Two of several llustrations for the novel by
A popular topic around the internet at the moment seems to be old and forgotten books. With the present pressure on publishing,I wonder if this may reflect a certain fin de siecle nostalgia for the "golden age."
From my odd collection of books, this is one of my "keepers" -- partly because of the illustrations, the detachable kind reproduced on their very own page and protected by an onion skin overleaf.
Published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1906 and written under the pseudonym of Frances Little (Fannie Caldwell),The Lady of the Decoration became a best seller in 19o7. The book's popularity is attributed in part to interest generated by the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, a conflict which is referenced in the novel. Apparently now in the public domain, the book is available from Project Guttenberg.
The charming and simple story, in the form of letters to a cousin, details the experiences of a wordly young American widow who has gone to Japan as a kindergarten teacher at a missionary school during the years 1901-1905.
The "missionary school," however, merely provides the raison d'etre. The novel contains no pious insistence on creed and dogma whatsoever, and is told, moreover, in a refreshingly modern, almost chick litty voice.
The letter form allows the reader to discern loss, exile, struggle -- and a love story -- between the lines. And the novel reflects a time in literary history when a certain innocent idealism was constant in theme and character.