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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 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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