Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book Review: A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter

Book Description:
Of all the books written by Hoosier writers, Gene Stratton-Porter's A Girl of the Limberlost is unquestionably the most cherished: the timeless story of an impoverished young girl, Elnora Comstock, growing up on the edge of the Limberlost swamp. Elnora Comstock has served as a role model for successive generations of independent young readers.
My thoughts:
I noticed that the Reading to Know Bookclub was doing A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter and at the last minute decided I would read it, especially since it was on my The Classics Club reading list.

I was only 100 pages into the story when after the umpteenth reference to Freckles I decided that I needed to give Freckles a re-read and then pick up where I left off in A Girl of the Limberlost.

When we meet Elnora Comstock she is headed to her first day of high school. On her arrival she realizes that her clothes are all wrong and then is told that she must pay for her tuition and books. Thus begins Elnora's quest to raise her own money. She discovers a means when she sees a wanted sign for speciman's from nature and quickly goes and raids her own speciman collection to raise money for school. As the story progresses the sad relationship between Elnora and her mother is revealed. Even though Elnora receives no love from her mother this does not affect Elnora's true nature. Elnora continues to find moths and other creatures from the Limberlost during her years in high school and also discovers she has the ability to play the violin. She has to keep this knowledge from her mother, but when it is found out this eventually leads to a healing in her and her mother's relationship.

As Elnora gets ready for college she realizes that she doesn't have the money to attend and takes a teaching job. During this time she meets Philip Ammon, who is recovering from scarlet fever, and they spend many months combing the Limberlost for specimans to use in her nature study classes. She comes to love Philip, but treats him as only a friend never revealing her true feeling since he is already engaged. Elnora then has to endure the greatest struggle that she has ever faced in her life before true love is finally hers.

The first thing I noticed and liked about Elnora Comstock was her strength of character. Here was a young woman, that really had not received any love from her mother, and on her first day of school is ridiculed and embarrassed in front of her class. Instead of blaming the culprit she takes the blame herself. She also shows great determination when she finds way to raise money so she can attend school. Of course, this wasn't easy since she still had to do all of her chores before she could spend time looking for speciman's to sell.

As Elnora is met with struggle after struggle, day after day, she is not beaten down. Yes, there were times when she broke down, but those were short moments and she always recovered her courage and continued on. During her trying circumstances she could always look and see the good in people. Elnora was a person who life handed lemons and she made lemonade. One of her schoolmate's father made this comment:
"There's a girl Ellen can't see too much of, in my opinion," he said. "She is every inch a lady, and not a foolish notion or action about her. I can't understand just what combination of circumstances produced her in this day." p. 111
I do admit that the romance in this story seemed a little over the top, but as I read this story I could really see many similarities (poor girl meets rich boy, bad girl confronts good girl, girl holds out, etc.) in her writing style and the author Grace Livingston Hill (GLH). Now you have to understand that I have probably read most of GLH books and have a huge collection of them. I lived on them when I was a teenager, so when I later learned that they were contemporaries this made me wonder if many books written during this time were similar.

Even though this isn't a "Christian" story the author does show the greatness of the handiwork of God not only in the specimans that Elnora find but also in the beauty of the Limberlost. While looking at a moth considered the "king of poets" Elnora's mother comments:
"Young people," she said solemnly, "if your studying science and the elements has ever led you to feel that things just happen, kind of evolve by chance, as it were, this sight will be good for you. Maybe earth and air accumulate, but it takes the wisdom of the Almighty God to devise the wing of a moth. If there ever was a miracle, this whole precess is one." p. 296
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and look forward to sharing it my daughter in a year or two. I also look forward to reading more of Gene Stratton-Porter.

Reading to Know - Book Club


  1. I have this book on my shelf. I've been meaning to at least have a look at it. Thanks for the review. Now I know more about it. My mother in law gave it to me a few months ago- before that, I'd not heard of it.

  2. I had never read it before Carrie's book club, although I had heard of it, so I was glad to have the excuse to read it. I think my 16yod would enjoy it, and I appreciated the heavy focus on nature and self-education.

  3. Great observation about how much like GLH's books this one is! I haven't read GLH in a couple of decades I guess, but I still remember loving City of Fire and White Flower very, very much.



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