A Daughter of the Land is flawed, heroic feminist

Gene Stratton-Porter was not only a prolific author, but a prolific author of bestselling novels.

A Daughter of the Land is better than any of her others.


A Daughter of the Land by Gene Stratton-Porter

1918 bestseller #9. Project Gutenberg ebook #3722. My grade: B+.


The novel is about Kate Bates, youngest of 16 children of one of the richest, stingiest, and most egotistical farmers in the county.

Kate’s seven brothers each got a house, stock, and 200 acres when they turned 21.

The nine Bates girls each got “a bolt of muslin and a fairly decent dress when she married.”

Kate bitterly resents the disparity.

When her father refuses to let her take a summer course that would qualify her to teach, Kate borrows money from her sister-in-law and goes out on her own.

The novel follows Kate from Normal School training into teaching, courtship, marriage, motherhood, widowhood, and, eventually to love as she pursues her goals of “a man, a farm, and a family.”

Aside from one slip when she has Mr. Bates seeming to applaud Kate’s rebellion, Stratton-Porter tale of an heroic and flawed woman’s fight to run her own life—and a 200-acre farm—feels entirely true.

Kate makes plenty of mistakes along the way, but she accepts their consequences an moves on.

In my book, that’s heroic.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 

Private Worlds explores the craziness of the sane

TItle page of Private WorldsOn one level, Private Worlds is a romance whose outcome is never is doubt. On another level, it’s a realistic story of alliances and jealousies in a closed world where the outcomes are unpredictable.

As the story opens, Jane Everett is waiting to hear whether Alex MacGregor has been named superintendent of the mental hospital at which they, respectively, head the men’s and women’s departments.

Jane is disturbed that instead of going first to his bride, Sally, Alex comes to her to say they should quit: The choice has gone to an outsider Alex’s own age who dislikes women doctors.

For Sally’s sake as well as Alex’s, Jane counsels patience.

Jane senses that though the new superintendent appears cold, he is fair and willing to listen. Jane is sure even Alex can work with Dr. Drummond if they give him a fair chance.

Trouble arises when Dr. Drummond’s sexy, manipulative sister comes to visit.

Phyllis Bottome is interested in the self-defeating behaviors of the legally sane. Instead of the horrific mental disturbances presented in The Snake Pit and Compulsion, for example, she gives us homely pictures of irrational thinking to which everyone falls prey.

Private Worlds isn’t a great novel, but its more than just entertainment. Bottome provides readers ideas to chew on.

Private Worlds
By Phyllis Bottome
Houghton, Mifflin, 1934
342 pages
My grade: B+
1934 bestseller #7

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni