The Foxes of Harrow not worth digging out

Steven Fox arrives in New Orleans in 1825, broke and friendless.

By his gambling and his good looks, he makes a fortune and buys land, working along side his slaves to make it prosper.


The Foxes of Harrow by Frank Yerby

Dial Press, 1946. 408 p. 1946 bestseller #6. My grade: C-.


Before long Harrow is the greatest plantation in Louisiana, its manor house a gem on the Mississippi.

Steven marries Odalie Orceneaux by whom he has two children.

After her death he marries her sister, Aurore.

And on the side he has a quadroon mistress.

As Harrow grows more prosperous and influential, the South prepares for war. Steven lays aside his anti-secession principles to fight for the South.

In the introduction to The Foxes of Harrow, Frank Yerby makes the glory and ruin of Harrow Plantation almost palpable, but the story never lives up to its setting.

Yerby starts out writing about people in the pre-Civil War South, and ends up writing an historical novel about the South.

The characters, too, are not consistent.

Initially conniving, thieving, self-centered, and cruel, Steven magically becomes loyal, generous, and statesmanlike by the book’s end.

The best thing to be said for The Foxes of Harrow is that it’s better than its sequels.

But it’s no Gone With the Wind.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 

Characters in The Deliverance Grow Up

Tobacco field in Stanford, KY
Tobacco field in the American South

Ellen Glasgow’s sets The Deliverance, a tale of repressed sexual passion and hatred, in the tobacco fields of Reconstruction-era Virginia.

When the Confederacy lost the war, the Blakes lost their slaves and money. Former overseer Bill Fletcher bought their plantation for $7000.

The remnants of the Blake family were forced to move to what had been the overseer’s house where they keep the truth of their economic situation from blind old Mrs. Blake.

Young Christopher Blake hates Fletcher with a passion. When opportunity comes to get back at Fletcher by turning his grandson against him, Chris takes it.

Fletcher’s granddaughter, Maria, arouses Chris’s passions, too. Fortunately she marries and goes to Europe before his rage turns to rape.

Though Glasgow could have taken the story in any of several directions from there, she sticks to the promise of her subtitle and produces a romance.

The printed Southern dialect is annoying, but there’s not much of it past the first few chapters.

In the intensity of its characters’ loves and hatreds, The Deliverance reminds me of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. In Glasgow’s novel, however, the main characters seem to outgrow their hatred rather than spending their passion. Even Glasgow’s minor characters mature in ways that are both surprising and realistic.

The Deliverance; A Romance of the Virginia Tobacco Fields
by Ellen Glasgow
Project Gutenberg ebook #2384
1904 bestseller #2
My grade: B

Photo credit: Tobacco Field by carterboy

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni