I’m having a lovely time reading a load of Persephone and Virago books this month – here’s the photo of all of the books on my TBR from these two lovely publishers, and I’m getting through them, I’m happy to say, and enjoying them very much. This was my second book by Susan Glaspell – I reviewed “Fidelity” back in September 2013 (also published by Persephone) and was pleased to receive this one for Christmas last year.
Susan Glaspell – “Brook Evans”
(25 December 2014 – from Laura)
A novel told in episodes across the lives of the title character’s mother, Naomi, and Brook herself, encompassing a range of experiences and choices in a very interesting way.
Having been castigated for a youthful romance and overstepping the bounds of decency, Naomi cannot escape and finds herself doing the ‘right thing’ and restoring her decency, being taken far away from her home and across the mountains to a hard farming life. Brook, full of the certainties of youth herself, cannot see the romance and lost life of the faded woman in front of her, resists the tiny treats Naomi tries to carve out of her hard life for her and threatens to eschew her own youthful romance, tempted by the excitements of her role model, the female missionary, and loyal to her father, only seeing one side, making her own peace with standards of decency and good behaviour.
Then, settled in Europe with her son and an ocean between her and her old home, she meets an alluring man from another far away place (clue: somewhere I love!) and, over 40 and thinking that sort of thing was behind her, ends up faced with yet another choice to make between stolidity and excitement: a choice that she doesn’t appear to remember her mother never had. In the final scenes, Brook’s son visits the old country and encounters his aged grandfather for the first time, unable to decipher the strange references he alludes to and coming full circle to the family home that rejected Naomi.
Glaspell, writing in the 1920s, doesn’t make standard societal judgements (as she doesn’t in “Fidelity” and presumably as a product of her own rather unconventional life, loath as I usually am to associate the author’s life with their literary output), seeming to plead for love and freedom for women but also seeing the constraints placed on me and existing within families.
This book was part of my All Virago and Persephone / All August reading project, as part of the LibraryThing Virago Group.
This book was also part of my #20BooksOfSummer project, being Book 13 of the 20
This book would suit … someone interested in women’s experiences at the turn of the 19th/20th century in America, someone who likes reading rescued books, a Persephone fan (visit their website here).
Watch out for another Persephone review coming soon!