Another Horatio Alger book read. I’m catching up on my Good Reads 2020 Reading Challenge deficit.
In Alger’s The Young Adventurer, teenage Ben’s a new orphan at 14. His mother died when he was young and now his father’s just died. The $400 he inherited won’t last forever and there aren’t many opportunities in his hometown so though his uncle would like him to stay with him, Ben sets off to New York to make some money. He plans to earn enough to get passage to California where he can make a fortune mining gold.
Like a lot of Alger’s heroes, Ben encounters some swindlers, and luckily manages to avoid them with his funds in tact. Then he lucks out and meets and heiress in distress who asks him to accompany her to California and pays him to locate her fiancé. The adventure continues.
While the story offers a likable hero and plenty of villains, I wasn’t as enthralled as usual. The Young Adventurer is dated in its treatment of a Chinese character. The language of the era came off the way old Charlie Chan stereotypes do. Alger isn’t on the side of the bigots and those bigots probably were presented authentically, but I couldn’t stomach those chapters even though King Si, the Chinese miner, ends up doing well. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend this book to kids. Now maybe they should read about how people people discriminated and hurt others as that is the real history, but I’d find another book to recommend.
To catch up on my Good Reads reading challenge, I figured an Horatio Alger book was just the ticket. I got Frank Fowler: Cash Boy in a couple days. Frank Fowler, an orphan decides to go to the big city to get a job. He leaves his step-sister, who he thought was his biological sister. On her deathbed his mother admitted that Frank was adopted, that he was adopted under mysterious circumstances. Such is the storyline of a Horatio Alger book. Frank’s pal’s family agrees to take in his sister to keep her from the Poor House.
Though he comes across the swindlers common in these books, it’s not till Frank is hired to read to a wealthy man each evening that he meets his nemeses, the housekeeper and the man’s nephew. They fear Frank will worm his way into the old man’s heart. They plot to get Frank out of the house so that they can get the lion’s share of the old man’s will.
Although Alger’s books follow a formula, I don’t tire of his spunky, honest, courageous boys living in tough times when there were many children who had to take on adult responsibilities. It’s a quick, fun read.
I’m now reading and very wrapped up in Emile Zola’s A Ladies’ Paradise, which the Masterpiece The Paradise is based on. Wow!
The story’s quite different as it’s set in Paris and Denise’s parents died leaving her with two brothers to look after and very little money. Thus she heads to her uncle in Paris, who’s a draper as in the television series. This uncle has more i.e. some customers and yet is more furious at Mouret (Moray on TV). Zola’s Mouret starts out as such a philanderer, with lots of contempt for women. I can see why the TV show lessened that aspect of his character. It’s just amazing to read about how huge the store is and how it’s run.
I’m also reading another Horatio Alger book. Again, I’ve just started the story, Joe’s Luck. Joe’s an orphan and a servant in small town New Jersey. He’s had it with the ill treatment of a miserly employer and heads to New York hoping to get on a ship to California while the Gold Rush is in full swing. Just now poor Joe was swindled out of the money for the ship’s ticket.
I’m also in the midst of a book on the Everleigh sisters who ran a high class, super high class brothel in turn of the 20th century Chicago. The Everleigh Club’s opulence is unmatched and the tales! Whoo. The girls. The men. The antics! Often beyond imagination.