Friday, February 9, 2018

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism

Book: The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism
Basic Information : Synopsis : Characters : Thoughts : Evaluation : Book Group : New Words : Book References : Good Quotes : Table of Contents : References

Basic Information:
Edition: eBook on Overdrive from the Fresno County Library
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 141654786X
910 pages
Genre:  History, Biography,
Language Warning:  None
Rated Overall: _  out of 5

Synopsis (Caution: Spoiler Alert-Jump to Thoughts):

Cast of Characters:

In this chapter, Goodwin talks about why she wrote this book. It started with wanting to write about Roosevelt as a Progressive. She was teaching a class on this subject. But as she delved into this more, she wanted to understand the relationship Roosevelt had with Taft and how he got on with the journalists in his age. Goodwin realized that Taft was a lot more sympathetic person than she realized.

The question that most intrigued me was how Roosevelt had managed to rouse a Congress long wedded to the reigning concept of laissez-faire-a government interfering as little as possible in the economic and social life of the people-to pass shuch comprehensive measures.

The story is Goodwin is telling has three strands:

  • Theodore Roosevelt and his crusade to expand the role of government in national life
  • William Howard Taft and his role in the Roosevelt and his own administration 
  • Bully pulpit
Hunter returns
Describes Roosevelt as someone with physical vigor and mental curiosity.
This is such a good combination when you added a mind like Roosevelt

Taft noted Roosevelt’s large personality to go with his large presence. small villages which one would hardly think had ever heard of the United States should seem to know all about the man.

When Roosevelt returned to America from his hunting expedition in Africa, he made remarks to an enthusiastic crowd in New York which included any man who has ever been honored by being made president of the United States is thereby forever after rendered the debtor of the American people. You get the feeling of this from former presidents in their work and how they get along, even those who had been political enemies.

At the start of the presidency, Roosevelt predicted that Taft would be a beloved President-lovable personality. A big man with a big heart,  what went wrong? Goodwin thinks that Taft inherited a misfortune where Roosevelt had angered the Republican establishment by going directly to the populace to override them. This left Taft when trying to be a very public man, which he was not, more of a personable man trying to pick up the pieces after the fight.

Something which we have not learned today is how compromise can be good to accomplish long term objectives. Goodwin says that Taft became president where there was a bitter rift… when progressives viewed compromise with conservatives as treachery.

Taft was not a natural campaigner. Nor did he respond well to criticism-it bothered him. It was his wife who was the one who felt he should be president, more because of the prestige and money. Taft would rather have been on the Supreme Court. Nellie Taft was a free-thinker who did things which was acceptable to a man, but did not feel right being done by a woman-smoking, beer, debate, … She felt all were equal, even when she was in the Philippines when Taft was governor there, she had Filipinos in for their social events.

When Taft felt it would be improper to greet Roosevelt upon his return from African, it was because he felt it would not dignify the office of President. While there is sense where we need to keep a sense of dignity for the office, there is also the sense that Roosevelt would have been out there running up the gangplank to greet Taft if the shoes were reversed. In some ways dignity is what small men hide behind and large men ignore.

In Taft’s mind, he was compromising to continue the work of the progressives-he was making deals to further the cause. But there is also a sense that the deals on the whole were weakening what Roosevelt had acquired.

Will and Teedie
...ambition in a woman is synonymous with unhappiness. - Delia Torrey, Louise Taft’s sister.

Taft’s father had high expectations for Taft. But somehow, Taft could go to his father and talk about his weaknesses. What kind of a person was taft’s father? How did this mold Taft into the kind of President he was?

In college Taft was not much of a student. Doing enough to get by. no outside reading.

To contrast that with Roosevelt’s father. It was said that he was one of those grown up men who never forgot they were children themselves. What how that influence Roosevelt?

Roosevelt was surrounded by books. On a European trip of four months, he read 50 books. This would carry through in his life. A great mind developed, he would be able to remember books he read when the situation called for it. He saut that My library has been the greatest possible please to me. He always carried around a book, even as President. If there was a break in the activities, he was reading.

