Friday, December 05, 2008

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

First published in 1903, this Kate Douglas Wiggins classic was reissued with new illustrations for its centenary. Rebecca is from a large, poor farm family, and in order to get an education is sent to live with her mother's disapproving sisters. Aunt Jane is sweet but buckles under Aunt Miranda's exacting and self-righteous thumb. Rebecca does her best to follow their rules, but gets into scrapes (leaning against fresh paint in her new dress) but spreads joy wherever she goes.

Slightly flawed but perky characters were something new at the time this was published-- we have Canfield's Understood Betsy, and of course, Montgomery's Ann. These stories were considered somewhat less didactic. There are certainly lots of fun moments, and Rebecca is an interesting, head strong girl, but what I came away with from this book was this: Really, a 30-year-old wealthy man meets her when she's ten, follows and aids her career, and then falls in love with her when she graduates from high school? EWWWW! Okay, in the end, he's 34, she's 17, and Wiggins never specifically says that they get married, but many elements point that way. To our modern sensibilities, this is just wrong, but 100 years ago, this was probably the best way for poor, bright girls to better their lot. Wouldn't buy this one new or go to great lengths to preserve old copy.

2 comments:

Alysa said...

Hello Ms. Yingling! Did you catch that you won an Anna Smudge poster on Everead? If you want it, email your shipping info to me! Congrats (and nice blog)!

Charlotte said...

I remember feeling that same ughness when I read it as a child--even more so than as an adult, because to a child, 30 seems so horribly ancient! If it weren't for that, I would have loved the book...

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