Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Review of A Country Doctor by Sarah Orne Jewett

Name of Book: A Country Doctor

Author: Sarah Orne Jewett

ISBN: 1-883011-34-5

Publisher: College editions

Type of book: country, city, sea, doctors, personal choice vs society, ward, orphan, feminism, career vs marriage, 1800s

Year it was published: 1884

Summary:

Though not as well-known as the writers she influenced, Sarah Orne Jewett nevertheless remains one of the most important American novelists of the late nineteenth century. Published in 1884, Jewett’s first novel, A Country Doctor, is a luminous portrayal of rural Maine and a semiautobiographical look at her world. In it, Nan’s struggle to choose between marriage and a career as a doctor, between the confining life of a small town and a self-directed one as a professional, mirrors Jewett’s own conflicts as well as eloquently giving voice to the leading women’s issues of her time. Perhaps even more important, Jewett’s perfect details about wild flowers and seaside wharfs, farm women knitting by the fireside and sailors going upriver to meet the moonlight, convey a realism that has seldom been surpassed and stamp her writing with her signature style. A contemporary and friend of Willa Cather, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Julia Ward Howe, Sarah Orne Jewett is widely recognized as a pathfinder in American literary history, courageously pursuing a road less traveled that led the way for other women to follow.

Characters:

I get a sense that I'm being told to admire the characters rather than being shown as to why I should like or admire them. Nan seems a bit idealized for me, and its difficult for me to understand why I should like her or try to relate to her. It seems that all the characters pretty much admire Nan, but very little comes from Nan herself, and the writing or the mood is similar to The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather, or rather My Antonia by Willa Cather where everyone admires the female characters but the readers don't really get inside their heads.

Theme:

Duty is more important than personal happiness

Plot:

Its written in third person narrative from a lot of people's point of views; that of Nan, Dr. Leslie, and, to some extent at the end, that of her paramour. I would have liked to know what would happen at the end after she achieved her goals of becoming a doctor. The writing is a little too wordy and I think its best to re-read it a few times in order to appreciate it, at least that's what my gut is telling me.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

born
in South Berwick, Maine, The United States September 03, 1849

died
June 24, 1909

gender
female

website
http://www.wsu.edu/~campbelld/amlit/jewett.htm

genre
Literature & Fiction, Short Stories

Sarah Orne Jewett was an American novelist and short story writer, best known for her local color works set in or near South Berwick, Maine, on the border of New Hampshire, which in her day was a declining New England seaport.

Opinion:

Previously I have read Deephaven, which I found a slow and beautiful read. With much surprise I began to read this novel, and much to mine shock, I found it a dull read. I recognize the value this book has had in the past, but apparently Sarah Orne Jewett's talent lies in portraiture of life rather than in narrative form. I was really reminded of Willa Cather's The Song of the Lark when reading it, although I believe that Willa Cather wrote the conflict much better than Sarah Orne Jewett. This is a predecessor to Willa Cather though. Adeline returns back to her hometown with a young girl in tow and then passes away. The young girl, Nan, is raised by a bachelor whose occupation is a country doctor and she feels her calling is to become a doctor. She visits her father's family and is pressured into making a match, which she rejects and then becomes a doctor. What I have enjoyed is the story of the small town life and of the farms. In a sense I think its a feminist novel due to career vs marriage path, and back then the choice was either/or rather than career and marriage.

2 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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