When Roosevelt’s father said that his body, not his mind was the problem with him, he devoted himself to building himself up physically. This is something which was an indicator of what type of person Roosevelt was. He would understand there was a problem, throw his energies into understanding it. Then conquering it. The modus operandi was to constantly force himself to do the difficult/dangerous until it became a habit through repeated effort and will-power.

His college life broadened ever interest - isn’t that what college was to do? Too bad I did not understand that when I was in college.

Notes from my book group:

How far have you made it in this book?

Was this book too long? Too short? What would you leave out? Or what more would you have wanted to know about?

Was the book biased towards any view? If so, towards what? How does Goodwin’s view shape the story she tells?

When you think of Roosevelt, what words come to mind?  How does this book alter or reinforce your image? Could Roosevelt operate in our time like he did in the early 1900’s?

What forms does corruption take place in this book? To the people of that time, did it seem like the status quo? How was corruption fought? Where is the status quo today not “fair”? How can this be changed?

Compare Roosevelt as president to let's say our last four presidents? How do they compare in style? Ideology? Background?

How do you define words like Bully Pulpit, progressive, popularism, muckrackers, corruption?  How have these definitions changed from Roosevelt's/Tafts to the current day?

How did Roosevelt’s experiences in New York form him?

Have any of you read the Octopus by Frank Norris-it was talked about in Bully Pulpit. I was surprised by its reference here. Any thoughts on how the Mussel Slough Tragedy is related to the general themes of Bully Pulpit?  Do we have robber barons today? If so where are they found? Any unmasking you would like to do?

Compare the reading habits of Roosevelt and Taft.

The New Yorker praised The Bully Pulpit saying “[Goodwin] is too disciplined to make explicit comparisons to the present in the book, but it’s infused with a sense that the story she tells may hold lessons for us.” Did you see any parallels between the political climate during the Progressive era that Kearns details and today? What are they? From Simon and Schuster

Many people when they read about Roosevelt, they also think of our present day politics. At what points are their similarities? Differences? Are these points valid when we compare today’s climate with that of around the 1890’s to 1910’s?

Next month we will continue to look at The Bully Pulpit. Have we seen any seeds which leads to the deterioration of their relationship?

Goodwin used the person letters of several people to write this account. How will the historians of the future be able to write their accounts? Will we be able to get as personal of a view as we are of Taft and Roosevelt?

There is talk that The Bully Pulpit  will be made into a movie. Who would you want to play the various parts in this story?

Was there anybody you would consider religious? How did they show it?

What take aways have you gotten from this book?

Already asked questions from the Feb 8th meeting

Why was the title The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism chosen? Why did Goodwin write the book?

Three women play a part in this book: Ida Tarbell, Nellie Taft, and Edith Roosevelt. Describe the roles they played. What choices did they make in their relationships with men? How did it affect their lives? Would you say the choices were appropriate for them? Or did you feel they may have been better off making different choices? Was marriage a hinderance?

How would Taft and Roosevelt have been different without Nellie and Edith?

One of the knacks which Ida Tarbell had was to be able to temper situations. How was she able to do that? To what effect?

...ambition in a woman is synonymous with unhappiness Is that true today? Is that true with men as well? What place does ambition have as a Christian. How in the politician's life is ambition needed? How can it be destructive?

Both Taft and Roosevelt had interesting fathers. Taft’s father was someone who was demanding but able to be talked with about weakness. While Roosevelt’s father understood they were once children also. How did their father’s influence the type of men they would be?

One of the areas Goodwin explores is how the press interacts with Roosevelt. Describe these interactions. Do we have muckrackers today? Who would they be? Are the interactions which Roosevelt had with the McClure journalist desirable today? How come? Why not?  Do we have a magazine similar to McClure’s today?

