Monday, December 31, 2012

The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield a Persephone Book

I've started on the Provincial Lady in Wartime, but as soon as I began reading The Home-Maker, I'm afraid I ditched the former book.

The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield is one of Persephone's American author choices. Set in 1920's mid town USA, in a town not too near other towns.  We come to know the Knapp family.  Lester the father, Evangeline the mother, Helen 13, Henry about 10 and little Steven about four.

Lester works at the only department store in town.  Old Mr. Willing's has died and now his nephew has taken the reins.  He is young in his thirties and wants to move the department store into the 20th century.

Lester quite college to marry Eva, taking a job in the accounting office at the department store, he loathes his job.  Eva went straight into being a house-wife; these were the expected norms of the time.

Eva is efficient her house is a bandbox, dinner is delicious, at the stroke of the hour.  But everyone seems to suffer from stomach problems.  Although on a limited budget she can make anything out of an old discarded piece of clothing, she has style and the eye for it.

Lester had come home to dinner and has told them that he has been passed over yet again for a promotion.  As she says:  There never would be anything else for her, never, never!  But is was Bitter!  She looked wicked.  She felt wicked.  But she did not want to be wicked.  She wanted to be a good Christian woman.  she wanted to do her duty.

Eva was at constant war with Stephen they butted heads all the time.  As Lester left the house after another confrontation was in the works he thinks.  The opinion of a man who couldn't make money was of no value, on any subject, in any body's eyes.

One day he goes into work and is told that he is to be let go.  On leaving work he's in a daze, he'd be better off dead to his family at least they'd have the insurance money.  His neighbor's chimney is on fire, he rushes up and falls off the roof.  He is taken home paralyzed.

You must read this book to see how it all works out.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book.

Evangeline held the suit up, looking at it and thinking gratefully how it would help some woman through a difficult year in her life.  She remembered suddenly the Mrs. Warner who had so pathetically longed for that bright green sports sweater.  This would satisfy her wistful, natural longing for pretty things and yet be quite suitable for her age.  Evangeline had so much sympathy for women struggling with the problem of dressing themselves properly at difficult ages!

So relate to that.

The two were silent father and son.  Lester said to himself, shivering, "What a ghastly thing to have sensitive, helpless human beings absolutely in the power of other human beings!  Absolute, unquestioned power!  Nobody can stand that.  It's cold poison.  How many wardens of prisons are driven sadistically mad with it!"

Another quote:
"He that is down need fear no fall, 
He that is low, no pride,"

said Lester Knapp aloud to himself.  It was a great pleasure to him to be be able to say the strong short Saxon words aloud.

This reminds me of Winston Churchill's writings:

Used to rally his countrymen and the English-speaking peoples in the dark days of the Battle of Britain. The best remembered words sound like this:
I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

We shall not flag or fail. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
The words Churchill used are overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon, the old short words he thought best of all. 

She came to feel that talking to Father, when they were alone together, was almost like thinking aloud, only better, because there was somebody to help you figure things out when you got yourself all balled up.  Before this Helen had spent a great deal of time trying to figuring things out by herself, and getting so tangled that she didn't know where she had begun or how to stop the wild whirl racing around in her head.  But now, with father to hang on to, she could unravel those twisted skeins of thought and wind them into balls where she could get at them

I had so many more quotes referred to in my notes but I think I would over whelm you, so will stop here.  Do read the book.

I've been thinking that after I've read all 100 Persephone books, I would somehow like to list them by preference, but one to one-hundred would be too complicated, so I came up with the idea of 5 categories.  So the 5 Star Rating would go to the top twenty books and so on down the line to 1 Star.

Of course this is just within the Persephone Books which I already consider at the best end of a good read.


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