A Girl of the Limberlost tell the story of Miss Elnora Comstock. Sixteen years old when the story begins, Elnora is on her way to high school for the first time. But when she arrives, she gets a cruel shock. Country bumpkin Elnora, with her rough calico dress and big, clumsy boots is mercilessly teased by the girls at school. Worse, her tuition fees and books are going to cost more than she ever imagined. Elnora confronts her mother, Kate Comstock, about the matter. Unfortunately, Mrs. Comstock is convinced that they are too poor to afford to send Elnora to high school, and she refuses to spend one cent on Elnora's education.
Elnora is devastated - but she is determined to go to high school and complete her education. And eventually, she finds a way to make her dream a possibility. After reading a notice asking for insect specimens, Elnora makes her way towards the house of the 'Bird Woman'.
Elnora has a great love of nature. She has made a hobby of collecting insect specimens and American Indian artifacts from the woods and swamp around her house in rural Indiana.
Elnora is shocked when she is told by the Bird Woman that many of the moths she has collected are extremely rare and worth a great deal of money to collectors.
So, Elnora is able to pay her way through school by selling moths! Which may sound a little far-fetched, but thankfully it doesn't seem too corny to the reader when read within the context of the book.
WARNING: Some spoilers ahead! If you're like me and you don't like to know anything about the plot of a book before you read it, you may want to skip the next few paragraphs.
The story picks up again four years later. Elnora graduates from high school and looks forward to spending the summer revelling in nature and collecting moths. . . however, she hadn't counted on crossing paths with the filthy rich, ridiculously handsome Philip Ammon of Chicago, who happens to be holidaying in the country whilst recovering from a serious illness.
There is an instant attraction between the two, but - but - Philip is already engaged! To a girl back in Chicago - the beautiful but spoilt and self-centred Edith Carr.
*End of spoilers.*
Anyways, it's quite a charming and engrossing story. It had me sitting up late reading several nights in a row. . . naughty me! But I'm always delighted when I discover a 'new' classic. A Girl of the Limberlost is not a classic of the same calibre as, say, Anne of Green Gables, but it is still very good. Definitely worth reading if you like Anne, Little Women, Seven Little Australians, etc.
I found out after I finished reading it that I should have read Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles first, since A Girl of the Limberlost is meant to be something of a sequel to Freckles. . . oh well! I can personally testify that A Girl of the Limberlost is fully capable of standing on its own, sequel or not.
Gene Stratton-Porter isn't as talented a storyteller as L. M. Montgomery, and her prose isn't as poetic, either. - At times I found myself wishing that she would include a bit more description in her writing, so that I might get a better idea as to the appearance and the atmosphere of this place, the Limberlost Swamp, which was so close to Elnora's (and Stratton-Porter's) heart.
Stratton-Porter does however have the gift of making her characters come alive for the reader. In particular, I felt that it was the supporting characters who brought this story to life. Elnora is a very endearing and deserving heroine, but it was the strength of the character of her mother, Mrs. Comstock's, which seemed to steal the show, to some degree. The subplot involving Edith Carr and Hart Henderson was also quite well done. Edith is another very strong, somewhat unpleasant [at least to begin with] character who nonetheless brings colour and depth to the book.
I should also say that I was thrilled to find that the Limberlost is indeed a real place, just like L. M. Montgomery's Prince Edward Island. :-)
From a Christian perspective, A Girl of the Limberlost upholds faith and is certainly morally sound - the goodies are rewarded, whilst the baddies get their just deserts before reforming so that everyone ends up living happily ever after. The characters marvel at the intricate beauty of God's creation, and Elnora's faith helps to sustain her through all the various trials and tribulations she goes through.
All in all, I enjoyed this book very much, and I hope to buy my own copy sometime. It's definitely a book that I want to keep - it's one of those books that is like a friend; 'of the race that knows Joseph', as Miss Cornelia from the Anne books would say. ;-)