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A Daughter of the Land by Gene…
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A Daughter of the Land (1918)

by Gene Stratton-Porter

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I'm...really not sure if I liked this or not. It starts out in a reasonably familiar place, for a Stratton-Porter book - a girl, not valued by her family, works out how to get away and get (more) schooling, in this case with the intention of becoming a teacher. However, rather than being scraping-by poor, her family is quite rich - or rather, her _father_ is quite rich. He has it all worked out, how his (large) family will work hard to earn each boy 200 acres of land as he comes of age; the girls work in the house to help save for this, then go teach for a year or two, then get married and join their husband's family. The girls get nothing, except a small stipend (supplemented by loans of clothes and so on from their sisters) to do a summer session on teaching to prepare them. The protagonist, the youngest daughter, is stunned to discover that, as her sisters aren't around to take over the work, she won't be allowed to do that summer session; she's expected to stay home and help her mother keep house...for ever, as far as she can see, or until she marries. So she borrows the money from one of her brothers and goes to the summer session; she returns and signs herself up for a school a few miles from home, once again disrupting her father's clever plans for her - which he has not bothered to explain, let alone ask her about. From there...a lot of things happen, including two different men falling in love with her, in neither case ending happily; her life isn't good, on a lot of levels, but quite a bit of it is because she makes impulsive choices without full knowledge and has to deal with the consequences. I can't really feel that she's the usual Stratton-Porter heroine, naive but determined and finding the right way - Kate finds quite a few of the wrong ways, and hurts others and is hurt by others along the way. It's, more or less, a happy ending, though. Much better than Rainbow's End, not as good as A Girl of the Limberlost, for me. And probably worth rereading, though getting through the dark parts may be harder now that I know how long and dark they will be. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Oct 8, 2016 |
Kate, youngest daughter of an intractable man and his cowed wife, is expected to stay home to be the family drudge when all the rest of her siblings have flown. Were it necessary, it could be borne, but her father is a wealthy man, tightfisted. Each of the seven sons is given house, stock, and 200 acres of good land at twenty-one; and to each of nine daughters a bolt of muslin and a fairly decent dress when she married. Other sisters have had their chance at teaching, which was something that girls could 'do' in those days (late 19th/early 20th century) to earn their bread until they were married. Kate wants her chance, and takes it herself, in defiance of her father. This precipitates ten years forced absence from home, during which she learns much in the school of hard knocks.

In the town where she will teach, she boards with an unlikeable woman, whose unlikeable son tries to court her. She teaches successfully her first season, then goes to the Chautauqua Teacher's Meetings for more training, where she meets a wealthy businessman from Chicago, who also courts her. Her life takes some unexpected turns along the way, and through it all, she yearns for land.

The setting is, of course, Indiana, described quite nicely as usual. Some of the people were one-dimensional (Father). But the mother and her closest-in-age sister were written well, with the sisters' relationship growing with maturity in the way that it did, and Kate's dawning understanding of her mother.

This is a love story, the love of a girl for the land, and the love of man and maiden. Both loves are beautifully fulfilled by the end. I'm a sucker for lilacs, cabbage roses and Chautauqua, and since the flowers and the camp both figured so prominently in it, I especially enjoyed this sweet, old-fashioned tale. 3.2/5 ( )
1 vote countrylife | Feb 21, 2011 |
How many wrong decisions can one person make in a lifetime? The heroine here makes more than her share: at times the book feels rather like one of those can't-look-away-from-it roadside wrecks, the sort that leaves you wondering, "How did they do that, anyway?" What sets the character, and the book, apart from modern times is the way in which Kate accepts the results of her poor choices, rather than finding anyone and everyone else to blame for her less than ideal life. ( )
  emmelisa | Feb 15, 2007 |
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To Gene Stratton
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Take the wings of Morning.
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I mean to say if he asks me, 'buy me that two hundred acres of land where I want it, build me the house and barns I want, and guarantee that I may live there as I please, and I'll marry you to-morrow.' If it's Chicago – Never! I haven't stolen, murdered, or betrayed, why should I be imprisoned?
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The youngest daughter of a prosperous Indiana farm family defies expectations, leaves home, and eventually realizes her dream of owning her own farm.

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