“Time Marches On” is the perfect theme for this month’s reviews. I confess to tackling one of the biggest books I have ever read. An epic tale that covers decades, focusing on two Ohio schoolgirls as they grow and become part of the progressive events of their lives. Then we move on to explore the works of a popular adventure author of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Don’t let time slip away this March as you plan to read on each and every day.
AND LADIES OF THE CLUB
BY HELEN HOOVEN SANTMYER
At 1,176 pages of little print, I personally thought I might not get through “And Ladies of the Club.” It came highly recommended via a Twitter follower and well-known author. Published in 1982 by the Ohio State University Press, it is a work 50 years in the making. Helen Santmyer was born in 1895 in Xenia, OH, and had several careers including writer, English professor, Dean of Women and librarian. She began writing her narrative in the ’60s and it was extensively edited in the ’70s before final publication.
The epic novel is about two schoolgirls who have just graduated (at age 18) from the Waynesboro Female College post-Civil War; 1868. Upon graduation Anne Alexander will become engaged to Captain John Gordon, a physician who will work alongside her father; and Sarah (Sally) Cochran, who seeks quiet comfort in her love for Ludwig Rausch, a German immigrant.
The young women will be charged by their prior teacher, Mrs. Lowrey, to solicit women as Charter Members of the Waynesboro Woman’s Club. They have their work cut out for them—professionally and personally. Their lives will intersect with the Woman Suffrage Associate and Temperance League, but they will not allow division on these topics to interfere with club membership. Progressivism is part of their mantra for the club. However, controversy will not escape their growing club, and politics cannot help but begin to shape its course. Together the friends will focus their energy on chartering a literary club, which will become part of their social obligations.
While John Gordon (Anne’s husband) will become a successful doctor, Mr. Rausch (Sally’s husband) will purchase the local rope mill, renaming it “Rausch Cordage Company, Rope, and Twine.” His business sense will afford him a successful career to influence politics and boost his family into the upper echelon of society. He will be known as the local millionaire.
The insightful writing of Helen Santmyer provides a journey through the decades; development of public schools, several presidential elections, the Spanish-American War, all defining the pattern for the ladies of the club and their membership. Inventions like the telephone, urban electric cars, electricity, and more will further shape life and lifestyles in Waynesboro, OH. The depression, diphtheria and scarlet fever play a significant role and, by the time the club turns 30, they are embarking on the 20th century.
As the Ladies of the Club embarked on the next 20 years, they experience the Great War, a tragic flood, more presidents, and economic growth. Some of the elderly leaders pass on, and the makeup of the club reshapes with the times.
The novel is filled with historical landmarks, references, and small-town politics in Ohio. Not surprisingly, many of the events of the past showcased in the book mirror much of today’s political arena. There probably are people who would dispute Ms. Santmyer’s work is historical fiction; yet its movement and writing style both have a documentary feel that marks it as a candidate for the genre.
I confess: It is the lengthiest book I have ever completed, but it is so well-written, the pages melted away as I found myself caught up in the story. Easily, it is one of the finest novels I have read. I hope some of you will take the time to read the magnificent book.
AUTHOR OF THE MONTH: ALLISTER MACLEAN
THE GUNS OF NAVARONE
March’s featured author suggestion began with me channel-surfing on a rainy day. After a small amount of husband-wife debate, we watched the 1961 film, “The Guns of Navarone.” It lead to a discussion regarding the movie’s plot, and whether the story was one of fact or fiction. (I won the bet, it is a fictional story.) The film was based on the 1957 novel of the same name by Scottish novelist Alistair MacLean. MacLean wrote numerous adventure stories from 1955 to 1986. Including “The Guns of Navarone,” several of his other successful books, “Ice Station Zebra” and “Where Eagles Dare,” also were turned into motion pictures.
As I have mentioned in other reviews, I am not a suspense, thriller, action reader, but I do like breaking out of my comfort zone. “The Golden Rendezvous” was published in 1962, as the author’s career was really starting to roll. It is a well-paced yarn with lots of edge-of-your seat excitement. Set aboard a cargo/cruise ship, with cabins filled with wealthy passengers, a consignment of coffins and a stage set for a tale of modern-day piracy. MacLean plots her story well, with first a disappearance, then a murder, and then lots of gunplay, a hurricane, an atomic bomb, and a freighter loaded with gold bound for Norfolk, VA.
It’s hard to put the book down until the end. My husband tells me MacLean was the inspiration for one of his favorite authors, Clive Cussler. Some of the author’s other works to read include “Seawitch,” “Bear Island” and Floodgate. LOL
Janet Oliver is a retired librarian for NHC Public Library. Follow her on Twitter: @LovelyThingsNC