Discussão75 Books Challenge for 2023

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Editado: Out 2, 12:00 pm

Dorothea Frances Canfield was born in Vermont in 1879. She is so closely associated with that state that it is important to remember that she spent WWI in France as a young wife, sending “dispatches from the home front” back to America, and also that she was strongly influenced by meeting Maria Montessori and visiting her Children’s House in Italy even earlier in the century. She was instrumental in bringing Montessori’s early childhood educational methods to the U.S., and wrote several books on the subject.

Chances are, however, that if you know her at all, it is by her pen name, Dorothy Canfield (or later Dorothy Canfield Fisher), because: A) you read and loved her children’s book, Understood Betsy, when you were young; or B) you are a devotee of Virago or Persephone re-issues, and have encountered some of her adult novels through them. Much of her work is now in the public domain, and a quick search of Amazon yields several titles available in Kindle versions for $0.00.

Dorothy was a prolific writer; an avid gardener; a Progressive activist; a founder of the Book of the Month Club, and an advocate for racial equality, contraceptive rights, adult education and prison reform. She was admired by Eleanor Roosevelt. Like any person so politically engaged and so widely read, she left her reputation open to scrutiny, and came in for some negative assessments in the last few years. A seemingly tangential association with Vermont’s regrettable eugenics movement resulted in her name being removed from a prestigious children’s literature award in 2018, and there are some stereotypical references to Native people and French Canadians in her work--especially jarring coming from a writer whose views on so many social issues were distinctly advanced for her time. Oddly, for a time it was considered progressive thinking to espouse sterilization of certain people, for the "improvement of humanity", and I suspect this was how Fisher related to that issue. According to one of her grandchildren, however, it was a view held only briefly, and ultimately rejected by her grandmother. I highly recommend reading two articles if you want to delve further into this subject: This one is especially good, and should be available to anyone. This New Yorker article is considerably longer and wider in scope, and will be behind a paywall unless you’re a subscriber. If anyone has the ability to give us a free share of that one, it would be appreciated.

Out 2, 12:03 pm

While waiting, I'll start with Understood Betsy.

What a Great Inspiring Photograph!

Out 2, 2:24 pm

I am for sure going to be reading The Home-Maker this month and if I can locate my copy of Vermont Tradition, I am going to read that one as well.

Out 2, 4:58 pm

If I can locate a copy, I’m in for Understood Betsy…

Karen O

Out 2, 5:04 pm

I'll be reading The Home-Maker. I also have Rough Hewn on the shelf, but not sure I'll get to it.

Out 2, 5:12 pm

A new to me writer. I will try and get one of her books in this month.

Out 3, 2:10 pm

My expectation is that I'll invoke the Wild Card here. I know the Dorothy Canfield Fisher name, perhaps from some BOMC mailings. But I'm not inclined to seek out a book by her. I did discover Dawn Powell's "autobiographical novel" My Home Is Far Away. I took a powder when Ms. Powell was the honoree a couple of years ago, but now I have something she wrote to read. I note it was first published in my birth year, 1944.

Editado: Out 22, 5:31 pm

I finished The Home-Maker (1924). Nearly 100 years old, there are still concepts that ring true today. From what I've read, it was well-received and in the top best-sellers for the year.

Note: Spoilers Ahead.

Mrs. Knapp is the ultimate home-maker, known for her spotless home, sewing marvels and her 3 (mostly) well-behaved children. At home she is forever cleaning, sewing or cooking, and has little patience for her children. The older children have constant stomach issues; the pre-schooler is a terror.

Mr. Knapp is an accountant in the town's largest department store, a job he loathes. He'd rather be reading poetry (and he quotes a lot of it in this book). When he is fired from his job, he is at an all-time low and thinks his life is not worth living. But on the way home he jumps in to help put out a fire to a neighbor's home; he falls off the roof and his legs are paralyzed.

Mrs. Knapp realizes she must get some sort of work and applies for an entry-level sales clerk position at Mr. Knapp's (former) department store. Here she thrives, where her eye for fabrics and fashion make her an asset. She loves her job and is soon promoted.

Back at home Mr. Knapp recovers enough to use a wheel-chair and with the help of the children, learns to cook and clean (sort of--best idea ever to keep the kitchen floor clean--cover it with newspapers!). While doing the household chores he recites poetry to the children, but more importantly spends time listening to them. The older children's stomachs improve and little Stephen learns to control his temper.

The story is told by being in the "head" of the characters in turn: Mrs. Knapp, Mr. Knapp, the children (including toddler Stephen), the neighbors, and a relative all get a chance to view the family from their own point of view. This was effective and I enjoyed the way we look at the situation from all different sides. The children's voices reminded me of Canfield Fisher's writing style in Understood Betsy. Mr. Knapp in particular goes over in his mind what "Tradition" means and how he can (or cannot) fit into society's proscribed roles for a male "head" of the family.

What I didn't like was the very ending, which I won't spoil. It seemed a cop-out, but maybe that was necessary in 1924. It sort of spoiled the whole point of the book for me. But on the whole it was an interesting read.

Out 16, 7:38 pm

I've read The Home-Maker and Understood Betsy and I liked them both. I wonder why I never read this author earlier in my reading life.

Out 16, 7:40 pm

>8 kac522: I had similar reactions to the ending, Kathy but agree that maybe nothing else was possible in 1924 but it seemed wrong to end with living a lie.

Editado: Out 16, 7:42 pm

Editado: Out 25, 7:45 am

Este utilizador foi removido como sendo spam.

Out 24, 8:24 pm

I read Understood Betsy for this month’s challenge. I really enjoyed the read--the plot is a little predictable (city girl goes to live with country relatives) but the theme is wonderfully developed, and there are oodles of great characters. The book is presented as a series of chapters, and would be perfect for reading together with a youngster over time.

I will look forward to reading more works by this author!

Karen O

Editado: Out 24, 10:35 pm

I finished The Home-Maker, and I enjoyed it, with a couple reservations. My review is on the book page.

Out 26, 11:25 am

I do have good intentions, but I've mostly failed this year. Partly in recent weeks because I'm favouring non-fiction. Hey-ho.

Out 26, 11:48 am

>12 WilburScott: Your comments on Dorothy Canfield Fisher are welcome. However, you seem to be plugging a commercial site, which is not appropriate here. Please review the LibraryThing terms of service.

Out 29, 10:26 pm

I have started (and gotten about a fifth of the way through) Seasoned Timber. Unless I read Understood Betsy way back in my sproutling years and don't recall, I've never read DCF before. I intend to carry on with Seasoned Timber, as I'm enjoying it. Something about the way DCF creates her characters and just sort of sits inside them, observing and letting her reader observe along with her, is quite compelling. I suspect that even if I don't finish Seasoned Timber soon, I will be back to Dorothy Canfield Fisher at some point--either to give this one another go or to try another. Glad to have been introduced to her.