Friday 23 June 2023

House of Cards - Alice Curtayne - Cluny Media Reprint Edition

House of Cards:
Cluny Media Reprint Edition
Alice Curtayne

ISBN 9781950970742
Previous editions:
The Bruce Publishing Company (1939)
Phoenix Publishing (1939)
Talbot Press (1940)

A few years ago, I fell in love with the works of Alice Curtayne. I first encountered the writings of Alice Curtayne through her book Twenty Tales of Irish Saints, I was captivated by her writing style and her style as a hagiographer. And I started tracking down her other writings. This is not proving an easy task. The first problem is that only 2 of her works were in print at that time. Second many of her books never had North American editions, and that made them hard to find in Canada or even copies that would ship to Canada. Her first book was published in 1929. She wrote histories, most focused on saints. She wrote a few novels. And she wrote extensively for newspapers and magazines. I have also found that she wrote pamphlets for the Catholic Truth Society and other Catholic organizations. I believe that Cluny Media has released 5 of her books in reprint editions and one she contributed to, The Irish Way.  Most are available as paperbacks or hardcovers, and todate only one has a digital edition. Alice Curtayne wrote only a couple of novels that I am aware of. This is the first I have read. It was originally published in 1939, though the description of this edition states 1940. I have been able to confirm 4 other editions all between the years 1939 and 1940. Both editions in Ireland and the United States. This Cluny reprint edition released in 2020. At the time there was indication that eBooks editons would be forthcoming but 3 years on they have not materialized. This is the sixth volume I have read from Cluny Media. 

The description of this edition of this book states:

“House of Cards, originally published in 1940, delves into the explicable workings of the human heart. At the age of seventeen, Anne Farrelly leaves her hometown in the West of Ireland for England, eager for the adventure of education and the promise of a career to follow. In the decade that follows, Anne works up from a lowly position at a struggling English school to a directorship at an Italian firm’s Rome offices, all the while contending with the question of whether she must be married in order to find true fulfillment. Through every turn—romantic, tragic, or comedic—Curtayne presents the concrete difficulties, fraught decisions, and testing freedoms in the life of a young woman. Curtayne’s first foray into the realm of fiction, House of Cards is a debut novel worthy of serious consideration for its compelling dramatic arc as much as for its distinctive and credible an ambitious young woman who may stand to lose more than she gains by her choices.”

Before we get to the review of this specific volume I want to restate, that it should be noted that this reprint edition from Cluny is very well done. Unlike many books brought back from the public domain, this volume went through a process of a high quality scan. And a complete re-typesetting. Cluny is dedicated to restoring quality editions of old books, focused on the Catholic Tradition. Their motto is: ‘Promote the tradition. Preserve the Past.’ Which is a very worthy cause. I really appreciate the work of Cluny Media, they are trying to restore Catholic books, bringing them back into print in wonderful physical editions and for a few eBooks. They are excellent editions. I just wish they had eBooks for all volumes.

This book was a very different read for me. It was the first of Curtayne’s novels I have read. I had a pretty good idea early in where the story was going and it took longer to get there than I expected. Anne Farrelly is an easy enough character to like, and appreciated. Based on when it was published I was surprised that the rise of fascism did not play into her decision to leave Italy. For the first two thirds of the book it was good writing, pleasant descriptions, and very realistic story akin to Madeleine L’Engle’s adult fiction that I am familiar with. The final third moved at a much quicker pace and was more relatable. 

If the story were written today, it would be considered historical fiction starting over 100 years ago. But at the time it was just fiction, and it does capture the essence of an orphan striving for meaning and finding her place in the world, even if looking back later there are some regrets. It is not my favourite of Curtayne’s works. It was an entertaining story and well written. It is not the type of story I would pick up today to read and there are several published each year set in and about that time and up to just after WWII. The Cluny edition with its freshly reset type and artistic covers is a pleasing book to hold and read. As with all titles I have read from Cluny or from the pen of Curtayne I am thankful to have given this a read. And very thankful it is back in print. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan

For All reviews of Books from Cluny Media click here.
For All reviews and articles about Alice Curtayne click here.

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