Saturday, December 12, 2015

"Letters of a Woman Homesteader" by Elinore Pruitt Stewart

On page 2 of this book, I fell in love with Elinore Pruitt Stewart.  She was describing her new employer to her friend Mrs. Coney, and she wrote that when he played his bagpipe, "It is 'The Campbells are Coming,' without variations, at intervals all day long and from seven till eleven at night.  Sometimes I wish they would make haste and get here" (2).  I had to put the book down while I laughed and laughed, and I knew I was going to truly enjoy this book.  And I did.  In fact, I loved it so much that before I even finished it, I ordered a copy of its follow-up, Letters on an Elk Hunt.  I'm very much looking forward to reading it.

So this book is actually a series of letters that this intrepid woman sent her friend and former employer after moving to Wyoming with her young daughter in 1909 to try her hand at homesteading.  She took a job keeping house for a Scottish bachelor and filed a homestead claim and lived an amazing life.  So amazing that after five or six letters, I started to suspect that this was a work of fiction, and had to do a little online research to see if it was really nonfiction or not.  But it is!  I learned that she truly sent all these letters to her friend, and eventually her friend persuaded Stewart to let her try to get them published.  They were widely embraced and lauded, and rightly so -- I just can't believe it took me this long to read this book!  Not only that, but I can't believe I hadn't even heard of it until a year or so ago!  I'm not even sure who recommended it or why I bought it, but I know it sat on my TBR shelf for quite a while before I decided to give it a try.  I'm so glad I did!  In fact, I gave a copy to my best friend for Christmas because I think she'll find it fascinating too.

Particularly Good Bits:

It was too beautiful a night to sleep, so I put my head out to look and to think. I saw the moon come up and hang for a while over the mountain as if it were discouraged with the prospect, and hte big white stars flirted shamelessly with the hills (4).

I am a firm believer in laughter (61).

To me, homesteading is the solution of all poverty's problems, but I realize that temperament has much to do with success in any undertaking, and persons afraid of coyotes and work and loneliness had better let ranching alone.  At the same time, any woman who can stand her own company, can see the beauty of the sunset, loves growing things, and is willing to put in as much time at careful labor as she does over the washtub, will certainly succeed; will have independence, plenty to eat all the time, and a home of her own in the end (100).

Soon he asked, "Are you goin' somewheres or jist travelin'?"  I told him I had started somewhere, but reckoned I must be traveling, as I had not gotten there (110).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for frontier hardships.

This is my 28th book read and reviewed for the Classics Club and my first for the Women's Classic Literature Event.

16 comments:

  1. This looks so good! Putting it on my to-read list. (Which already stretches for miles and miles.) I love books about frontier life, and I also love books written though letters.

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    1. Emma Jane, it is awesome! I think you will love it. And I have that same problem with my TBR list, which is why it took me a long time to read this.

      BTW, were you the one wishing the North and South (American Civil War) soundtrack by Bill Conti would be available on CD? It is now! Just got released as a limited edition, and you can get it here on a site called Screen Archives that DKoren tipped me off to when I was looking for some rare soundtrack or other. Totally legit site, not greymarket or anything. It's only $21 instead of $150, so thought you would want to know. IF it was YOU who wanted it... I'm having trouble remembering now. Book II is available too.

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    2. WAIT REALLY????!!!!! YOU ARE AN ANGEL!!!!!!!

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    3. Emma Jane, YES! REALLY! But it's a limited edition, so don't delay -- they're only making 1,000 of them.

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  2. I SO need to read this!!! I've already got Hamlet and Shane for January, but I'm getting this on interlibrary loan asap anyway. :D

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    1. Heidi, it is a quick, engrossing read! You could read it in an afternoon, if you didn't want to savor it. I savored it and made it last a week. I think you will greatly enjoy it.

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  3. I'm very excited to read this one. It's been on my to-read list for a while. :)

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    1. Jillian, it is marvelous! I want to be this woman.

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  4. I read this a few years ago and loved it. It made me regret the days of letter writing though I think few of us would be such fascinating correspondents!

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    1. Jennifer, I have never even tried writing a letter as good as these. And when her friend suggested publishing them, Mrs. Stewart insisted they weren't worth it because she didn't have an education and wasn't a "real" writer! I'm so glad her friend prevailed.

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  5. I seem to remember reading this about 7 years ago when I first got an ereader. It was free. Really fascinating read.

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    1. George, very cool! Sometimes I forget to look for things for free on my Kindle app -- I need to do that more often.

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  6. I never heard of this book but it sounds sooo good and just like something I'd like. :) I'll definitely try to get my hands on a copy soon!

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    1. Natalie, I hope you can find it! It's amazing. I am in awe of this woman and everyone she was hanging out with.

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  7. I read the book 4 years ago and I enjoyed it.I'm probably due for a reread.There is also a book called The Adventures of The Woman Homesteader by Susan K George.The book contains her unpublished or uncollected letters she wrote.I have the book but haven't read it.

    There is also a movie made in 1979 that was based on her book.It's called Heartland and stars Rip Torn and Conchata Ferrell.I found her book through the movie.

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    1. Robert, I'll seek out that other book, thanks!

      I've heard of the movie, and I generally get a kick out of Rip Torn, so I'm hoping I can locate a copy or find it online somewhere. Thanks!

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