Wednesday, January 20, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: A New England Nun by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman was a very popular "regionalist" author in the late 19th century, writing short stories and novels set in small town New England. They deal with domestic situations and the subdued romances of the times and place.

A New England Nun and Other Stories is one of her best known collections. In the title story and in others, she explores the idea of spinsterhood, showing that the strong, self-sufficient women are not to be pitied. Other stories look at marriage, at sibling relationships, and at error and redemption. The settings give a wonderful sense of the homes, streets, shops, and farms. Her characters represent the stoic, warm but reserved old New England stock. Like most short story collections, you won’t find many happy endings, but the stories are poignant rather than tragic.

I don’t often read short story collections, but chose this one for the Back-to-the-Classics challenge. I’m glad I did. Mary Wilkins Freeman is a master of the art and deserves her revival, (which has occurred thanks to feminist re-evaluation of her work.)