Topics & Questions for Discussion  From Simon and Schuster

1. In describing Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, Goodwin writes, “the lively natures displayed by young Taft and Roosevelt remained with them throughout their lives. The aftermath of their anger, however, was handled very differently.” (p. 69) How does each man handle his anger? In what ways does this manifest in their respective political careers? Did you learn anything about the upbringing of either Roosevelt or Taft that surprised you? If so, what?
2. Why do you think Goodwin choose to title her book The Bully Pulpit? What role does the press play in the Roosevelt and Taft presidential administrations? Does the press play a similar role in politics today? Explain your answer.
3. Ida Tarbell “was certain that having a husband and children would thwart her freedom and curtail her nascent ambition” (p. 172) and decides that she will never marry. Nellie Taft, too, is initially opposed to marriage. Why do both women feel that marriage is a hindrance? What opportunities are available to women at the time? Why does Nellie finally agree to marry Taft?
4. Of Nellie Taft and Edith Roosevelt, Goodwin writes “In many ways, the two women complemented and balanced their respective partners.” (p. 132). Describe Roosevelt’s relationship with Edith and Taft’s with Nellie in light of Goodwin’s assertion. Was there anything about the relationships that surprised you? If so, what?
5. Douglas Brinkley said “If Roosevelt had done nothing else as president, his advocacy on behalf of preserving the [Grand] canyon might well have put him in the top ranks of American presidents.” (p. 351) Do you agree? What do you think Roosevelt’s crowning achievement was during his presidency? What was Taft’s and why?
6. Ray Stannard Baker had a close relationship with Roosevelt. How were the two men able to help each other? Baker considered Roosevelt’s ability to “endure criticism ‘one of his finest characteristics.’” (p. 650) Do you agree with Baker’s assessment of Roosevelt? Why or why not? What characteristics do you think are necessary in a president?
7. Roosevelt famously quoted the West African proverb “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” (p. 256) Give examples of how he enacts this philosophy in his presidency. How does Taft’s approach compare to Roosevelt’s? Do you think one approach is more effective? If so, why?
8. The New Yorker praised The Bully Pulpit saying “[Goodwin] is too disciplined to make explicit comparisons to the present in the book, but it’s infused with a sense that the story she tells may hold lessons for us.” Did you see any parallels between the political climate during the Progressive era that Kearns details and today? What are they? Discuss them with your book club.
9. Baker’s articles in McClure’s magazine about Coxey’s Army brought hundreds of additional recruits and revealed to him “the incredible ‘power of the press.’” (p. 185) How do the staff members of McClure’s use their positions to affect political and social change? Describe the ways that the press is able to influence both the Roosevelt and Taft administrations. What role does the press play in today’s political landscape?
10. During Roosevelt’s and Taft’s time in office a sitting president couldn’t “go on the stump and can’t indulge in personalities.” (p. 410). How else have presidential campaigns changed?
11. Do you consider The Bully Pulpit to be entertaining as well as educational? Would you recommend it to a friend?


1. Talk about the differences in the economic arena between the early 20th century, the historical period of this book, and the early 21st century. How similar are the issues of economic disparity?

2. Define populism...during Rooevelt and Taft's era and during our own? The same...different? What has spurred the growth of the movement then and now?

3. What role did the press play in the Roosevelt and Taft administrations? What role do the media play today? What exactly is muckraking? Can today's journalists be considered modern muckrakers? Do we have anything comparable to McClure's magazine today?

4. This is the first book in Goodwin's oeuvre that focuses prominently on women: especially Ida Tarbell and the wives of the two presidents. Talk about the ways in which those women made a difference...and talk about the times in which they operated. How amenable was society of powerful women?

5. Of the two primary figures, Roosevelt and Taft, which do you feel made the greatest difference? Which one most impressed you—and why? How did the two men differ in personality, as well as in their political view, tactics, and effectiveness?

6. How would you explain the deterioration of the friendship between two presidents?


From Reference and User Service Association, A Division of the American Library Association

