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Settlers of the Marsh by Frederick Philip…
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Settlers of the Marsh (1925)

by Frederick Philip Grove

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This was quite good. It's sort of like one of those Willa Cather Prairie Trilogy books or a more adult version of Little House on the Prairie. Which is all to say it's about homesteaders/pioneers back a century and some ago. But, the difference here is we're talking about settlers in Canada, perhaps Saskatchewan or Alberta.

The protagonist is a repressed young Swede, who is very hard working. In his early time, he works like a dog for other people, saves up some money and gets himself his own farm/homestead. He works like a dog to set that up. There's a beautiful, young woman in a nearby homestead, Ellen, who can work like a man and whom Neils Lindstet finds attractive. But Ellen doesn't want to marry. She doesn't want to be someone else's property/drudge. Somehow, Neils gets entangled with Mrs. Lund, a "merry widow". Things go downhill from there. Will Neils ever get things straightened out, at least a little bit?
( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
I consider myself fairly well-read in Canadian literature so how could it have taken me so long to discover this classic that is set right in Manitoba? The New Canadian Library was launched by McClelland and Stewart in 1958 to provide reasonably priced paperbacks of Canadian classics. Over the years I have read quite a few, around 30, but since there were 158 published between 1958 and 1978 I have a lot to go. Obviously I have to try to read more from their collection.

Niels Linstedt came to Manitoba from Sweden with nothing to his name. But he was young and strong and could work for hours. The book opens with he and Lars Nelson making their way through a fierce snowstorm on foot trying to find the place where they were going to dig a well. Dwellings were few and far between and the road was more a trail. If you ever want to get a taste of the hardships the pioneers faced the first chapter of this book is a good place to start.

Over the years by dint of his hard work Niels managed to prove a homestead (which means breaking 30 acres of land), build a house, acquire horses and cattle and generally prosper. The whole time he was doing this he was dreaming of marrying Ellen Amundsen, daughter of the household that he and Nelson first went to. Ellen had seen her mother's health suffer from getting pregnant while there was no hope for the children to thrive and had seen her miscarry time and again. She decided she never wanted to get married so when Niels finally asked her she refused him and asked him instead to be like a brother to her. Heartsick by her refusal Niels was easy prey for the Widow Vogel who had been eyeing Niels since his arrival in the district. After she seduced him he asked her to marry him and she accepted. Soon Niels was to regret his decision and tragedy ensues.

The descriptions of the marsh and the woods enhance the theme of loneliness that pervades this book. Days and weeks go by when people see no-one except for those that live with them. And yet neighbours help one another if they can. Niels looks after a young boy and his aging neighbour, helps Ellen with her haying, picks up things in town for others. These people remember and assist him when he needs it. That's a good message to take from this book. ( )
  gypsysmom | Dec 8, 2013 |
Loved, loved, loved this book! The author had a real hard time getting this book published. The publishers did not think the public would accept this book. It was criticized for being obscene, indecent and scanalous. (But it's quite tame when measured by today's standards). This is one of my favourite books by a Canadian author. ( )
  ilovecookies | Mar 6, 2008 |
It's been a while since I read this but I do remember really enjoying it. Written at the turn of the century this book caused quite a stir and was condemned for being obscene. ( )
  ElizaJane | Oct 5, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0771099614, Mass Market Paperback)

Settlers of the Marsh was first published in 1925, after a struggle by the author to persuade publishers that his first novel would meet public acceptance. Some critics immediately condemned this hypnotic story of the loss of innocence on the Manitoba frontier, calling it “obscene” and “indecent.” Churches issued warnings to their congregations to avoid its scandalous contents. Only several decades later was Settlers of the Marsh recognized for what it is – a landmark in the development of the Canadian novel, and a work of realism in the tradition of Thomas Hardy.

A psychological portrait of life in the Canadian West, Settlers of the Marsh presents with chilling accuracy the hopes, passions, and anxieties of young pioneers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:18 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Settlers of the Marsh was first published in 1925, after a struggle by the author to persuade publishers that his first novel would meet public acceptance. Some critics immediately condemned this hypnotic story of the loss of innocence on the Manitoba frontier, calling it “obscene” and “indecent.” Churches issued warnings to their congregations to avoid its scandalous contents. Only several decades later was Settlers of the Marsh recognized for what it is – a landmark in the development of the Canadian novel, and a work of realism in the tradition of Thomas Hardy. A psychological portrait of life in the Canadian West, Settlers of the Marsh presents with chilling accuracy the hopes, passions, and anxieties of young pioneers.… (more)

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