Hands Across the Table (1935)

Lombard and McMurray

In Hands Across the Table Carole Lombard plays manicurist Regi who’s sworn off love and plans to marry for money. A wealthy customer, Allen Macklyn, who’s confined to a wheelchair, gets Regi to open up. He soon falls for her; he sees the light and strength under the rough exterior. They soon become friends, though Allen hopes for more.

Into Regi’s life hops scion Theodore Drew III who’s playing hopscotch in the hotel where Regi works. Theodore’s smitten when he meets her, but Regi thinks he’s a nincompoop.  She saw him playing hopscotch by himself in the hotel hallway. Theodore goes to the barbershop for a manicure so that he can ask Regi out to dinner. She’s uninterested until she realizes he’s wealthy. Then she becomes so nervous that she cuts or jabs each of his fingers. They do go out and Theodore wines and dines Regi, who’s soon charmed. It isn’t till the wee hours when Theodore’s taking her home that he mentions that he’s getting married. She’s stunned and heartbroken. 

Nonetheless Theodore doesn’t see why Regi’s upset. Can’t things continue in spite of the wedding? After all he’s only marrying for money. It turns out his family’s lost its fortune and as Theodore has no ability to work and earn it, he must marry. Circumstances, flimsy ones, keep Theodore with Regi, who continues to fall for this cad. Meanwhile, Allen decides to propose to Regi. This sterling fellow would surely make Regi a wonderful husband if she can accept his disability.

Hands Across the Table was full of surprises. It was bold to show Theodore as a scoundrel from the start. Lombard was witty, beautiful and down-to-earth. Few actresses today can be both elegant and “of the people” as she was. Fred McMurray played Theodore, who was convincing as the fun guy with the mind of a child, a real Peter Pan. His character had one fact so I don’t fault him for not adding sophistication to this playboy.

While I hoped for a different ending, the film was fun and plot fairly original. It’s a good choice when you’re looking for light entertainment.

Dangerous Jane

Dangerous-Jane-263x300With muted watercolor illustrations,Suzanne Slade’s  Dangerous Jane offers a biography of Jane Addams that teaches children of Addams childhood and her main accomplishments including her European travels, her bringing the idea of a settlement house to Chicago where she opened Hull House, to her speaking up for peace and winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Alice Ratterree’s illustrations convey a gentle past era, which doesn’t quite jive with the dire poverty and horrors of WWI, but it’s a children’s book so I understand the choice..

This short biography will acquaint children with a great woman.

Good for ages 4 to 7

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

hereville-c1

Barry Deutsch’s Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword delights. Mirka is an Orthodox Jew who lives in a culture I haven’t see covered in fiction. This story of an adventurous teen has wit and spirit. Smart, lively and brave, Mirka helps her brother fend off bullies and a wild pig. The pig can talk and is prominent in the book offering a tongue in cheek wit as pigs are taboo in a kosher house. (The pig never goes inside the house).

Mirka’s family is very traditional and she doesn’t get along with her stepmother, who’s a strict disciplinarian. Yet rather than presenting the stepmother as a villain, it’s this sharp-tongued woman who most helps Mirka the most.

The book is a fun, fast read that takes readers inside a culture that’s rarely presented. There are two other Hereville books and I’ve ordered them all.

 

Abraham’s Well

I just finished my friend, Sharon Ewell Foster’s Abraham’s Well: A Novel. Since I know Sharon and have enjoyed her books set in modern times, Ain’t No River and Ain’t No Valley this work of historical fiction was a departure. I can’t pretend that my review is unbiased so don’t say I didn’t warn readers.

The story reminds me of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman as it consists of an elderly woman looking back on her life during a significant historical period. Armentia, the main character, is African American and Cherokee. She lives in the 19th (and I suppose early 20th century) experiencing tribal life, slavery, the removal of Cherokee and other native Americans during the Trail of Tears and eventually freedom. It’s the story of an imperfect character, rather than a superhero, finding strength and courage to surmount injustice and hardship. I’m a sucker for such stories.

For me historical fiction succeeds by teaching me and entertaining me and Abraham’s Well does both. Although I’ve read a little about the Trail of Tears and knew that some African American’s are part Native American, I had no knowledge of African American involvement in this chapter of American history. Sharon includes an explanation of why she decided to write about this topic and her family heritage as it relates to the themes of the novel. I found that quite interesting. I could see this making a good movie.

The book reads very fast, as Bridget points out. Bridget’s also right about the chapters on the preaching but there’s probably less church-going in this story than the others I’ve read so I had a different view of that aspect. I didn’t mind it. I realize that Sharon’s fans will be looking for Christian fiction when they decide to read this novel.