A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I discovered my grandmother's copy of A Girl of the Limberlost when I was ten years old. I think I read it four or five times that year, and still come back to it on occasion, as well as the other two books in the trilogy (the prequels Laddie and Freckles).
The girl of the title, Elnora Comstock, is a lovely girl with a thirst for knowledge. However, her mother Kate, bitter over the loss of her husband sixteen years previously (for which she blames Elnora), has denied her any form of familial love. The book progresses from a coming-of-age story to a love story with a satisfying ending.
Is it melodramatic? No shiz. The book was published in 1909, when melodrama was at its peak. Is it worth a read? Most definitely. Unlike thousands of other sappy Perils of Pauline-esque novels of the time period, this one is still in print and still pulls in audiences. The novel ostensibly focuses on the sweet, wholesome heroine Elnora, but the charm of the story is found in the acerbic Kate, the dedicated Phillip, and the tempestuous Edith Carr.
The ecological themes are also still relevant. Many other reviews lambast Porter's hounding on taking down the timber and drilling for oil. I wish they would read a little further. The novel includes a character called the Bird Woman- that is Gene Stratton Porter herself. A devoted naturalist, Porter spent much of her life researching and documenting the moths that Elnora loves, amongst many other forms of wildlife. She also grew up in the Limberlost swamps herself. It wasn't until years later, when Porter returned out of homesickness to her beloved swamp, that she realized the timber and oil, while profitable, had destroyed what she loved. The 13,000 acre Limberlost Swamp in Indiana, while once a real place, is now desecrated.
At the end of the day, I realize this book is not for everyone, but the old-fashioned sweetness of the story with the relevant and poignant references to nature make it an interesting, enjoyable, and time-tested read.
Six books down, 994 to go.
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