Discussion Questions
1. Name several comparisons between the Progressive Era and today. Would you rather be a member of the working class then or now? Who is a contemporary robber baron in your opinion?
2. What was the role of the press then? What is it now? How do they compare? Who is doing the muckraking (reform minded journalism) of today?
3. Talk about the women in this book. What roles did they take on and
play at home and in politics?
4. How has your view of Theodore Roosevelt changed since reading this book? Could a modern president do what he did while in office?
5. This is a story of friendship and rivalry. Which other US presidents have experienced both friendship and rivalry?
6. Goodwin could not have written such an intimate portrait of the two men without their letters to each other and to their wives. How will history be recorded for historians in the next 100 years?
7. Doris Kearns Goodwin has noted that Ida Tarbell knew how to make people come to life on the page. How does Goodwin manage to do the same?
8. Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks, the makers of the movie Lincoln , based in part on Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, have acquired the rights to make a film based on The Bully Pulpit. How different would this movie be from Lincoln? Whom would you cast for the parts of Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt, Edith Roosevelt, Nellie Herron Taft (she sneaks cigarettes!) , Ida Tarbell , Sam McClure
? What scenes from Bully Pulpit stick out in your mind as particularly cinematic?
9. The role of government in dealing with the economic and social issues was a central issue during to the Progressive Era as it is today. What do you think Roosevelt would say about the social and economic issue of today?
10. The text of this book is 750 pages. Did the detail incorporated into this
volume advance or detract from the story? If you could edit, what would you cut? Is there an untold story here, something you would have liked more of?
11. Doris Kearns Goodwin has confessed that the Progressive Era was her favorite time in history. If she were to write another biography, whom would you like it to be about?

New Words:

Book References:

Good Quotes:
  • First Line:
  • Last Line:
Table of Contents:

  • Publisher's Web Site for Book
  • Author's Web Site
  • Wikipedia-Book
  • Wikipedia-Author
  • Amazon-Book
  • Amazon-Author
  • Barnes and Noble
  • GoodReads-Book
  • GoodReads-Author
  •  New York Times Review
  • NPR Review
  • Lit Lovers

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Richest Man in Babylon

Book:The Richest Man in Babylon
Basic Information : Synopsis : Characters : Thoughts : Evaluation  Good Quotes : Table of Contents : References

Basic Information:
Author: George S Clason
Edition: Paperback Loan from my brother
Publisher: Signet Book
ISBN: 0-451-16520-9
Read: February 1, 2018
144 pages
Genre: Financial Advice, Personal Growth
Language Warning: None
Rated Overall: 3 out of 5

Synopsis (Caution: Spoiler Alert-Jump to Thoughts):
As series of parables showcasing points of having financial order in your life. Originally written as a series of pamphlets, the author combined them and published the around 1926.

Cast of Characters:
Bansar: Chariot builder. A poor man. Friend of Kobbi and Arkad
Kobbi: Musician. A poor man. Friend of Bansar and Arkad
Arkad: Richest man in Babylon. Boyhood friend of Bansar and Kobbi. Principal in a lot of the stories. Once was a poor man.
Nomasir: Arkad’s son
Rodan: A spear maker who comes into a fortune of 50 pieces of gold
Mathon: Leander of gold and silver, friend of Rodan
Banzar: An old warrior, defender of the walls of Babylon
Tarkad: poor man who had nothing to eat, in debt
Dabasir: Rich man who is owed money by Tarkad. He iterates his story of going from being a slave to a rich man
Sharru Nada: merchant prince of Babylon
Hadan Gula: young son of a friend of Sharru Nada

Clason sets his story in ancient Babylon. To help convey a sense of ancientness to this wisdom, he uses a psuedo-Old English. Like using thy, thee and the like. I do not think it particularly adds to the story. But evidently to some people it is effective.

There are seven rules which Clason reiterates in the book:
  1. Start thy purse fattening - he emphasizes saving 10% of what you earn
  2. Control thy expenditures
  3. Make thy gold multiply
  4. Guard thy treasures from loss
  5. Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment
  6. Insure a future income
  7. Increase thy ability to earn

In reading about Clason, he had his own company called the Clason Map Company. It was the first company to publish a road atlas of the United States. Even with all the financial wisdom which Clason had, the Great Depression destroyed his company. Some of his maps can be seen at the David Rumsey map collection.

Clason states that Babylon became the wealthiest city of the ancient world because its citizens were the richest people of their time. Is this true? There are at least two statements I wonder able.
  1. Did Babylon become wealthy due to its citizens?
  2. Were it’s citizens wealthy?
I thought they became wealthy through conquest rather than being productive. Also was the wealth spread across its citizens? Or was it concentrated among the rulers? I do not know.

