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Source: (consider it) Thread: Can you help me ID a novel?
Baker
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I have googled, researched, and tried to find the name of a novel I read in condensed form many years ago.

It's a mystery, and I read it around thirty years ago. Part of it takes place in a large, English country house. At one point, a secret room is found. In it, laid out in a reverent manner, is the body of a young woman(turns out she was Spanish) from the 16th century. She apparantly knew she was dying, because she left a note, asking, among other things, that masses be said for her soul. An important female figure in the sotry goes to a Catholic priest and finds yes, one can still do that. The deceased had a rather long family name, and the priest says "I imagine God will know whom we mean if we just say Juana."

Maybe this kindness to the deceased gave good luck, because other clues lead to a hidden portrait of King Phillip II, painted by (I think) El Greco, and it is extremely valuble.

This is the best I can do, sorry if it's not enough. since I can remember that part so clearly it puzzles me I can't remember the author or title of the book

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Ohher
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Sorry I can't help with your novel, Baker. There are a couple of novels I would dearly love to track down, though. How would you feel about others chiming in for similar help with similar requests?

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Brenda Clough
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Doesn't ring a bell with me, but mysteries are not my core competence. There are masses of people for whom it is, however. Hang on for a tick, and I'll ask -- not about the book but about where you should go to find experts.

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Brenda Clough
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If you're willing to dig into it, the Library of Congress has compiled all the groups, sites and listserves that you can possibly imagine. Note that there are sister pages, for short fiction and poetry. Although poems are easier, if you have a first line.

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Brenda Clough
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A friend asks, could it be HE EL GRECO PUZZLE by John Murphy; Scribner's, 312 pages, $6.95.
She found a review of it, by Don Keown. A colorful international backdrop is the strongpoint of this suspense novel. It begins in Paraguay (certainly unexplored territory in U.S. fiction), hops briefly to New York and then moves on to Spain and Toledo for its conclusion. ( lancy, a former American army officer with hard service in Vietnam turned soidier-of-fortune, is sent by his millionaire employer to Spain to acquire paintings for the boss’ collection. A particular target is a small but very valuable El Greco. Clancy is joined in his quest by an attractive young woman art expert. And their search centers upon a monastery and involves digging into Spanish history back into the civil war of the 1930s and much earlier. The name John Murphy, the jacket informs us, is a pseudonym for a retired American Army officer now living in Spain.

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Baker
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quote:
Originally posted by Ohher:
Sorry I can't help with your novel, Baker. There are a couple of novels I would dearly love to track down, though. How would you feel about others chiming in for similar help with similar requests?

Sure, the more the merrier. And if more folks are attracted to the thread, then the greater the chance someone can ID any of them.

Brenda, your's doesn't sound quite like what I remember, but I'll look into it.

[ 30. August 2017, 03:30: Message edited by: Baker ]

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Schroedinger's cat

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Baker - I don't know if it helps, but it reminds me of Gogols Lost Souls. It might be worth looking at that and anything that is noted as drawing from.

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Hedgehog

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First, before I forget, thank you Baker for giving me a fun evening of tracking down leads. Sadly, I have not yet hit paydirt, but the chase has been fun.

So, first, I picked up on your reference to having read the novel "in condensed form." I reviewed titles that were printed in Reader's Digest Condensed Books (than you Wikipedia for the list!) searching for what seemed likely terms in the title, like "Spanish" "room" "house" "woman" "secret" etc. Any title that looked promising I looked up for a plot synopsis. Result: nothing.

Then I focused on the reference to the Catholic priest. It made me wonder whether this was in the genre of priest-detective (like Father Brown). From your description, the author seemed to go out of his/her way to drag in a priest, and I figured maybe it was so that the priest could solve the mystery. This led me to a neat site giving summaries of Clerical Detective Fiction. A similar word search in its search engine has also proved negative so far.

Of course, limiting the search to mysteries may be misleading. What little plot you recall is hardly enough to fill a full novel. Although it is possible--Josephine Tey's "The Daughter of Time" didn't sound like it could fill a novel either ("injured detective stays in bed and reads history books"). Still, could this be just an incident in a larger work, like a historical romance or something? In the alternative, are you certain it was not a short story? That could open up the search dramatically.

Will happily keep chewing on the problem. I have already learned far more about "Juana the Mad" than I knew yesterday at this time!

