Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Birthday to Myrtle Reed

Myrtle Reed
Happy birthday to Myrtle Reed!

Today, September 27, 2011 marks the 137th birthday of American author, Myrtle Reed. Although Myrtle Reed is no longer a name you find populating the shelves of your local library or bookstore, she was a highly popular author during the first decade of the 20th century. During this time she penned seventeen novels and a number of cook books (the latter under the pseudonym Olive Green). Her novels are mostly tales of romance, but are unique in that they are crafted with a sense of human nature and sharp wit that is not common among most modern romance authors.

I first learned of Myrtle Reed when a friend recommended I check out one of her favorite stories, A Weaver of Dreams. From the moment I finished A Weaver of Dreams I was hooked. I had found another author I enjoyed and I had to read more of these stories. I've since tracked down and read six of Myrtle Reed's seventeen novels, all of which I have enjoyed. In my opinion, while they aren't classics, they are some lost gems. (Well, most are. There are the exceptions. I've heard, though I haven't read it myself, that Master of the Vineyard is rather depressing. But that novel aside the novels like Lavender and Old Lace, Old Rose and Silver, and At the Sign of the Jack O' Lantern are delightful.)

Which is yet another reason (beyond the obvious) why it's such a shame that Myrtle Reed's life ended so abruptly on August 17, 1911. I know it happens, but still find it shocking that a woman who could pen such lovely stories lived such a miserable and hopeless life -- so hopeless that she chose to end it before her 37th birthday. I sometimes wonder what Myrtle Reed might have accomplished had she led a more happy life or had she lived to a ripe old age. Sadly, we'll never know.

Thankfully though her beautiful storytelling and vim and vinegar wit lives on through her novels. If you haven't already I highly encourage you to check them out. I was able to pick up a few inexpensive used copies online, a few more through Inter Library Loan, and still more thanks to e-book format like Project Gutenberg and Kindle. Some day I'll make the effort (and expense) to track the rest down. To me, if they are anywhere near as good as the six I've read thus far they will be worth the effort.

Related Links:

Read the books:
Project Gutenberg: Works by Myrtle Reed (Free E-books)
Kindle Store: Myrtle Reed (Priced: $0.00-$3.99)

Audio Books:
LibriVox: Lavender and Old Lace
LibriVox: The Spinster Book

Other Myrtle Reed Book Reviews:
At the Sign of the Jack O'Lantern

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


Amanda said...

I just downloaded Master of the Vineyard from amazon for free. I am 5 chapters in and I'm loving it.

janiac said...

Do not overlook Myrtle Reed's spectacular book covers, most of which were created by Margaret Armstrong, arguably the greatest American book designer of her generation. Most are done in shades of lilac, lavender, and gray, with Armstrong's signature MA monogram tucked away somewhere in the design. Compared to the strong covers Armstrong did for Henry Van Dyke's books, her Reed covers are models of femininity and grace. Her work is highly collectible!