Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Girl of the Limberlost

I had heard a good deal about Gene (Geneva) Stratton-Porter's book A Girl of the Limberlost. A while ago, Emma from Charming the Birds from the Trees included it in her "Feminine Inspiration in Literature" list that she had on her blog at the time. - I think that was what first piqued my interest. After that, I kept hearing about in all sorts of  [online] places. Last week, I finally read it!

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.

The real-life Limberlost Swamp

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

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. ;-)

Current Mood: Indifferent


Jo-snazz said...

Actually, I have not finished it yet, it was for a paper I had to write, so I was not in a hurry to finish it. Thanks for telling me the end! Now I might actually want to finish it! :)
I have read The Girl of the Limberlost and I thought it was pretty good. There are some things that are weird, but now that I think about it, I actually used one of the themes/plots from that book for a short story I wrote. I didn't even realize that till now! Thanks for the refresher.

Cathy said...

Another excellent review on a book that is deserving a good report. I read Freckles to my boys years ago and then proceeded to read The Girl of the Limberlost. The only reason I read them "in order" was because the first book was about boys....

The Editrix said...

Cathy--thankyou! :-) Yes, I think the reason why I read A Girl of the Limberlost first was because it was about girls! But I do like some 'boy' books too - I'll have to read Freckles soon!

Jo-snazz--Oh BOTHER I've gone and spoiled it for you!! I guess I just assumed that you'd finished it. . . and now I've gone and spoiled the ending for you! Oh well. . . sorry! I hope you enjoy reading the rest of Wuthering Heights, anyway!

emme said...

I never have picked up A Girl of the Limberlost...mainly because as a young girl I watched a movie version with my family and *absolutely* hated it.

But often I've gone back and read the book in a similar situation or saw a different version of the film and ended up loving it, so maybe it would be the same with this story. I've heard lots of reviews with only good things to say!

Thanks for sharing!

The Editrix said...

Yeah, I heard about the movie version. . . from some of the reviews I've read, it must be pretty dreadful, LOL! I have no desire to watch it, for fear it will spoil the book for me. :-/

Ana Smith said...

The book is much, much better than the movie. Please don't let that stop you from reading it.

I love Porter's books, Laddie is my absolute favorite so far.

The Editrix said...

Hmm, looks like I'll have to track down some of her other books. . .