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Review: "A Girl of the Limberlost" by Gene Stratton-Porter

A Girl of the Limberlost may be downloaded for free from our ebook catalog. Cover art is by Janice Tarver.

This is a unique story about Elnora Comstock who lives a reclusive life with her mother in the woody swamps of Indiana called the Limberlost. Elnora longs to go to school like the city children, but hasn't enough money. One day she discovers that a hobby she has cultivated all her life, collecting moth and other insect specimens from the swamps near her home, can actually finance the education she longs for. Helped by the Bird Woman and various other colorful characters that pop into the swamp from time to time, Elnora starts toward her goal.

The first part is a family tale, where Elnora grapples with her mother's moody ways. The second part is a romance. There is much to admire about Elnora. She shows spirit, is resourceful, is honest and sympathetic. Most importantly, she values the surroundings in which she was brought up and makes the most of them.

On a personal note, my one complaint of the novel is a tendency to overestimate appearances. In one episode Elnora is faced with the prospect of not wearing new dresses to graduation, as is the custom of the occasion, but her dresses from the last year that have been cleaned and ironed. This is terribly problematic for her, and everyone agrees that the better option is not to attend rather than wear old dresses. Maybe I don't understand the cultural significance of the new dresses, and of course the episode was written to show us how selfish and clueless her mother was. But I would have loved to see Elnora put on those old dresses and march down to graduation with her head held high.

Apparently there is prequel to this book called Freckles, and it might do one well to check that out first. I was confused in many parts when the narrator mentions Elnora's past interactions with Freckles as if I was supposed to know what she was talking about--however having read Freckles is certainly not necessary to the enjoyment of the novel.


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