Wednesday, March 23, 2011

At the Sign of the Jack O'Lantern by Myrtle Reed

353 pages
Published in 1905 by G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press

It's been a long time since I've reviewed a Myrtle Reed novel. I was first introduced to Ms. Reed in 2009 by a good friend who is also an avid reader. For those unfamiliar with Ms. Reed's writing, she was a best selling author at the turn of the last century who wrote mostly novels, but also dabbled in the art of cook books under the pseudonym, Olive Green.

Ms. Reed's novels are best known for their sweetness and charm as well as their sharp wit and social commentary. Although they are classified as "romance" they are by no means brainless fiction. Ms. Reed weaves together a cast that is both diverse and real-to-life. There is always some moral or social lesson to be taken from the story, but it is served in a way that makes the read more enjoyable rather than turning the reader away.

At the Sign of the Jack O'Lantern was published in 1905 and was Ms. Reed's ninth book published and probably one of her funniest.

The Plot:
As the novel opens newlyweds, Harlan and Dorothy Carr arrive at their new home, a strangely built house dubbed by locals: the "Jack O'Lantern." Harlan and Dorothy, who inherited the house and surrounding farm from Harlan's recently deceased Uncle Ebenezer, quickly settle in to their new home, all the while puzzling over the numerous mysteries that surround the house, including a number of bedrooms that appear to have been built haphazardly onto the main house.

Who was this Uncle Ebenezer that Harlan never met and why did he leave the bizarre house to Harlan? The mysteries begin to unravel (and seemingly so does Harlan and Dorothy's marriage) as a number of uninvited guests,who claim to be distant relatives of Uncle Ebenezer, start turning up on the doorstep of the Jack O'Lantern.

What ensues is a summer of bizarre happenings and a mix of hilarious and sometimes painful family scenes, and a few serious moral lessons that all culminate into a most satisfactory ending.

My Thoughts:
I found At the Sign of the Jack O'Lantern to be quite different than the other novels by Myrtle Reed that I have read. It seemed much more moralistic, but not in a negative way. In fact, I found the overall story a very enjoyable read. I thought the winding plot was clever and fresh as it kept my interest for the entire book, even through what some might consider the "slow parts." I also enjoyed the character development. As typical Myrtle Reed fashion the characters are diverse with some you love, some you love to hate and some that are just down-right hilarious.

I read somewhere that At the Sign of the Jack O'Lantern was adapted to the silver screen in 1922. I imagine it must have been quite a funny and entertaining film, but unfortunately I'll never know, because like so many of the early films it is lost to time and no longer available for viewing.

What I did find while browsing the Internet was a review of this book in the New York Times newspaper from 1905. If you have time be sure to check it out: New York Times Review 1905.

I've now reached the end of Myrtle Reed books that are readily available to me, but there are still at least a half-dozen I've yet to read. As time and funds allow I hope to extend my search and read the rest of her novels. They are charming and entertaining reads that I always enjoy and encourage you to give them a read.

Related Links:

Read The Book:
Google Books (FREE)
Project Gutenberg (FREE)
Amazon Kindle ($0.99)

Other Myrtle Reed Book Reviews:

The Spinster Book
Weaver of Dreams
A Spinner in The Sun
Lavender And Old Lace
The Master's Violin
Old Rose & Silver

Quotes & Book Teasers:
Tuesday Teaser: At the Sign of the Jack O'Lantern
Tuesday Teaser: A Spinner in the Sun
Tuesday Teaser: A Weaver of Dreams
Tuesday Teaser: Lavender and Old Lace
Tuesday Teaser: Old Rose & Silver
Romantic Passages: Old Rose & Silver

Who Was Myrtle Reed?
Wikipedia: Myrtle Reed
Online Literature: Myrtle Reed
Chicago Magazine (Aug 2006): Myrtle Reed


Nan said...

Thank you, thank you for this whole post! So much information about an author I know little about. I did begin reading Lavender and Old Lace online years ago, but never finished - I didn't like reading a book that way. But now that it is on Kindle, I will most likely buy it. What a joy for you to have read all those books, and to have found an early review. So great.

Nan said...

Me, again. I just went to amazon, and instead of buying it on Kindle, I found a used 'very good' book for $2. Yay!