The assumptions Clason works off of are:
  1. Money is the medium by which earthly success is measured.
  2. Money makes possible the enjoyment of the best the earth affords
  3. Money is plentiful for those who understand the simple laws which govern its acquisition
  4. Money is governed today by the same laws which controlled it when prosperous men thronged the streets of Babylon, six thousand years ago.
I do not think these are true. First, how about the person is content with what they have? Not so much laziness, but says I would rather enjoy my life rather than strive for the things money can buy me? Also are there things money cannot buy? Is the beauty of a flower something money can buy? Or can I get that same beauty without money? Then the last thing which I will say right now is, this book was written in 1926. Two years before the Great Depression. I wonder what he would have written after going through the Great Depression. Would he have written something else? The company he founded, the Clason Map Company of Denver did not survive the Great Depression, even though it was a leader in map making before it.

0 The Man Who Desired Gold
Two friends who are poor are comisorating decide to ask their rich friend Arkad the secret to becoming wealthy.

1 The Richest Man in Babylon
The two friends go and see Arkad and question him about how he got rich from such a poor beginning. He started to turn when he decided to claim his share of the good things wealth could get for him. The essence is that he would not be satisfied with anything less than the best. How he found out how to become rich was when work came his way from a rich person, he asked him the question, how may I become rich? The answer to the question:
a part of all I earned was mine to keep.
The idea is that the money you recieve, you give to others for their goods and services. But it should also be a priority for you to keep some of it back for yourself. The next piece of advice was:
seek advice from those who are competent through their own experience
Then lastly:
learn how to let the money work for you.

One of the key things Clason says is the wealth grows wherever men exert energy.

2 Seven Cures for a Lean Purse
     2.1 Start thy purse to fattening
     2.2 Control thy expenditures
     2.3 Make thy gold multiply
     2.4 Guard thy treasures from loss
     2.5 Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment
     2.6 Insure a future income
     2.7 Increase thy ability to earn

3 Meet the Goddess of Good Luck
Can one be wealthy by relying on luck? While there is some money to be made in games of chance, is that how wealthy people get their wealth? More times than not winners at gambling do not know how to keep their winnings, so they loose it rather than multiply it.

While it is true that money won in this way does not have staying power, there is also the thought that you need to be awake and alert to opportunity. Procrastination can be one of our own worst enemies.

So the moral of this section: Men of action are favored by the goddess of good luck.

4 The Five Laws of Gold
Sort of taken from the story of Solomon-which would you choose-gold or wisdom? who can measure in bags of gold, the value of wisdom? Without wisdom, gold is quickly lost...but with wisdom, gold can be secured by those who have it not.

  1. Gold comes gladly and in increasing quantity to any man who will put by not less than one-tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and that of his family.
  2. Gold labors diligently and contently for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment, multiplying even as the flocks of the field.
  3. Gold clings to the protection of the cautious owner who invests it under the advice of men wise in its handling.
  4. Gold slips away from the man who invests it in businesses or purposes with which he is not familiar or which are not approved by those skilled in its keep.
  5. Gold flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings or who follows the alluring advice of tricksters and schemers or who trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.

5 The Gold Lender of Babylon
  1. If you desire to help thy friend, do so in a way that will not bring thy friend's burdens upon thyself.
  2. Better a little caution than a great regret
Humans in the throes of great emotions are not safe risks.
Mathon goes through and tells stories about each piece of security he holds. Some are poor risks, which he will never get repaid. others have repaid, and he continues to lend to them and is confident he will be repaid handsomely. Look at honorable behaviour.
Better a little caution than great regret.

6 The Walls of Babylon
       6.1 We cannot afford to be without adequate protection
Parable talking about how the walls of Babylon protected its occupants from being overrun

7 The Camel Trader of Babylon
       7.1 Where the determination is, the way can be found
The hungrier one becomes, the clearer one’s mind works...
This parable concerns the difference between being a man and a slave. It is not so much the bonds which holds a person back, but the attitude. Do you make amends, or try to scheme your way out of things. By having the integrity to correct a situation, then you are a man’s mentality.
My debts were my enemies… the men I owed were my friends for they had trusted me and believed in me.

