Friday, November 28, 2008

The Home-Maker

Dorothy Canfield wrote The Home-Maker in the early part of the twentieth century. It's the story of two people in roles that don't suit either one and what happens when the roles are switched.

Lester and Evangeline are married with three young children: Helen, Henry, and Stephen. Evangeline is dedicated to homemaking. Her home is always spotless, meals are always wholesome, tasty, and served on time, and her children always look well-dressed in the clothes she sews for them. But Evangeline is a slave to her idea of what a homemaker should be. And she is angry, bitter, and sharp-tongued. She organizes and controls her home and family to the point of misery.

Her daughter, Helen, is thin and nervous. Her older son, Henry, and her husband, Lester, suffer from digestive problems. Her youngest son, Stephen, is an angry, mean, pre-school-aged tyrant. Evangeline herself suffers from an extreme case of eczema, with oozing sores on her arms and back that have to be kept bandaged.

Lester, an accountant, is not really cut out for the world of business. He is gentle and his head is filled with poetry. Nevertheless, he works hard each day for his small salary. Everything changes when a tragic accident leaves Lester paralyzed and unable to work.

Evangeline goes to look for work and is hired as a stock-girl in department store where her husband used to work as accountant. Her skills, intelligence, and good business sense bring her to the attention of the store owner and his wife and Evangeline is quickly promoted. Lester stays home in his wheelchair caring for the children and with their help keeping the household running.

Evangeline blooms in the business world and finally has a better place to direct all her energy. Lester thrives at home loving and instructing the children. Everyone is happy and cheerful and healthy.

When I was a child, I read Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, but this is the only adult fiction of hers I've read. (I'm reading a biography of Emily Post now, and she knew - or at least knew of - Dorothy Canfield. Emily Post's life and those of her contemporaries in New York high society in the late 19th century and early 20th century seem to have been like Evangeline's.)

It's an unusual book, probably more so when it was first published, and it left me with a lot to think about.



Blogger Charity said...

Sounds very interesting! :0)

9:47 PM  
Anonymous Girl Detective said...

I loved Understood Betsy as a child, and Loved the Home-Maker as an adult. It was one of the books that helped me make the decision to quit my job and stay at home with my son. It's hardly been happy bunnies and sunshine since then, but I still feel I made the right choice, and the issues this book raised got me thinking about important and relevant-to-me things.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Carrie said...

I JUST finished reading Understood Betsy a few weeks ago and when I did a little research on DCF I found out that Eleanor Roosevelt called her of the most influential women of their time. I thought it was in reference to education but after reading your review I can see that it must have also had something to do with women's rights. Interesting.

Thanks for the review.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Ms. Bookish said...

This sounds like such an interesting book - kind of visionary since it's a theme that one might read about in today's world. I'm going to see if my library has a copy.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Janet said...

This sounds like a really intriguing book. I'm definitely putting it on my TBR list! Thanks for the review.

12:35 PM  

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