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Brenda Clough
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Here is the largest mystery bookshop in Canada. The proprietors know -everything- about the genre and field this kind of question often. Go there, and send them your question in email.

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Cottontail

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It sounds like it could be part of a story for young girls. I'm thinking of writers like Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, who was a convert to Catholicism but knew not to push it too hard to a middle-class English audience. Stumbling across a hidden room with a romantic Catholic past is her kind of thing, particularly when she tried her hand at thrillers! I have hunted through the books I have to no avail, so I don't think it is her ... but there might be others of a similar ilk.

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Sparrow
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Have you tried Abebooks? It's been a while since I looked but they used to have a forum for just this sort of enquiry.

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mousethief

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Have you called a librarian? Seriously many libraries have people who can track this kind of thing better than you or I could do on the interwebs. For example the Seattle Public Library has a wonderful "Ask a Librarian" hotline that you can call. I asked an obscure, multi-part question about local telephony, and they were able to answer it within a couple of days. Books are even more up their alley than telephony.

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Tree Bee

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I've had an unsuccessful search too, but I echo mousethief's suggestion to ask a librarian at your central library. They will have access to indexes and sites that can help.

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Baker
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Thank you everyone for the work you have put in. I also tried the Reader's Digest Condensed books, because I'm almost 90% sure that's where I read it.

The priest is only a temporary character, sought out because the protagonist wanted the do as the dead woman had asked, and have masses said for her.

I think the room she was found in may have been a forgotten "priest's hole" in the large house The woman's name was something long and Spanish, Juana de la Something-Something-Something. It may not have been El Greco who painted the portrait of Phillip but if not it was someone else famous.

I know it wasn't an Anya Seton novel, which is what someone else suggested. I went over all her listed books and none fit.

On another message board I go to(a lot) we pride ourself on finding such answers quickly. But this is the only query I've ever made that wasn't answered there.

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Ohher
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So here are two novels I'm trying to track down.

The first was also a Reader's Digest Condensed book, and I think I read it in the early 60s when it was relatively current.

The version I read started out with memories of the main character of his early childhood in slavery. His mother was reduced to tying him out, like a dog, in the midst of their garden, so he could survive by eating tomatoes and other produce.

There's a section in which someone (possibly the same character, perhaps another) recalls life in Africa, remembering a girl or woman with an African name that meant "She is fat but her fatness does not impede her." (Perhaps not exact, but close)

The other novel I read in the late 70s or early 80s, but that may not mean much, as it may not have been a recent publication, like the Readers's Digest thing above. I recall enjoying it, but no longer know either the title or the author. All I remember is this:
"(Female character name)'s life had been ruined by literature." I'd have this for a sig if only I could recall the character's name and the author.

If anyone can help, I'll offer gratitude and maybe chocolate . . .

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Brenda Clough
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Could it be ROOTS? Or perhaps one of the novels of Toni Morrison.

I wonder if your quotation is not from Northanger Abbey. Lemme consult brighter literary lights...

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RuthW

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quote:
Originally posted by Ohher:
All I remember is this:
"(Female character name)'s life had been ruined by literature." I'd have this for a sig if only I could recall the character's name and the author.

The Debut, by Anita Brookner: "Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature."

Duckduckgo turned up the phrase immediately.

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RuthW

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quote:
Originally posted by Ohher:
The first was also a Reader's Digest Condensed book, and I think I read it in the early 60s when it was relatively current.

The version I read started out with memories of the main character of his early childhood in slavery. His mother was reduced to tying him out, like a dog, in the midst of their garden, so he could survive by eating tomatoes and other produce.

There's a section in which someone (possibly the same character, perhaps another) recalls life in Africa, remembering a girl or woman with an African name that meant "She is fat but her fatness does not impede her." (Perhaps not exact, but close)

Maybe Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery? It was a Reader's Digest Condensed Book selection in Autumn 1960.
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Ohher
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AH! Anita Brookner -- how could I have forgotten about her? I binge-read things by her at the time. Thank you! Where do I send the chocolate?

I'll look up the Up From Slavery version, but I suspect what I read was by a more modern, more literary author. I remember how taken I was by the utterly convincing "voice" in the novel.

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RuthW

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quote:
Originally posted by Ohher:
Where do I send the chocolate?

Thanks, but save it for the person who gets the other question, which I think will be much harder to figure out. You remembered the phrase from the Brookner novel perfectly, so a quick internet search did the trick.

