Vein of Iron pulses with unsentimental goodness

The Fincastle family of Ironside is what, in the early 1900s was referred to as “salt of the earth folks.”

Poor, hardworking, highly principled, they can be counted on to tend the sick, comfort the dying, stick up for the outcast.


Vein of Iron  by Ellen Glasgow

Harcourt, Brace, 1935. 462 pages. 1935 bestseller #2. My Grade: B.


1930's commercial street  scene is on cover of paperback edition of Vein of Iron The boy Ada Fincastle plans to marry, Ralph McBride, is accused of getting a local girl pregnant. The families force Ralph to marry her.

Awaiting a divorce, Ralph entices Ada to spend a weekend with him before he is sent off to France.

Ada goes through the disgrace of an unwed pregnancy.

After the Armistice, they marry.

The family, including Ada’s father and her aunt, moves from Ironside to a poor section of Queenborough. They have money saved toward a home when Ralph has a car accident.

The household is just beginning to recover from that crisis in 1929 when the stock market crashes.

Ada’s father goes home to Ironside to die; the rest of the family go back there to live.

Ellen Glasgow tells the story in an unsentimental, matter-of-fact way that makes it feel like biography. That no-nonsense tone gives the novel authority and power.

You’ll come away respecting the Fincastles rather than loving them — which is precisely as they would have wished.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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2 thoughts on “Vein of Iron pulses with unsentimental goodness

  1. Linda, I discovered the Wisconsin author Zona Gale this morning. First woman to win the Pulitzer in Drama 1921. I did not find any of her novels on your blog. I would be interested in your thoughts, as a native of the same state. I am starting to read Friendship Village – 1908.
    Thanks, Steven

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    1. The reason you didn’t find any Zona Gale novels on my blog, Steven, is that my focus is on novels that made the bestseller lists. I occasionally take a detour to look at a novel that became famous without having been an instant bestseller.

      After I finish the roughly 700 bestsellers from 1900 to 1969, I may go back to pick up novels that avoided fame entirely but deserve rereading. Please let me know whether Friendship Village fits that profile.

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