christie doesn't write a single extra word - this is tight, has all the clues, and the most excellent locked room case. The train is stuck in the snow, and someone has been murdered. Best mystery ever!"

Shannon tells us about Double Indemnity by James M Cain, a mystery from 1936: "This is a tight, intense crime drama, narrated by Walter with an economy of words and a fast, clipped pace that creates suspense and tension."

And now for another favourite of mine: Birdie at Birdie's Nest was a fan of the wonderful Dorothy L. Sayer's final Harriet Vane/Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, Busman's Honeymoon: "Sayers handles the newlywed lovers with humour and without ever descending into mawkish emotion. As a big time bonus (at least as far as this very nerdy reader is concerned) Sayers constantly refers to and quotes John Donne in the book. This sets my 16th/17th century fangirl heart a-pattering!"

Moving from pure detective fiction to a mystery/Gothic novel crossover, it's time for a Daphne du Maurier fest: Mel U and Jessica at Park Benches & Bookends both read Rebecca. Mel U says, "It entertained me, drew me into its world and made me sorry when it was over and some of the prose was wonderfully done. I enjoyed all of the minor characters and I was never able to second guess her plot developments.. And Jessica tells us, "Aside from a couple of places when I think I had to suspend disbelieve slightly I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was surprised by it in a very good way."

Jessica was also a fan of Du Maurier's Jamaica Inn, and was particularly impressed by its protagonist, Mary: "...what’s even more refreshing is that she never needs ‘rescuing’. Yes she is beaten and dragged about but she uses her own resources to get herself out of the situation, Jem never shows up to ‘save’ her. In this respect she would make a far better role model than a lot of modern heroines."

Finally, Terri B at Tip of the Iceberg read the same novel, and she had the following to say: "I particularly enjoyed the setting and the contrast the author creates between the sunny village of Mary's childhood and the stormy, windswept moors and stark coastline of Jamaica Inn. The decay and lurking evil are palpable."

Our only drama review was by Christina at Christina Reads!, who read Our Town by Thornton Wilder: "It speaks to the heart, even without any grand emotional gestures or life-altering messages. It’s written in prose, but for me it had the effect of poetry. Even if I never read this play again, I think it will stay with me."

We also had one short story review: Mel U at The Reading Life wrote about Dorothy Parker's 1930 "Telephone Call": "Parker was a very big contributor to the New Yorker and was known personally for her acerbic wit and we can see that in this story. I am glad I got to sample her work."

And last but not least, here are a couple of non-fiction reviews: Carolyn at A Few of My Favourite Books highly recommends Jessica Mitford's memoir Hons and Rebels: "Jessica offers a hilarious and enthralling view of her family and early married life. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year and if you’re at all interested in the Mitfords or what Britain was like before WW2, read it, read it!"

As for me, I read Virginia Nicholson's Among the Bohemians, which doesn't focus exclusively on the 1930's but does tell us quite a bit about the decade: "Virginia Nicholson is an intelligent, passionate and insightful writer, and I can only hope she’ll produce many more works of social history. If you’re at all interested in artists’ lives, in the early twentieth-century, in the Bloomsbury Group, or in Interwar England, then this book is for you."

And now for the winner of the aforementioned giveaway: Random.org has spoken, and Violet from Still Life With Books gets to pick a book of her choice from the ones that were reviewed for the mini-challenge. Congratulations, Violet! Just e-mail me your address and your book of choice and I'll have The Book Depository send it your way.

I believe that's everything. Many, many thanks to everyone who participated - I had a great time hosting this mini-challenge, even though as I had predicted my wishlist increased dangerously thanks to all your reviews. I'm thinking of perhaps hosting this again early next year, or maybe going back one decade and have a challenge devoted to the Roaring 20's. What do you think?


  1. I did post a link but must have put it in wrong place ,ana sorry had read Blaugast ,all the best stu

  2. I'm so sorry, Stu! I'll find it and edit it in. Apologies in advance if I missed anyone else's!

  3. thanks ,also thanks for doing this challenge I don't read enough 30's lit and now have loads to choose from ,all the best stu

  4. I have throughly enjoyed this challenge and you have done a great job hosting it.

  5. YOu made me sad I didn't participate, but that is really the story of my life! I need a clone. I saw on Twitter where you were talking about a post that took you forever...I'm assuming it was this one. I had to come over here and tell you it is appreciated!

