This book is available as an ebook and an audiobook through Project Gutenberg.) Now, I'm not reading this for fun. It's research for a book I want to write set in the 1920's and the original edition of Etiquette was released in 1922.
Recently, an interview with author Alice Duncan was posted to this blog. As some of her books take place in the 1920's I decided they might count as research or at least as encouragement for my own story so I read Lost Among the Angels and Angel's Flight. The heroine of these books is Mercy (Mercedes Louise to her Mother) Alcutt. Mercy is a properly brought up, wealthy young woman from Boston who has chosen to move to Los Angelos and take a job (gasp) as a secretary with Private Investigator Ernie Templeton. (And if you happen to read this, Alice, I hope you are not finished writing about Mercy and Ernie. I absolutely loved the first two books.)
I was glad to see that Mercy seemed to have studied Emily Post or a similar source. I saw many details, such as the way she introduced people, that matched up with Mrs. Post's advice. I'm sure Etiquette will be an important resource for me, but it is a bit of a dry, dusty read. It was more fun to watch Mercy try to reconcile her proper Boston manners with relaxed Los Angelos standards.
And really, isn't this one of the wonderful things about fiction - that it makes learning so enjoyable and effortless. Get lost in a story and come out with a bit more knowledge or understanding. It doesn't mean we don't need the more scholarly works. Sometimes you just have to plow through the dull and the boring to find out what you want to know. But when you can mix the two, I've found the result to be invariably good.
I'm about to start Alice Duncan's latest release Hungry Spirits. It's also set in the 1920's but the main character, Daisy Gumm Majesty, is a pretend spiritualist and a far cry from a proper, wealthy young lady. But still...I wonder what I might learn from Daisy? Maybe I'll need a seance scene in my new work. You know what they say - learning is never a waste.