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This was America's best-selling novel in 1912; a feelgood romance between a young man who grows vast numbers of medicinal herbs in the Indiana woods, and a girl who appears to him in his dreams. She needs to sort out some mildly complex family issues (evil uncle, dead mother, estranged grandparents); he needs to persuade her that she loves him; it's fairly obvious how things will work out. (I notice that the more recent of the two Hollywood adaptations had to invent a whole new rival romance subplot to make the story interesting.)

The best bits in the book are Stratton-Porter's lyrical descriptions of the scenery:
They were at the foot of a small levee that ran to the bridge crossing Singing Water. On the left lay the valley through which the stream swept from its hurried rush down the hill, a marshy thicket of vines, shrubs, and bushes, the banks impassable with water growth. Everywhere flamed foxfire and cardinal flower, thousands of wild tiger lilies lifted gorgeous orange-red trumpets, beside pearl-white turtle head and moon daisies, while all the creek bank was a coral line with the first opening bloom of big pink mallows. Rank jewel flower poured gold from dainty cornucopias and lavender beard-tongue offered honey to a million bumbling bees; water smart-weed spread a glowing pink background, and twining amber dodder topped the marsh in lacy mist with its delicate white bloom. Straight before them a white-sanded road climbed to the bridge and up a gentle hill between the young hedge of small trees and bushes, where again flowers and bright colours rioted and led to the cabin yet invisible.
I don't think I have heard of even half of the individual species named there, but it adds up to a very pleasing picture, and every chapter has several passages like this.

On the other hand, the characters are a little too perfect to be true, apart from the evil uncle of whom the opposite is the case, and also one or two points where our hero gets a bit manipulative with our heroine, though he does get a mild comeuppance from it. Not too long, compared with some of the other century-old blockbusters I have read.


Nov. 5th, 2012 09:37 am (UTC)
That sounds interesting - I'll get it from Project Gutenberg and have a look. It sounds quite similar to her best-known work, A Girl of the Limberlost which also has the wonderfully atmospheric setting in the Indiana swamps, with rather melodramatic family issues. I've always admired her focus on ecology and conservation, and was rather startled to find some pretty nasty anti-immigrant prejudice in one of her last books, Her Father's Daughter. Lyrical descriptions of the wild canyons around Los Angeles are overshadowed by the heroine lecturing the hero on his duty not to let Japanese immigrants best him in exams.
Nov. 5th, 2012 11:26 pm (UTC)
I do get the impression that A Girl of the Limberlost has the same fictional setting, and would be interested to know if there are any characters in common.

The ideology is rather fascinating. I did not detect any reference to the existence of non-white people in The Harvester. At the same time the main characters' religious beliefs and practices are pretty syncretic and idiosyncratic, and this is presented without comment.

One must remember I suppose that at the time she was writing, a concern with nature and the environment had very much a right-wing rather than left-wing political label.

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