Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thorsday Book Review: "...And Ladies of the Club"

It is amazing that Sue mentioned this book a few weeks back, and it happened to be in my living room, on the lower shelf of a sofa table located between two sofas, where I rarely look.  And then to have Kathy endorse it after I found it?  That meant I had to read it.

By Helen Hooven Santmyer

This is an epic of a book, clocking in at nearly 1200 pages and spanning in excess of 60 years.The story starts in 1868, with Anne Alexander and Sally Cochran graduating from high school in Waynesboro, Ohio.  This was a class of 14 girls, each of whom made a speech; Anne' speech was last, since she was the valedictorian of the class.  General Deming, the congressman for Waynesboro, made a speech; a young teacher, Louise Tucker (called "Teapot" by the students, since she had moved from Boston with her teapot, convinced that such a thing would not be available in the wilderness of Ohio) was besotted by the General.  Anne's late brother's best friend, John Gordon, was in attendance with her father, and had brought with him an army buddy, Ludwig Rausch.  John, 10 years Anne's senior and a doctor like Anne's father and brother, married Anne.  Sally contrived to meet that day Ludwig, and married him.

A few weeks after graduation, Sally and Anne were invited to meet with some of the older ladies of Waynesboro, who were interested in starting a Ladies' Club which would be for the sole purpose of intellectual pursuits.  They were the youngest charter members, with Louise "Teapot" Tucker a few years older, and 9 other ladies still older comprising the remaining members.  The book follows the ladies of the club and others who had relationships with them through the next 65 years: through marriages, children, deaths.  The ladies also founded a private library in Waynesboro, because they felt the dearth of available reading material.

This book also gives great insight into the national feeling throughout that time.  Ludwig's business feels the effects of the Long Depression (it's real - look it up), as does John's medical practice.  The sentiment toward national political figures is also mentioned (Teddy Roosevelt considered a loose cannon; Woodrow Wilson considered useless).  A flood decimating that region of Ohio, and business leaders in town organizing people to move out of harm's way.  Rheumatic Fever.  Polio.  The advent of the horseless carriage.  Paving of the streets.  Intolerance of other Christians by Reform Presbyterians.  Intolerance of Irish Catholics by everyone.

This book took me an uncharacteristically long time to read, because each chapter was very long, often between 30 and 50 pages, so I didn't sit down to read it unless I had some time.  I felt what the characters felt; the book read as if it was written not by Anne or Sally, but as if they had told their stories to someone.  At the very end of the book, I was overjoyed to find the character I believe to be Helen herself, and came to understand how it was researched and written.

Sadly, this book does appear to be out of print, although used copies are available on the internet.  If you can find a copy of the book, it's well worth the considerable time needed to read it, if only for a greater understanding of the changes which have occurred in our world in only 150 years.

(She looks like I thought Anne looked through the book, although she is 25 years younger than Anne.  She was my great grandmother, in 1890 or so.)

Happy Thorsday, Everyone!


Sue said...

Oh, I'm so glad you liked it. I usually hesitate to recommend books because I like very long ones and this qualifies.

Are you ready for my very favorite? It's 'A Suitable Boy' by Vikram Seth. It's even longer, but it's a love story and is funny and sad and give a lot of history of India.

Dexter said...

My mother gave me that book when it came out. I loved it.

Mango Momma

Anonymous said...

Your great grandmother was beautiful. (I sampled the book a month or so back, and stopped after a chapter or two. But then, half or more of the books I start I stop when we just don't connect. That's why I have four or five books going at one time.)

Pam said...

Sounds like a really interesting and good read! It's too bad it's out of print. I wonder if my library has a copy...

SissySees said...

I have it on my reading list. I'll have to secure a copy and get to it!

SissySees said...

I have it on my reading list. I'll have to secure a copy and get to it!