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I'm stunned and delighted...
on January 15, 2005
... to see that this book, first published in 1936, is being re-published. I discovered Marjorie Hillis Roulston through her second book "Orchids on Your Budget," a 1937 book for Depression survivors (the 1930's depression, not the modern kind) to help them keep up their spirits and appearances when in dire financial circumstances. I searched the net and found her other books, "Corned Beef and Caviar," and "You Can Start Again." All four books are delightful with a perky, saucy, just-between-us-girls tone that is absolutely charming. Imagine Carrie Bradshaw in a tailored suit, becoming hat, and white, wrist-length cotton gloves.
One of the most captivating features of the book are the "cases." At the end of each chapter in each of the books, she describes individuals who have adopted her principles to their own benefit, or failed to do so, and are suffering the consequences. In one pair of cases, she describes two different girls-- yes, we're all just "girls," but it's okay-- who spend their weekends in contrasting ways. Girl A plans her time wisely, going for beauty treatments after work on Saturday afternoon, being served sherry and then dinner by the maid she had the foresight to hire for the day, spending Sunday morning in bed reading the papers and gossiping on the phone while attired in her best bed jacket, then concluding the weekend by attending evening Vespers, followed by a hot date. Girl B just piddles the weekend away and can't get her act together.
I've read all four books so often that I get them mixed up, but she talks about entertaining in your apartment if you don't have a kitchen or access to any ice(!). The solution: a shelf stocked with foreign crackers, spreads in jars, cute knives, red glass plates from the dime store, and sherry. She makes the assumption that a single woman will not know how to cook, describes dinner parties ranging from one where you serve canned spaghetti in a chafing dish, to one where you venture gamely into ethnic neighborhoods to buy exotic tidbits, to one where you will need to hire a maid to help you cook-- "don't worry about how to make this dish-- any competent maid will be able to handle it."
The books are endlessly fascinating for the window into an era and lifestyle far from today-- New York in the late 30's through the early 50's. There are probably some things in here that are sexist to today's sensibility, but you know what? who cares. The books are a treat from beginning to end.
I would love to know more about Marjorie Hillis Roulston and regularly search the internet for anything about her. I recently found a reprint of an article by her in the publication of the Art Deco Society (art-deco.org). It seems that there may have been another book by her entitled "New York: Fair or Not Fair." I've had no luck finding it.
If any relatives or descendents of Mrs. Roulston read this, I want to say to them that reading her books has given me hours of pleasure, and I bless her memory often.