Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"A Lantern in Her Hand" by Bess Streeter Aldrich

If you dearly love this book (::cough::EmmaJane::cough::), smile to yourself and say, "Oh, good, Hamlette has read this at last.  I'm so happy for her!"  Then close your browser window, go for a swim or eat a popsicle, and leave it at that.

I'm not even kidding.

Shoo!

Sigh.  I expected to like this book.  I expected to at least enjoy it.  I mean, it's about pioneers, and I'm quite fond of pioneers.  It's about the Midwest, and I'm from the Midwest.  It's about people making do with what they have, which is a theme that tends to draw me.

And I think I could have liked this book a lot if the author hadn't kept getting in the way.  Every time the protagonist, Abbie Deal, would start to be happy, the author would drop another anvil on her, so to speak.  "Oh, Abbie is happily married?  Let's make her miserable.  Oh, she's happy to be a mother?  Time to make her miserable again.  Wait, her new house makes her happy?  Better make her miserable!  She's finally got the chance to fulfill her dream of painting?  No, no, we can't have that -- make her give it up!  She has a chance to rest a little and try her hand at writing?  Throw an obstacle at her!  She tries writing again?  Make her be bad at it!"  And on and on and on.

Once again, I am not kidding.  This author seems to have hated her protagonist.  Because she goes to extreme lengths to slowly, steadily grind this character down until I wanted to scream.  I did slam the book down on the table in disgust a couple of times.  Only the faint, wavering hope of a satisfactory ending (and the desire to figure out why some people love this book so much) kept me reading.  And the ending was okay.  At least Abbie Deal got to be happy in death, for which I am grateful, because otherwise I'd have had to find out where Aldrich is buried and go dance and spit all over her grave.

This book depressed me.  I've been in a bitter, angry mood for two days while I strove to just finish the blasted thing off already.

Sure, my reaction is partly because I'm a mom, I have dreams, I have the desire to write, and seeing someone similar to myself get beaten into the ground made me furious.  I don't have the patience and meekness that Abbie Deal had to simply let go of things she desired -- I'm a fist-shaker and a foot-stomper.  And after awhile, that patience and meekness got irksome too, until she started becoming boringly saint-like.  Sigh.  Oh well, I'm done with it, and that's some comfort.

If This Book was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.


This is my 41st book read and reviewed for the Classics Club and my 10th for the Women's Classic Literature Event.

11 comments:

  1. Aww, I'm so sorry you didn't like this book. I love it, but I can see why it would frustrate you. :/ That's okay, though. We certainly don't have to all love the same books!

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    1. Natalie, thanks for understanding :-) I'm afraid this post got a bit splenetic, but man, this book!

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  2. *edited for spelling* ;)
    It does have some unexpected sadness! I picked this book up years ago at a library discard day and read it. I enjoyed it at the time, but I have a feeling that if I reread it I may not be so impressed! Enjoyed this post!

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    1. OldFashionGirl, I think it was not just the sadness, but the way her children barely appreciated or acknowledged the sacrifices she made for them that made me so thoroughly annoyed. I'm glad you enjoyed the post :-)

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  3. Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

    I remember reading this book a few years ago, but I didn't feel the same way about it . . . I don't remember getting the sense that the author hated the main character. I kind of thought she was trying to highlight/draw attention to the way things often WERE for pioneer women like Abbie--they often got "slipped the mitten" by the Fates with disturbing regularity--and yet, at the same time, to celebrate the women who (like Abbie) tried to BE happy in spite of it all. Because I do think Abbie tries hard to stay happy and optimistic, in spite of it all.

    (This definitely isn't one of my favorite books or anything; I was kind of neutral about it, if I remember right. I think I'd have liked it better if it had more "showing" and less "telling" . . .)

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    1. Jessica, yes, I'm sure that she was trying to just paint as realistic a picture of the hardships of life for pioneer women as she could. And yet... I like my fiction to "restore order and instill hope," and this did neither.

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  4. Ehhhhhh.....ehhhhhh.......UHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

    Okay, NOW I'm leaving to go have a popsicle. Bye.

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    1. Emma Jane, I hope you enjoyed your popsicle. I am really, truly sorry that I didn't love it -- I know how I feel when someone doesn't like a book I love. I'm glad you have Naomi to comfort you.

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    2. (Also, Emma Jane, I am definitely NOT sitting here thinking, "Why on earth does Emma Jane like this dreadful book? What is wrong with her?" I think that if I had read it at a much earlier time in my life, I would have liked it tons better. So I'm not confused that you like it, okay?)

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  5. Oh dear. I've had this on my to-read list because I know a lot of people really love it, and I'm always looking for good frontier/pioneer fiction...but from a few reviews I read, I did wonder if it was going to be a little exasperating in this respect. So many people write stories about the hardships of frontier life...but why not write more about the people who experienced happiness and fulfillment along with/in spite of hardships? Frankly, I find a positive attitude more in memoirs than I do in fiction!

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    1. Elisabeth, I know a lot of people who love it too (thus the disclaimer at the beginning of this post), but it just didn't work for me. I also had a really hard time getting into it, though I read somewhere that all Streeter's books take about 40 pages to get going.

      The character of Abbie Deal had a positive attitude, for sure, which made me even madder, in a way. She's cheerful and uncomplaining in the face of things that would make me take an axe to my author had I been her.

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