A Girl of the Limberlost (Limberlost, #2) by Gene Stratton-Porter Download (read online) free eBook (PDF ePub Kindle)

A Girl of the Limberlost (Limberlost, #2)

Set amid Indiana’s vast Limberlost Swamp, this treasured children’s classic mixes astute observations on nature with the struggles of growing up in the early 20th century. Harassed by her mother and scorned by her peers, Elnora Comstock finds solace in natural beauty along with friendship, independence, and romance.

Synopsis from Huffington Post: Cornfields, soy fields, a

Synopsis from Huffington Post: Cornfields, soy fields, alfalfa fields ― Indiana has long been seen as an agricultural plain. But to make it a lucrative farming state, much of the land had to be deforested, leaving behind devastated habitats. The Limberlost, a wetland in northern Indiana, was mostly destroyed by drainage, logging and oil production. Gene Stratton-Porter, an early 20th-century naturalist and novelist, captured the fading beauty of the swamp in books like A Girl of the Limberlost, a novel about a smart, ambitious girl who lives in the dwindling wetland with her mother and pays for school by collecting local moth specimens to sell to naturalists. The book isn’t exactly an environmentalist tract, but it makes the case nonetheless: It celebrates the beauty and richness of the swampland, while showing how easily economic forces push landowners to strip it away.
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    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    A weak 3 stars. I have some GR friends who are into old-timey books. I had great luck with their recommend of Daddy-Long-Legs, so when A Girl of the Limberlost, written in 1909, was also highly recommended, I was all up for another delightful, old-fashioned experience. Anne Shirley, make way for Elnora Comstock . . . okay, Elnora was losing ground already with that name, but outdated names kind of come with the territory here, so I was still optimistic.

    At the beginning of the book, Elnora is a 1

    At the beginning of the book, Elnora is a 16 year old girl from the Limberlost swamp area. You might be forgiven for thinking that we’re in the Louisiana bayous. I was certainly confused, thinking to myself, where are the Cajuns? Where are the man-eating gators? How come the only wildlife I’m hearing about is moths and butterflies? Well, it turns out the Limberlost swamp is in Indiana.
    description
    Personally I’d call wetlands rather than a swamp, but whatever. Semantics.

    Anyway, Elnora’s dearest wish is to continue with her schooling, so she convinces her mean, cruel mom (who won’t let her buy any nice clothing, or books, or give her money for school tuition) to let her go to the high school in town, where all the girls make fun of her out-of-date clothing, clumpy shoes, ugly hair and countrified ways.

    **some spoilers in the rest of this review**

    But this being a Horatio Alger kind of story, Elnora finds a way to prevail, become beautiful gorgeous, and win over the Mean Girls, not to mention dangerous criminals who lurk in the swamp, local urchins, her hateful (literally) mother, and pretty much everyone else who crosses her path, whilst becoming valedictorian of the school and collecting rare moths to sell to collectors, to pay for her own schooling.
    description
    The elusive Yellow Empress moth (nka Golden Emperor)

    After we’ve had enough of the high school scene, we quickly skip three years to when Elnora is graduating and thinking about going to college. She’s still living by the swamp, but (because this is that sort of story) luckily a handsome, wealthy, intelligent and kind young man comes to the Limberlost to visit for the summer. He’s pretty much perfect in every way . . . except he’s engaged to the Most Beautiful Girl Ever. Who will Phillip choose: Elnora or the stunning socialite Edith? Far be it from me to spoil the story and ruin your fun. Go get a free copy on Project Gutenberg or somewhere!

    I kid about the old-fashioned, predictable aspects of this story and the Mary Sue/Gary Stu characters (you get both! two for the price of one!), because, when it’s done well, I actually love this sort of thing. But there’s just not enough humor in Girl of the Limberlost for me, and the Victorian Age moralism gets tiresome: people waste away for the love of someone they can’t have, and righteous self-sacrifice runs amok until I just wanted to slap some of these characters upside the head and tell them to quit being so idiotically dramatic and noble.

    A Girl of the Limberlost is also dated in some ways I found more unsettling than usual. YAY! for drilling oil wells, cutting down trees and collecting and killing beautiful moths by the hundreds for collections; and ladies realizing that true happiness is found primarily in being a sweet, supportive wife and raising the children. I’m personally on the moderate/conservative side of the spectrum, but this was some pretty eyebrow-raising stuff even for me.

    A few sample quotes:

    “Any day you say the word you can sell six thousand worth of rare timber off this place easy. I’ll see to clearing and working the fields cheap as dirt, for Elnora’s sake. I’ll buy you more cattle to fatten. All you’ve got to do is sign a lease, to pull thousands from the ground in oil, as the rest of us are doing all around you!”

    Moth collecting:

    “I had over two hundred eggs,” said Elnora, “but some of them didn’t hatch, and some of the caterpillars died, but there must be at least a hundred perfect ones.” . . .

    “Young woman, that’s the rarest moth in America,” said the Bird Woman solemnly. “If you have a hundred of them, they are worth a hundred dollars according to my list. I can use all that are not damaged.”

    On the other hand, the author does acknowledge that these things have a cost:

    Men all around were clearing available land. The trees fell wherever corn would grow. The swamp was broken by several gravel roads, dotted in places around the edge with little frame houses, and the machinery of oil wells . . . Wherever the trees fell the moisture dried, the creeks ceased to flow, the river ran low, and at times the bed was dry. With unbroken sweep the winds of the west came, gathering force with every mile and howled and raved; threatening to tear the shingles from the roof, blowing the surface from the soil in clouds of fine dust and rapidly changing everything. From coming in with two or three dozen rare moths in a day, in three years’ time Elnora had grown to be delighted with finding two or three.

    And here’s the 1909 view of the proper role of women:

    “If you could have your choice you wouldn’t have a society wife, either. In your heart you’d like the smaller home of comfort, the furtherance of your ambitions, the palatable meals regularly served, and little children around you. I am sick of all we have grown up to . . . You find out what you want to do, and be, that is a man’s work in the world, and I will plan our home, with no thought save your comfort. I’ll be the other kind of a girl, as fast as I can learn. I can’t correct all my faults in one day, but I’ll change as rapidly as I can.”

    There is quite a bit of old-fashioned charm in A Girl of the Limberlost, but there are also some not-so-appealing parts. Whether they’ll overwhelm the nostalgic charm depends on the person reading it.
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