You might want to look at Wikpedia's [url= https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reader%27s_Digest_Condensed_Books]list of Reader's Digest Condensed Books[/url] and see if anything rings a bell.

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Eigon
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I've read Up from Slavery, and I don't remember a scene such as Ohher describes. No idea about the Spanish lady, either, though it sounds like the sort of Victoria Holt type fiction I used to read a lot of.

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Ohher
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quote:
Originally posted by RuthW:
a quick internet search did the trick.

I did try that, and more than once, but got nuttin'. Clearly your google-fu is superior to mine.

quote:
Originally posted by RuthW:
You might want to look at Wikpedia's [url= https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reader%27s_Digest_Condensed_Books]list of Reader's Digest Condensed Books[/url] and see if anything rings a bell. [/QB][/QUOTE]

Will do; didn't know it existed. Again, thanks!

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Baker
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I spent a long time going through the Reader's Digest b ooks. I focused particularly on the one's in which i recognized other titles.

I'm just not seeing it. That doesn't mean I'm not wrong though, just very puzzled.

I'm glad someone else found a title they were looking for.

One tiny little thing I now remember about the scene with the priest is that the woman asks the priest not just if masses can be said for a deceased person, but one who has been dead for a very long time, like around four hundred years.

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Hedgehog

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Baker this isn't it, but from the synopsis you can readily understand why I thought I was on to something:
quote:
Upon moving to their new home in London, siblings Xena and Xander Holmes immediately discover a strange but true fact: They are the direct descendants of the great detective Sherlock Holmes and have inherited his casebook of unsolved mysteries. One might think it presumptuous of two children to assume that they could succeed where the legendary sleuth had failed, but, kids being kids, they do not and find themselves almost immediately wrapped up in a case involving a missing painting. Following leads, conducting interviews and applying a little old-fashioned know-how help the Holmes kids discover the truth behind the portrait's mysterious subject and the location that has kept it safe and sound all these years. Barrett presents readers with great characters and a believable mystery solved credibly (with the help of somewhat less-than-convincing photographic memories).
(Emphases added.)
That is the description of The 100-Year-Old Secret by Tracy Barrett--but it was only written a few years ago (2010).

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Jane R
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Direct descendants of Mr Holmes, eh?

That whirring sound you can hear is Conan Doyle, spinning in his grave.

I'd like to find a book I read as a child. It has probably been out of print for years, but maybe the Australian Shippies will remember it. It was a children's book set in the Outback, and the only detail I can remember about it is an incident where one of the girls gets lost. She has some sandwiches with her, but decides not to eat them because they're corned beef and she knows that will make her thirsty.

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Sparrow
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quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:
Direct descendants of Mr Holmes, eh?

That whirring sound you can hear is Conan Doyle, spinning in his grave.

I'd like to find a book I read as a child. It has probably been out of print for years, but maybe the Australian Shippies will remember it. It was a children's book set in the Outback, and the only detail I can remember about it is an incident where one of the girls gets lost. She has some sandwiches with her, but decides not to eat them because they're corned beef and she knows that will make her thirsty.

Could it be something by Mary Elwyn Patchett? She wrote a whole series of adventures based on her childhood in the Outback.

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Aravis
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The Anita Brookner novel is "A Start in Life", (have just checked my copy) not "The Debut", unless it's appeared under different names?
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Jane R
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Sparrow:
quote:
Could it be something by Mary Elwyn Patchett? She wrote a whole series of adventures based on her childhood in the Outback.
Maybe. I was a big fan of her 'Brumby' books. I think this one was a library book though...
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Doone
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More than 50 years ago, [Eek!] , I read a children's book about a family on a wagon train crossing America, I think the Oregan trail. Not a lot to go on, but I'd love to find it again.
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Baker
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[B]Boone[/B, as an American I can assure you there's only about a million stories like that of crossing to the West, or the Oregon Trail. [Smile] If you remember any more details I'll do my best to search.

Could the story you are thinking of be part of a series? The "Little House on the Prarie" books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder did have a couple where the Ingalls family was traveling west. They weren't on the Oregon trail however. Those will never go out of print, still extremely popular.

Was there a disaster/death in your story? I know of one story, non-fiction, in which the parents of a family die, and the kids go on by themselves, nearly dying before they reach Oregon and a mission station.

