I assume you can all find the various Retro Home or Vintage Style type books out there. This page
focuses on books of interest to those who feel they were born in the wrong era that aren't as easy to find.
Mirror of Danger
I first read this book when I was about eleven. For those of us who don't feel at home in today's world of incivility and fashionable ugliness, this novel tells our story.
Lucy is an orphan who was raised by her Aunt Olive, who disdains the modern world and instead lives a pre-1960's life in a Victorian-era house furnished with beautiful antiques. A former teacher, she teaches Lucy at home rather than subject the child to modern schools. All is well until Aunt Olive dies.
"Your aunt was a dear person," the trustee tells Lucy, "but she wasn't young and she tended to look backward."
"So did I," Lucy replies. "I like looking backward."
"Just what I mean. It's time you looked forward."
Lucy is sent to live with another branch of the family, allowed to take only a few pieces of her aunt's furniture and one trunk of possessions.
Everything Aunt Olive had owned had been like herself, fragile, delicate and beautifully made. 'You won't find things in the shops like this these days,' she had often said of her possessions and Lucy knew this to be true.
When I first read this book, I hated the trustee's admonition as much as Lucy herself did, and wished she could have gone on living happily with her dear Aunt Olive in that beautiful house. I shared Lucy's horror at the prospect of being thrown to a mob of uncivilized children. As well as Lucy's revulsion for her relatives' horrid house.
*Inside the house a blare of mixed sounds hit them. It seemed to be a mixture of shrill argument with a background of a bellowing bass voice and some loud booming music... Anything less homelike than this was hard to imagine.
*Lucy shrank against the wall. Beside her was an enormous red and yellow painting of nothing recognizable. Another - blue and green swirls - hung on the opposite wall. ...the vivid colors of the curtains and cushions seemed to leap toward her. What a horrible, horrible place!
*It wasn't a home at all. Just the remains of a comfortable old house now filled with ugly furniture and ridiculous pictures and noisy people who didn't even know you had to be alone sometimes.
Her three cousins are loud and boisterous and are always leaving faucets running or burning their attempts at cooking. Her aunt doesn't have an actual job, but serves on dozens of committees and is forever rushing late to their meetings. She's always late, totally disorganized, and never seems to get anything done, either at home or on her assorted committees. Meals are hit-or-miss affairs and the house is a mess. The father has authority in the house, when he bothers to exercise it, but mostly he lets his children run wild. Also, he's an architect who mostly takes beautiful old houses and remodels them to be ugly modern houses. Lucy's cousin Rachel shows her the spare room, which has had half of its wallpaper removed so it can be redecorated.
Lucy examined the top layer of wallpaper, a design of roses and looped blue ribbons. "What was wrong with it as it was?"
Rachel made a face at the design. "Well, look at it! Enough to give anyone nightmares."
"I like it," said Lucy.
"Do you?" Rachel seemed honestly surprised. "It wouldn't go well in a modern room though, would it?"
"But this is a Victorian house. Your father told me. So why must its rooms be modern?"
After a couple of days, Lucy finds some privacy in the attic, which has a few bits of old furniture left by previous owners. Including an antique mirror. It turns out that the mirror is magic, and a Victorian girl Lucy's age named Alice, who lived in the house a century ago, can use it to take Lucy back in time.
I know how I would have concluded this story, but it is not to be. Alice bullies Lucy. Lucy knows that Alice isn't a nice girl, but can't resist visiting her in the past to get away from the ugliness and noise of the modern world.
The usual specious argument is made that while the modern world certainly is ugly, at least it's less oppressive to the masses. To illustrate this, Lucy's uncle shows her the horrid basement and tells her that they were once servants' quarters, and that in this enlightened time people aren't expected to endure such accommodations. In another scene, Lucy and her cousins walk past a slum and see some pathetic tramps, but naturally this doesn't count as evidence that the ugliness of today's world has not led to all people being comfortable and happy.
Instead we get:
"Nonsense! There's really only one rule nowadays and that's not to hurt people's feelings," said Aunt Gwen. "And not to make yourself look ridiculous."
Lucy is unimpressed, at least until the very end of the book. Midway through she has an outburst when she finds that her cousins have put up a lot of hideous modern Christmas ornaments.
"You're all peculiar. You don't even know how odd you are! It's because you seem to think that everything's got to be new, different, changed. This was a perfectly nice old house before your father started ruining it with his built-in cupboards and modern ideas. And you're just the same. Look at the way you dress! And don't even have proper meals. Most people are having tea at this time but not you. You have meals just when you think you will. That's because even your mother has to be different, tearing about to meetings instead of looking after you and letting you go out alone and even forgetting Christmas - forgetting Christmas!"
Much of the story, of course, is taken up with Lucy's learning that her relatives really aren't all that bad. I hated that part the first time I read it and wished the author had instead found a way for Lucy to go on living in her Aunt Olive's beautiful home, but I suppose the author was trying to help nostalgics like myself cope with the fact that they had to put the book down and return to the modern world eventually. I would have preferred the fantasy of escape; that's what fiction is for, isn't it?
The only thing I liked about the book's end, then and now, was that as a Christmas present, Lucy's uncle offers to restore the spare room in Victorian style to be Lucy's bedroom, which she can furnish with the few bits of Aunt Olive's furniture she still has. I actually cried when I read that part.
Even though it's not the conclusion I could have wished for, it's a story every nostalgic can see herself in.
Conquistador by S.M. Stirling
In this science fiction novel, the adventurous descendant of a Virginia colonist stumbles upon an alternate
universe. He and several friends colonize it in pursuit of riches, but since they began in 1946, the unintentional
side effect is that the colonists preserve civilization while it collapses in our world. If you're on this website,
you'll probably long to move there too.
The Abolition of Britain by Peter Hitchens
Equally applicable to America and Europe, this in-depth exploration of the cultural collapse of the West since 1963 is heart-rending and compelling.
Our Culture, What's Left Of It by Theodore Dalrymple
If anyone can do it, she can. Her work is as entertaining as it is insightful.
Burlesque and the Art of the Teese
Exquisite, demurely sexy photos of the incomparable Dita Von Teese.
Golden Age Comics
"Welcome to Golden Age Comics. The #1 site for downloading FREE copyright free golden age comics."
Girls Gone By
"We re-publish some of the most popular girls' fiction from the twentieth century, concentrating on those
titles which are most sought after, and difficult to find on the second-hand market."
The Elements of Moral Science by Francis Wayland
Vintage pulp fiction.
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