  6. Congratulations on the success of your challenge. I like the idea of a Roaring 20's one although I'm sure it will have me adding more books to my list than I have time to read. Thanks for all of the links to the books and reviewers from this challenge. I'm going to go back and click through those and see which books I might want to read.

  7. I will definitely have to bookmark this post so that I can look up some of the books. The only one I've read was To Kill a Mockingbird

    About the reader who reviewed Harper Lee's book. That is definitely an interesting perspective coming from someone who isn't American. I do think the book is hugely popular because even though slavery ended in 1865, disenfranchisement continued on in the 20th century and spurred the Civil Rights Movement. Even today, there are some attitudes that continue that are pretty shocking to me. I think the book's importance is definitely to show people the injustice of what it was like for an African American to live during that time period. I just finished The Eyes of Willie McGee which is a true story but parallels the To Kill a Mockingbird story--I found myself appalled that it was impossible to receive a fair trial in the South and how hopeless it must have felt.

    I'm going to go look at your other link roundup now. Thanks for this! Looks like there are a lot of interesting books!

  8. Ironically, I did end up reading a book written in the 30s during your challenge! It was actually a reread, Theatre by W. Somerset Maugham, published in 1937. I haven't put up my review of it yet. It'll come in a couple weeks. I'm so behind.

    I really want to read Cold Comfort Farm. You guys are all convincing me.

  9. Whoa, Ana--this post must have taken you forever to put together! But can I just say that I'm so glad you did it?!! What a wonderful, wonderful resource!

  10. thanks for hosting this really fun challenge-I would be up for a roaring 20s challenge! very good closing post also

  11. I don't think I linked my post in, but i did join in. I feel terrible i forgot to post. I read Nightingale Wood and loved it. Thank you so much for running this challenge and thankyou for always adding to my TBR List.

  12. Nymeth- Thanks for taking the time to do this post. I instantly had to go put Jamaica Inn on hold at the library...I just couldn't resist. I've been meaning to read more by DuMaurier anyways. Great challenge and next time I'll be participating for sure ;)

  13. What a great post! Thanks for listing all the bloggers that participated in this mini-challenge. Do you think this might be something you'll do again next year?

  14. Thanks for the great post! Now I know where to look should I want to read books that are set in the 1930's! :)

  15. :O This post is a feat of pure awesomeness!! This is definitely getting added to my bookmarks list under my "resources" tab :D

    I am a total failure at this challenge T_T All I read was a book of Langston Hughes poetry from the 30's that I didn't even review :( But I did add quite a mountain of books onto my TBR as a result of it!

  16. I loved the whole format of this challenge, and I also have way too many books to add to my wishlist!

  17. wow, so many new book ideas, thanks!!

  18. This is a great round-up post. And I'll be revisiting it for yet more reading ideas :)

  19. That´s such a great post!
    I´ve got such a long list of books from and about the 30s that I want to try now :)

  20. I love the 1930s. Especially movies from the decade but I haven't read that many books. I think I may have to join if you do a 1920s challenge!

  21. Great wrap-up post, Nymeth! However it's not great for my wishlist as there are so many wonderful titles I haven't read! And a Roaring Twenties challenge? I'm definitely up for that!

  22. That post looks like a lot of work! But glad you did it, it's very handy - there are a few titles here that I'd like to read :)

    I haven't finished The Thin Man of Tender is the Night yet, so I missed the deadline there, but it's not like I'll stop reading 30s fiction - I'm so glad you hosted this challenge!

  23. Wow, what an incredible list of links and collection of posts Ana! I am so impressed. And I had no idea The Secret Scripture counted for this challenge, didn't consider the time period, I read it earlier this year as well :) Too early for your challenge though. I'm bummed I missed but it has definitely added a lot of new books to my wish list. Congratulations!

  24. Thank you so much for all of the effort that this must have taken. It is very much appreciated. A great idea for a reading challenge!

