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Blog category: American Literature

Review: "The Song of the Lark" by Willa Cather


The Song of the Lark was Cather’s third novel. Written between O Pioneers! and My Antonia, it is very different from those novels for which Cather is better known. The story is set among sand hills and canyons, big crowded cities and harmonious music. It is the story of the making of an artist, from her humble beginnings in Moonstone, Colorado to the big time singing operas in New York. It is a story in three parts. Continue reading .

Review: "Rutledge" by Miriam Coles Harris


First published anonymously in 1860, the narrator of this novel (who remains unnamed) is an orphan who is sent to live with her aunt. During the journey, the narrator and her companion, Mr. Rutledge, are injured in a train wreck and are thus moved to a nearby parsonage to recuperate before continuing the journey. At the parsonage, part of a large estate called Rutledge, the narrator enjoys the kindness and caring of Mr. Rutledge and the parsonage’s occupants. When the narrator finally makes it to her aunt’s house, she is caught in the flippant social whirl and to a certain degree comes to enjoy it. Drama and tragedy ensue before our narrator determines where her place place of real joy and love should be. Continue reading .

Review: "O Pioneers!" by Willa Cather

Published in 1913, O Pioneers! was Willa Cather’s second novel. It centers on a family of Swedish immigrants in rural Nebraska. The main character, Alexandra Bergson, inherits the family farmland when her father dies, and she devotes her life to making the farm a viable enterprise at a time when other immigrant families are giving up and leaving the prairie. Continue reading .

Review: "A Humble Romance and Other Stories" by Mary E Wilkins Freeman


A Humble Romance, first published in 1887 to wide popularity, tells various stories of rural New England folks, mostly women. This collection catches you from its “humble” beginning. Each story is engrossing, yet surprising in its simplicity of characters and plot. Far from beautiful heiresses or men on panting steeds, the main characters are mostly old spinsters and sometimes a plain niece or two. The plot rarely goes beyond a long held grudge or–at the extreme–a woman left at the altar. But the stories pull you in from the start, as if you had known the characters all your life and are unavoidably invested in their fates. Continue reading .

Review: "The Country of the Pointed Firs" by Sarah Orne Jewett


Written in 1896, The Country of Pointed Firs is set in a small village on the coast of Maine, the story is told through the eyes of a female writer and visitor to the town. The novel’s appeal emerges through the colorful description of characters and unique way of life that was rapidly disappearing at the time and by now is long gone. Continue reading .

Review: "Letters of a Woman Homesteader" by Elinore Pruitt Stewart


In 1909, a recent widow and single mother, Elinore Pruitt Stewart accepted a job as housekeeper to a wealthy cattleman in Burntfork, Wyoming. There she she filed on her own land and recorded details of her life on her small ranch. Her letters were written from 1909 to 1913 and walk the line between truth and fiction. Though not originally intended for publication, Stewart later did publish this collection of her letters in 1914. Continue reading .

Review: "The House of Mirth" by Edith Wharton


The House of Mirth, first published in 1905, is about New York socialite Lily Bart and her attempts to secure a husband amidst the social whirl of New York’s Fifth Avenue at the dawn of the Twentieth Century. Wharton pictures a new class of self-made millionaires created by Wall Street, casts a shadow over the tenuous position of those in the “leisure class” and offers a peek at the ascendancy of the self-supporting career woman. Continue reading .

Review: "Ruth Hall" by Fanny Fern


The first novel by Fanny Fern, otherwise known as Sara Payson Willis, is a semi-autobiographical tale of a talented writer who loses her husband and is forced to support herself and two young children in the mid-1800s. She states in her preface that Ruth Hall is not a novel, preferring the term “continuous story”. She wrote at variance with the traditional themes and styles of the time and therefore received her share of criticism for it. However she also had supporters. Notably, Nathaniel Hawthorne hoped that Fern’s writing would encourage her female contemporaries to follow her example and “throw off the constraints of decency…then their books are sure to possess character and value.” Continue reading .

Review: "To Have and To Hold" by Mary Johnston


To Have and To Hold was the bestselling book in the United States in 1900. The story is set in the early years of the Virginia colony and follows the fortunes of Captain Ralph Percy. Percy, somewhat unwillingly, takes part in a bride arrangement and ends up married to a young woman who is clearly more than she professes herself to be. Some weeks later Lord Carnal, the King’s favorite, arrives to reveal that she is Lady Jocelyn Leigh, a ward of the King who wanted her to marry Lord Carnal himself. Pirates, sword fights, and adventures ensue. Continue reading .

Review: "The Story of My Life" by Helen Keller


Helen was born in June of 1880 in a tiny town in northern Alabama. She was nineteen months old and had just begun to talk when she contracted an unnamed disease, described by her doctor only as “acute congestion of the stomach and brain.” The doctor’s prognosis was that Helen would not live. She pulled through, but not before the disease had robbed her of her sight and hearing. Continue reading .

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