This is a historical family story about the Rideouts of Colorado. The patriarch, Webb. was gunned down in an unfair fight, which his sons have worked all these years to avenge, traveling over much of the world to do so. One of the boys was so good at math that friends and admirers insisted on sending him to Yale, where it was decided that he really belonged in Germany with the other geniuses. One of the daughters horrified everyone by falling in love and marrying with her grandfather's murderer. Above all, literally, the author has a crew in a balloon, visiting any wold's fair that happens to be happening. The author manages to tie all this together, though the reader might wish to follow the family story more closely. They have fun meeting all sorts of famous people and mocking science, suggesting that ether is really God and planning to "corner" light. Critics found the novel too long, over 1000 pages, but I enjoyed the various geographies, especially Colorado.
"Howard's End," by E. M. Forster. Another family story, also 19th century. ( I can't find out who Howard was or why there is no apostrophe.) Margaret is the only character we care about at first. Then Leonard Bast has to visit to retrieve his umbrella that Margaret took by mistake after a concert . He turns out to be a rather poor accountant, and the girls decide to help him by recruiting their father. The father gives Leonard advice that makes him poorer. Howard's End is a lovely country house and grounds owned by Mr. Wilcox, who turns into a husband -prospect for Margaret. At a garden party for another daughter, Leonard appears, to ask Mr. Wilcox about a job. His wife comes along and barges into the garden party. Since they are poor, she eats whenever there is a party. When she insists on speaking to Mr. Wilcox, we learn that she used to be his mistress! Margaret is such a brick that she survives the shock and refuses to break her engagement. The movie ends here, but the book goes on to reveal that we learn no more of Leonard's wife or Margaret, but Leonard impregnates Helen, another sister. The novel succeeds in criticizing England's social caste system. They all lived unhappily ever after.
This month's Young Adult choice is "The Boy and Girl Who Broke the World," by Amy Reed. Well, of course the title has nothing to do with the story. Billy is an optimist but not about his new school. He has no friends and no idea how to have any. In desperation, he accosts Lydia as she walks by, and she regretfully gives him her phone number. She is an amateur dancer, who works after school in the father's bar. Also motherless, Billy lives with his grouchy grandma and his almost successful rock star uncle. The uncle pays Billy to furnish him with cigarettes and snacks, which help Billy squirrel away a little change, which he wants so he can buy dancing lessons for Lydia. He persuades the dancing teacher to pretend that Lydia won a scholarship so he can buy her lessons because he knows she is too proud to accept charity. Everything goes along well till a terrific rainstorm and a tornado, which tears their town apart during Lydia's first performance. Luckily everyone has insurance. They didn't break the world but survived in the northwest.