This book was beautifully written. The characters are delightful and the story is excellent. A man who has built a unique permaculture-type medicinal herb farm dreams of a girl and sets out to build a life for her.
I struggled a bit getting into this one, Porter's sentimental idealism is on full force for the first 100 pages (and poor Bel!), the middle is compelling, the preachy diatribe on clean living made me want to throw the book at the wall, but the ultimate ending was mostly satisfactory. I've been reading every Porter book I can get my hands on, hoping she would recapture what she wrote in Keeper of the Bees (the first of her works I read, and loved). This didn't quite make it, but Dream Girl wasn't nearly as irritating as Swamp Angel in Freckles, so was a decent read with some real gems thrown in to make it worthwhile.
I read Girl of the Limberlost as a child, and was enchanted by Stratton-Porter's coming-of-age story and her rapt descriptions of nature. Her depiction of the struggles between the young heroine and her mother--and their occasional détente--were riveting to me. I was curious to read The Harvester, which for some reason I assumed would be a non-fiction how-to. Instead, it was a romance, this time featuring a male protagonist, David Langton, who bears no more resemblance to a human man than Emily Bronte's Heathcliff. I was uneasy about Langton's obsessive search for his Dream Girl, and all the projections he showers upon her once he locates her, but the novel quickly became a page-turner. This despite the fact that Stratton-Porter never heard the dictum that the author should show and not tell, or she chose to ignore it entirely. S-P spends pages describing various natural sights, sounds, tastes, textures and smells, and reveals the mind of the solitary David to us by making us privy to his unlikely conversations with his dog, the birds, and the plants that he harvests. Despite these asides, neither he nor heroine Ruth Jameson approach three-dimensional proportions at any point. Stratton-Porter's style and sensibility are long-winded, moralistic and Victorian, although the novel was technically written and set early in the Edwardian era. Her description of faith, pure love and forbearance is often illogical and unrealistic. Despite these flaws and her occasionally purple prose, her novel is redeemed by the true romance at its core, which is between the two protagonists and nature itself. Because the wilderness of Indiana's Limberlost Swamp was Stratton-Porter's love as well, and she communicated her feelings with such tenderness in the novel, I was inspired to make my way through pages of dense, stilted conversation and ridiculous rapturous utterances without more than an occasional raised eyebrow. Even when the material made me forcibly aware of the restrictive sex roles of the period, and Stratton-Porter's apparent submission to them, I read on. My fascination is somewhat ironic, as Stratton-Porter nearly lost me in the first couple of pages due to her description of a uncharacteristically cruel act by David Langston. In real life, I would consider his conduct virtually unforgivable, and it rendered him suspect in my eyes through the whole course of the novel.
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