Margaret Deland’s The Iron Woman opens conventionally enough but quickly develops into a complex psychological study that winds up as an interactive novel in which readers select the ending.
A pair of half-siblings whose mother runs Maitlin Iron Works and two other local children settle their conjugal futures one afternoon in an apple tree. Blair Maitlin will marry Elizabeth Ferguson, whose uncle is the mill superintendent; Nannie Maitlin will marry David Richie, the adopted son of a widow newly moved to town.
Mrs. Maitlin showers money on Blair. When he refuses to go into the family iron business and instead marries Elizabeth, Mrs. Maitlin cuts Blair out of her will. She decides to endow a clinic and put David, now a doctor, in charge.
As Mrs. Maitlin is dying, Nannie forges her mother’s name so Blair gets the money intended for the clinic.
All the remaining characters are miserable except Elizabeth’s uncle, who has gotten widow Richie to say she’ll marry him.
At that point Deland addresses her readers directly, laying out the options available to each character. She leaves readers to figure out how to end the book.
To do that, they have to decide whether the title refers to Mrs. Maitlin, who runs the iron mill; or to the widow whose sweetness belies a steely determination; or to Elizabeth, who finally decides she can master her temper.
A fiction writers’ group or book club looking for a novel that will engage readers need look no further than The Iron Woman.The Iron Woman
by Margaret Wade Campbell Deland 1911 bestseller #6
Project Gutenberg EBook #6474 My grade: A-