But do the people who hold papers today look at people and work with them to become free? Or to continue to enslave them?

the soul of a free man looks at life as a series of problems to be solved and solves them, while the soul of a slave whimes, ‘What can I do who am but a slave?’

Where the determination is, the way can be found.

8 The Clay Tablets from Babylon
Fictional professor learns the lessons of Mathon about financial integrity. This is done by interpreting the clay tablets found around the Babylon site. A synopsis of the rest of the book.

9 The Luckiest Man in Babylon
        9.1 Work is the key to golden shekels
The young son of a friend of the merchant prince is coming into Babylon. The son feels the best thing in life is to acquire money so that he can acquire as much stuff as possible, living the life of ease. The prince shows him how his grandfather and himself went from being a slave to being rich through hard work.

Being faithful in your work acquires friends. Also life is rich with many pleasures. The reward for good work is not just monetary, but also a deep sense of pleasure and value.

10 A Historical Sketch of Babylon
Clason ends the book with a sketch of Babylon. Its immenseness. Its grander. Its strength. But then he says there is nothing left of it. Clason does not ask this question, but it would seem like this summary is leading to why bother? We live, drink and die. Fading away, even the best of us, to oblivion. Is that all there is? I would say if you are concentrating on acquiring wealth yes. But there are things beyond that which will establish you forever. That is being known by God.


This is one of those books which if you already are pretty good with your personal finances, you sort of read it as a checklist of things which you are doing already or maybe you catch a point or two. If your finances need help, this is a good, easy way to start by getting perspective on yourself and how you deal with money. So The Richest Man in Babylon can either be a real eye-opening and change one’s life, or a ho-hum book of things you already know.

The book started as a series of pamphlets which financial companies used to enlighten their customers on how their personal finances should be managed, They later got combined into a book. Consequently, there is a lot of overlap in subjects.

Clason tells a series of stories set in ancient Babylon who are all trying to figure out how to be rich. He shys away from the get rich schemes and gives down to earth advice such as “pay yourself” 10% of what you make during a year. Invest in only things you understand. But Clason presents it in a story form so you have a better understanding of how you should organize your finances-organize not in the sense of budgeting and record keeping, but in the sense of ordering your finances.


Good Quotes:
    • First Line: Our prosperity as a nation depends upon the personal financial prosperity of each of us as individuals.
    • Last Line:The eons of time have crumbled to dust the proud walls of its temples, but the wisdom of Babylon endures.
    • the soul of a free man looks at life as a series of problems to be solved and solves them, while the soul of a slave whimes, ‘What can I do who am but a slave?’ Chp The Camel Trader of Babylon
      Table of Contents:
      • 1 The Richest Man in Babylon
        • 1.1 A part of all you earn is yours to keep
      • 2 Seven Cures for a Lean Purse
        • 2.1 Start thy purse to fattening
        • 2.2 Control thy expenditures
        • 2.3 Make thy gold multiply
        • 2.4 Guard thy treasures from loss
        • 2.5 Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment
        • 2.6 Insure a future income
        • 2.7 Increase thy ability to earn
      • 3 Meet the Goddess of Good Luck
      • 4 The Five Laws of Gold
      • 5 The Gold Lender of Babylon
        • 5.1 If you desire to help thy friend, do so in a way that will not bring thy friend's burdens upon thyself.
        • 5.2 Better a little caution than a great regret
      • 6 The Walls of Babylon
        • 6.1 We cannot afford to be without adequate protection
      • 7 The Camel Trader of Babylon
        • 7.1 Where the determination is, the way can be found
      • 8 The Clay Tablets from Babylon
      • 9 The Luckiest Man in Babylon
        • 9.1 Work is the key to golden shekels
      • 10 A Historical Sketch of Babylon


          Thursday, December 28, 2017

          Cover Her Face

          Book:Cover Her Face
          Basic Information : Synopsis : Characters : Thoughts : EvaluationNew WordsGood QuotesReferences