  25. Thanks to you and all the amazing bloggers who attended the min,-challenge I’ve learned about so many wonderful books! I have to make a special ‘to be read’ list just for this :)

  26. Thanks to you and all the amazing bloggers who attended the min,-challenge I’ve learned about so many wonderful books! I have to make a special ‘to be read’ list just for this :)

  27. What a great list of books! I've added so many 1930s reading to my wish list it's crazy. Sayers is my next read.

  28. Now that's what I call a wrap-up post! :)

    Thank you for that as now I can come back to it when I want some great suggestions. I had a lot of fun participating even if my book wasn't everything I expected. Although I think it was more a "reader" issue rather than book :)

    Thanks again for hosting it Nymeth!

  29. I was really surprised to be declared the winner of the giveaway book, and would like to thank Ana for her generosity, and for running this great challenge.

    In case you're wondering, I chose The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen, as it sounds right up my street.

    I think a 1920s challenge is an excellent idea! Meanwhile, there are some great links here to follow up.

    Thanks again Ana.

  30. qopisfdklasfd I forgot I signed up for this, but I read Whose Body, for the Classics Circuit challenge. Here's my review, if you want it:

    I would totally sign up for a roaring 20s challenge :D

  31. Ana, thank you for the round-up! Like a few others I have actually read another book set in the 30s (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark) but haven't got my review up yet. I wonder what the 20s signifies? It would be interesting to do decade by decade and see the trend or style of each decade!

  32. Jessica: Thank you so much!

    Sandy, you're too kind! It did take me a long while to format everything :P And don't worry about not having been able to participate - I'd definitely love to host again at some point.

    Kathleen: I suspect that the exact same will happen to me, but that's part of the fun, right? ;)

    Carin: I did think that Mee's thoughts on To Kill a Mockingbird were interesting! As another non-American I did read it a little differently, I think, but the historical angle was part of what interested me.

    Amanda: I'm glad to hear we convinced you to try Cold Comfort Farm, and I hope you love it :D

    Debi: Only a little over three hours ;) But it was worth it!

    Naida: Thank you so much!

    Mel U: Thank you, and I'm glad to hear there'd be some interest in a challenge devoted to the 20's!

    Vivienne: Argh, I'm sorry I missed yours! I'll edit all the ones I accidentally left out in.

    Sam: I'm glad to hear you'll be joining in in the future :D Jamaica Inn is such a great read - I hope you'll enjoy it!

    Vasilly: I'd definitely like to, yes. And a shorter challenge seems easier for me to handle than a longer one, so hopefully I'll be able to even with the movie.

    Melody: I'm glad to be of service :D

    Chris: Well, adding to the TBR is part of the goal here too ;)

    Shelley: Thank you! I think we all have :P

    Joanna, you're most welcome!

    Iris: Thanks! That's what I was hoping the round-ups would be used for :)

    Bina: Sigh... me too :P

    Jena: I'm glad to hear you'd be joining! I kind of really want to host it now :P

    Sakura: I want to read very nearly everything that was reviewed for the challenge, so I know just how you feel!

    Shannon: Yep, no reason to stop! The challenge was meant to inspire us to keep reading all these wonderful books anyway :P

    Amy: I didn't know too until Susi reviewed it. I meant to get to it before it ended, but oh well. And thank you!

    Tea Lady: You're most welcome!

    Lua: So do I! Thank you for the kind words :)

    Trisha, I can't wait to hear what you think of Sayers.

    Iliana: Argh, I left yours out! I'm so sorry - I'll edit the post when I get home.

    Violet: You know, that's probably what I'd have chosen as well. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the book. And you're most welcome!

    Maree: I do want it! You can never have too much Sayers :P

    Mee: One of the reasons why I want to go back a decade is because it'd be fascinating to see which differences and similarities we find. Also, I look forward to your thoughts on the Muriek Spark book, which I've been dying to read myself.

  33. LOL--and you were bemoaning the fact that no one was commenting on this post--here there are 34 (after me) comments. :P

    What a dedicated challenge hostess you are, Ana--I really admire this post and what you did for the participants.

    Love me some Dorothy Parker. "A Telephone Call" is such a fantastic story.

  34. Trish: Argh, did I sound that whiny? :P It was just a slow Sunday, which happens a lot in the summer it seems. Also, can you believe I've never read any Dorothy Parker? Shame on me.

  35. I'm so sorry I missed this! So many great books. Hopefully I can join next year :) The 20s is my favourite decade to read about so I vote for that.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.