Helen Has Little Romance, Lots of Gab in Old House

Helen Ward is young, unmarried, and at loose ends. The end of World War I left her with no meaningful occupation because,  as the daughter of a millhand who became rich from his patent on a process that revolutionized the mill operation, she can’t work for money.

Helen’s brother, John, runs the mill with too much respect for workers to suit his deranged father or Helen. She’s both pleased and miffed by her childhood sweetheart, John’s best friend, “knows his place” and makes no social overatures.

Adam Ward hopes his daughter will marry Jim McIver, another mill owner, and show John how workers ought to be treated.

As readers of romances know, Harold Bell Wright won’t let that  marriage happen.

However, this set-up for romantic froth about whether Helen will find happiness is overshadowed by more exciting questions:

Can communist Jake Vodell incite a strike at the mill?

If the mill workers stage a sympathy strike, will Adam Ward blow up his mill as he’s threatened?

Why does Adam have such contempt for his one-time friend Pete Martin?

The central character of  Helen of the Old House turns out to be The Interpreter, a larger-than-life character who  lost the use of his legs in a mill accident and now supports himself by making baskets.

The Interpreter’s dispassionate advice is as much sought now as his translation skills had been when he worked in the mill. Although confined to a wheel chair, The Interpreter doesn’t miss much that goes on. Sooner or later, all the characters end up at the Interpreter’s hut.

Wright lades the novel with inspirational speeches about the dignity of work and the brotherhood of men that sound like the script for a Pathe news reel.  The story is saved from death by sugar overdose by a couple disreputable characters of such nastiness they’ll leave you gasping for breath.

Helen of the Old House
Harold Bell Wright
Published 1921
1922 Bestseller # 10
Project Gutenberg ebook #9410
 
© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni
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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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