          Basic Information:
          Author: PD James
          Edition: Paperback
          Publisher: Touchstone - Simon&Schuester
          ISBN: 978-0-7432-1957-0
          Read: December 28, 2017
          249 pages
          Genre:  History, Fiction, Mystery
          Language Warning:  None
          Rated Overall: 3 ½  out of 5

          Fiction-Tells a good story: 3 out of 5
          Fiction-Character development: 5 out of 5

          Synopsis (Caution: Spoiler Alert-Jump to Thoughts):

          The story is told in nine numbered chapters. The story spends time developing who the characters are.through the first fifth of the book. But after the big annual village celebration/party/sale at the Maxie’s estate,  all of the main people are resting, except the house staff. But Sally makes a stir when she announces that Stephen Maxie has asked her to marry him.

          The next morning, Sally is found dead, strangled. Dalgiesh is called in to investigate. The rest of the book concerns the investigation. Dalgiesh questioning people, suspects questioning others. Until the final chapter when Dalgiesh calls a meeting of all of the suspects and lays out the evidence, slowly eliminating each suspect. That is except one. But before we get to know the murdered, we find out through the sudden entrance of Sally’s husband that she was married.

          There is plenty of hints throughout the book to allow one to figure out  who done it, or at least eliminate a lot of suspects. But other hints such as why did an unmarried girl have a trousseau? Who was in the barn arguing? Why did Sally receive a letter with a Venezuelan stamp? Where did some of the sleeping pills disappear to and are they connected to the murder? The list of clues goes on for a long time.

          In this way, the book is written like a traditional who done it book. A book with a few surprises, but pretty traditional in its approach and its detective.

          Cast of Characters:
          • Sally Jupp (Ritchie)  - Maid who was murdered
          • Mrs Eleanor Maxi - matron of Martingale
          • Stephen Maxie - Mrs. Maxie’s son, heir of Martingale, Sally Jupp’s fiance
          • Deborah Riscoe - Mrs. Maxie’s daughter
          • Catherine Bowers - Family friend, one time Stephen Maxie lover
          • Felix Hearne - friend of Deborah, who feels more for Deborah than she for him
          • Martha Bultitaft - Cook and house help
          • Dr. Charles Epps - village doctor and family friend
          • Mr. Bernard Hinks - vicar
          • Miss Alice Liddell - Warden of St Mary’s Refuge for Girls whee Sally Jupp had been before being a maid
          • Derek Pullen - friend of Sally Jupp’s, but not a lover.
          • James Ritchie - husband, not known by others
          • Mr. and Mrs. Proctor - Uncle and aunt who raised Sally Jupp
          • Adam Dalgliesh - detective
          • Sgt Martin - assistant to Dalgliesh

            According to Wikipedia, the titles comes  from John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi: "Cover her face. Mine eyes dazzle; she died young."

            Nothing profound in this book, at least how I read it. But there are some interesting quotes.

            humour was only a feeble attempt to denigrate fear. (6)

            Sally Ritchie obviously believed that we live in a society which salves its conscience more by helping the interesting unfortunate than the dull deserving and was in the position to put her theory to the test. (9)

            How do you recognize someone who is manipulative like Sally? How do you oppose her?

            Was what Mrs. Maxie did heroic? Moral?


            If you like reading, particularly mysteries, you need to read PD James! The question is, is Cover Her Face the book to read of hers?

            I like PD James’ writing. This is the fifth book of hers which I read and I am glad I did. But would I start with Cover Her Face? Probably not.  This is James’ first mystery book and I think she is trying to figure out her style of writing. The first three chapters are lead into the story. I confess, if it was not for the James’ as a writer, I would have put the book down. The start is slow. But as she gets more into the story, her writing picks up until you are engrossed in the storyline.

            So read it, enjoy it, but do not start with this book if you are starting with James.

            New Words:

            • trousseau  (4): the clothes, household linen, and other belongings collected by a bride for her marriage.
            • insouciance (8): casual lack of concern; indifference
            • solecism (9): a grammatical mistake in speech or writing.
            • fete: a celebration or festival

            Good Quotes:
            • First Line: Exactly three months before the killing at Martingale Mrs. Maxie gave a dinner party.
            • Last Line: And when that happened the right words would be found.