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Jane R
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May have been Children on the Oregon Trail by Anna Rutgers van der Loeff - there have been quite a few, but that one was a Puffin book and very well known.
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Doone
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Thank you Jane R and Baker! The Sager children one looks a definite possibility so will check that out [Smile]
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Baker
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Don't get too attached to the Sagers though. There was an Indian attack on the mission and the two older boys were killed. Some of the girls were kidnapped and one died in captivity. I think three girls lived to adulthood and old age.

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Doone--

You might look for "On To Oregon!" and "The Oregon Trail". (Not sure about the 2nd title.)

Read them both in school, back in the '60s.

Good luck!

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Golden Key
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Baker--

Still looking around. I think Hedgehog and I have checked many of the same places. [Smile]

A few thoughts:

--Check out "The Last Queen", by C.W. Gortner. It's about Juana the "Mad".

--I've been trying to put myself in the scene you described, and see if it fits any author I know. It feels like the style is somewhat familiar; and I can think of several who could do the story well, in various ways. I've checked some of them, but nothing jumped out at me. So here we go:

Arturo Perez Reverte, Isabel Allende, Andrew Greeley, Madeleine L'Engle, Rumer Godden, Kate Moss.

--" Shelves > Juana The Mad Queen Of Castile > Popular Juana The Mad Queen Of Castile Books" (Good Reads).

--"That Other Juana", by Linda Carlino.

Hope that helps, or at least helps rule things out. Good luck! If you ever find the book, please let us know. Sounds good.

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Uncle Pete

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I discarded Juana the Queen. She lived in Spain. In palaces. Not country houses in England. Nor in a secret room.

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Even more so than I was before

Posts: 20417 | From: No longer where I was | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged
Baker
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# 18458

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Uncle Pete, I knew it wouldn't be Juana the Mad, because this body in the story was supposed to be quite a young woman when she died. And the royal Juana died in Spain. But thanks for trying.

I just don't know why this is bugging me so. I think I'll check out Godden's books, I've read a couple and the timing of the author's peak period would be good. I gave the Digest's another whack and STILL nothing seems to fit. I was almost positive it was there, as I read the story before I was of an age when I'd buy a book like that. So it could have been in an RD book, because maybe I was reading another of the selections, and then drifted on to another.

I really appreciate how people seem to be having fun and helping me out.

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Ad astra per aspera

Posts: 107 | From: Tottering-on-the-Brink | Registered: Aug 2015  |  IP: Logged
Golden Key
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# 1468

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Somewhere in the materials I looked through, there was mention of Juana associated with or going to England, maybe somewhere in BeNeLux, and a couple of other places. Also, stories that deal with history often come at it from a non-mainstream view.

FWIW, YMMV.

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Blessed Gator, pray for us!
--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?"--Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon"
--"I'm not giving up--and neither should you." --SNL

Posts: 17994 | From: Chilling out in an undisclosed, sincere pumpkin patch. | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jane R
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# 331

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[Confused] Juana of Castile (or Juana the Conveniently Mad - there is some doubt over whether she became mentally ill *before* or *after* being shut up in a nunnery) might have visited England (very) briefly to see her sister, Catherine of Aragon, but she certainly did not die here.
Posts: 3934 | From: Jorvik | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Golden Key
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# 1468

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Ummm...I'm not sure why this is getting so complicated. I only said what seemed to be in the stories, based on poking around online; and I gave links, so Baker could judge for her/himself.

As I said, novels about history often reinterpret it, alter it, and explore what-ifs. So there can be many things that don't jibe with the official history. So, for example, Juana's body might have been moved. Maybe that room was special to her or someone close to her. Maybe she was in some secret religious group. Her husband was Flemish, as I've learned. So she would've sometimes been across the Channel from England. And so on.

There are lots of forms that Juana fiction could take. IIRC, someone mentioned Tey's "The Daughter Of Time", which digs into history and questions it. I mentioned Kate Moss's "Labyrinth", which digs into the history of the Cathars, an "heretical" religious group that faced severe persecution. (Good book!) However much research KM did, there probably wasn't a whole lot about Cathar daily life and their secrets that was written *by* Cathars. If there are any current Cathars, they probably don't seek publicity. So she presumably had to imagine, and extrapolate from other sources. Is it accurate? Who knows? But some of it probably varies from official history.

FWIW, YMMV.

