Thursday, March 7, 2013


Tish, by Mary Roberts Rinehart

A spunky trio of "elderly" (i.e. 50-ish) ladies, led by the spunky, irrepressible Tish, find humorous adventure wherever they go in this series of long short stories.

My Reaction:
I had mixed reactions to this book.  It's a little weak in some spots-- and gets off to a bit of a slow start-- but when it's good, it's hilarious.  I'd particularly recommend it for people who generally enjoy old-fashioned books (this one's from 1916), don't mind predictable plot twists, and aren't easily offended by politically incorrect (and possibly offensive) terminology.  (One reviewer on Amazon actually suggested that the person/people who "digitized" the text should have "deleted those references"!  Um, no.  We call that "censorship", and most people agree that it's not a good thing to do.)

Specific, Random Thoughts:
--This struck me as a more modern, more American, more slapstick version of Cranford.   

--  I loved all the references to knitting and crochet.  There weren't tons of them, and they weren't integral to the action, but still.  I was pleased.  (Note: I am easily pleased, sometimes.)

--  Alright, so 50 isn't young... and was even less young back in 1916... but it was jarring to see the women described (and in some instances describe themselves) as practically elderly.  Clearly they were in pretty good physical (and mental) condition, to be going around and doing the things they did (camping, canoeing, horseback riding, etc.).

-- It took me a while to figure out where the characters live.  There were some things that felt like England, but others strongly suggested America.  I can't recall if a state is ever mentioned, but it turns out they are somewhere in New England.

--  There was a reference to a "vacuum bottle".  It seems that's a type of thermos.

--  The whole story about Tufik just made me mad-- disgusted.  Ugh!  I get annoyed even simply remembering it.   It's hard to believe the three of them would be so gullible...

--  "Tish says the cakes are probably all right in the Orient, where it is hot and the grease does not get a chance to solidify.  She thinks that Tufik is probably a good cook in his own country.  But Aggie says that a good many things in the Bible that she never understood are made plain to her if that is what they ate in Biblical times-- some of the things they saw in visions, and all that."

--  "I suppose there is something in all of us that harks back to the soil.  When you come to think of it, what are picnics but outcroppings of instinct?  No one really enjoys them or expects to enjoy them, but with the first warm days some prehistoric instinct takes us out into the woods, to fry potatoes over a strangling wood fire and spend the next week getting grass stains out of our clothes.  It must be instinct; every atom of intelligence warns us to stay at home near the refrigerator."

--  New word for me:  natatorium.  It's a building containing a swimming pool.

--  When Lizzie scrapes a message on a large fungus with a pin, I was amazed.

--  A "Garrison finish" apparently means to come from behind and win at the last moment.

--  The casual mentions of WWI as "the European war" are fascinating from a historical point of view.  Of course, even when it was published (1916) the U.S. still hadn't entered the war...

--  "Canyon" was spelled "caƱon".  Interesting.

-- There was a reference to another book-- Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey.  Doesn't sound like something I'll be interested to read, though.

--  "No woman over forty should ever reduce, at least not violently.  She wrinkles.  My face that summer had fallen into accordion plaits, and I had the curious feeling of having enough skin for two."

--  "Aggie had suggested at that time that I have my cheeks filled out with paraffin, which I believe cakes and gives the appearance of youth.  But Mrs. Ostermaier knew a woman who had done so, and being hit on one side by a snowball, the padding broke in half, one part moving up under her eye and the second lodging at the angle of her jaw.  She tried lying on a hot-water bottle to melt the pieces and bring them together again, but they did not remain fixed, having developed a wandering habit and slipping unexpectedly now and then.  Mrs. Ostermaier says it is painful to watch her holding them in place when she yawns."

--  There was reference to "the gold cure".  Had to look that one up...

-- "There should be one spot in America free from the advertising man and his schemes, and this is going to be it.  'Commercialism,' she went on, growing oratorical, 'does not belong here among these mighty mountains.  Once let it start, and these towering cliffs will be defaced with toothpowder and intoxicating-liquor signs.'"

--  "'I am convinced,' Tish went on... 'that sensational movies are responsible for much that is wrong with the country to-day.  They set false standards.  Perfectly pure-minded people see them and are filled with thoughts of crime.'"

If you read and enjoy Tish, you'll be happy to know that there are more collections of her adventures.  I'll be looking into them, sometime down the road.  For now, it's time for something different!