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Blessed Gator, pray for us!
--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?"--Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon"
--"I'm not giving up--and neither should you." --SNL

Posts: 17994 | From: Chilling out in an undisclosed, sincere pumpkin patch. | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jane R
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# 331

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She died in her 70s. The dead body of a young Spanish woman named Juana could not possibly have been her (and I speak as one who enjoys historical reinterpretation/alternative history, when well-written).

Juana is quite a common name...

[ 04. September 2017, 10:38: Message edited by: Jane R ]

Posts: 3934 | From: Jorvik | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Hedgehog

Ship's Shortstop
# 14125

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Yes, I have found that using "Juana" as a search term is counter-productive, as it loads up the search results with either Juana the Mad or Sor Juana, the poet. Neither of whom are likely candidates for the novel.

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"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

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Albertus
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# 13356

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Here's one: a novel published c 1950, a comic novel which is basically about the early days of the Edinburgh Festival - though the Scottish city in which it's set has a fictional name, it is clearly Edinburgh, and the festival is called something like 'The Festival of All the Arts'. It may, now I think of it, have the word Festival in the title (which will set me off looking at catalogues).
The reason I ask is that when i read it about ten years ago I was convinced that it was by Eric Linklater, but under a pseudonym- the style is very much like his in e.g Magnus Merriman or the Merry Muse, for those that know his work. But I have never found any reference anywhere to his publishing a novel under a pseudonym, so i am intrigued.

[ 04. September 2017, 19:59: Message edited by: Albertus ]

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My beard is a testament to my masculinity and virility, and demonstrates that I am a real man. Trouble is, bits of quiche sometimes get caught in it.

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RuthW

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
# 13

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quote:
Originally posted by Aravis:
The Anita Brookner novel is "A Start in Life", (have just checked my copy) not "The Debut", unless it's appeared under different names?

Interesting. Yes, Wikipedia says it was published in the US as "The Debut." I wonder why the publisher thought we wouldn't buy it under its real title.
Posts: 24416 | From: La La Land | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Ohher
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# 18607

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Publishers do this all the time, and I wish they'd stop. It's very confusing, having one novel under two titles. Apparently the Powers That Be really believe in our being "two people divided by a common language."

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From the Land of the Native American Brave and the Home of the Buy-One-Get-One-Free

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Martha
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# 185

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I'm sure I once read a children's fiction book which was about making a film of "The Secret Garden". I just Googled and discovered that Noel Streatfeild wrote "A Painted Garden" which sounds similar in theme, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't that. I think it was more modern, and set in England. The boy playing Dickon had a similar gift with animals, in real life.

Has anyone else ever come across this book?

Posts: 384 | From: in the kitchen | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Moo

Ship's tough old bird
# 107

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Noel Streatfeild wrote a book which, IIRC, was called Movie Shoes in the US. I'm pretty sure that was not the title in Britain.

It is about an English family that spends some time in Hollywood. There are several children in the family who have various talents; then there's Jane. She resents the attention the others get, and is generally sulky.

By chance she encounters a movie director who is making a film of The Secret Garden. All the girls who normally starred were too sweet-tempered, which no one ever accused Jane of being. The director gives her the starring role.

Moo

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Kerygmania host
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See you later, alligator.

Posts: 20205 | From: Alleghany Mountains of Virginia | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Celtic Knotweed
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# 13008

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Just done a little double-checking, and Movie Shoes was the US title of The Painted Garden. Apparently Noel Streatfield's US publisher published several of her books as xxx Shoes to try and capitalise on the popularity of Ballet Shoes.

Never could understand why publishers/authors do that when there's no link between stories. It appears contrived, and tends to put me off looking for more by that author.

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When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.
Erasmus of Rotterdam

Posts: 654 | From: between keyboard and chair | Registered: Sep 2007  |  IP: Logged
Baptist Trainfan
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# 15128

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I read "Painted Garden" but not "Ballet Shoes". They do link up as some of the same characters come in both. "The Circus is coming" (which I've also read) has different characters.
Posts: 9430 | From: The other side of the Severn | Registered: Sep 2009  |  IP: Logged
Gracious rebel

Rainbow warrior
# 3523

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Noel Streatfield was my favourite author when I was a child. I think I have possibly read everything which she has published, including the two volumes of her autobiography 'A Vicarage Family' and 'Away from the Vicarage'

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Fancy a break beside the sea in Suffolk? Visit my website

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