Vintage Book Review: Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter

My father recently purchased a Kindle, but needs someone with younger eyes to figure out how to use it and then show him what to do. Fortunately, I am that someone, and have been enjoying it all week.

Paradoxically, on this newfangled contraption, I have been reading a vintage novel — Freckles, by Gene Stratton-Porter.

Freckles (Library of Indiana Classics)

First published in 1904, it is the tale of a young man whose only knowledge of his origins is that he was found as a baby on the doorstep of a Chicago orphanage, badly beaten and missing a hand.

His boldness in the face of adversity impresses a lumber boss, who gives him the job of guarding a valuable stand of timber in the swamplands of Indiana. Although it almost kills him, Freckles overcomes the dangerous conditions and starts to appreciate the beauty and majesty of the natural world.

Surprised one day by a pretty young woman who comes upon his “study,” (a hideaway he has created by transplanting flowers and foliage around a grouping of trees), he dubs her his “swamp angel” and helps the wildlife photographer she works for to access many unusual birds and moths.

Eventually, thieves come to steal some trees, there is fist fighting and shooting, and Freckles is kidnapped by murderers. Will he escape? Will he ever find his family? Will he and the Swamp Angel ever be more than friends? As you might guess, the answers are yes, yes and yes, but the story is engaging apart from the main plot points, and well worth the read.

My only criticism is that while the majority of the dialogue is believable, from a modern standpoint some of it tends toward the melodramatic. Stratton-Porter was an extremely popular author in her day, so one can presume that the writing style is reflective of the era. Fortunately, the strength of the storyline helps to ease the reader through the more fervent passages.

From a historical perspective, the book’s portrayal of women as strong-minded and courageous, and men as thoughtful and sensitive inspires the notion that mid-twentieth century stereotypes of “real men” being stoically macho and women being silly and weak may have been thrust upon us more by our fathers’ generation than our forefathers’. One wonders if women’s twentieth century shift from homemaker, caregiver and encourager to roles more traditionally held by men resulted in a backlash of polarization as males were stripped of their historical importance as protectors, breadwinners and authority figures.

I would guess that this title is no longer available at the average local library, but it is in stock at Amazon.com, and is even cheaper for the Kindle. Freckles can also be read for free online at Gutenberg.org. Check it out — it’s good, not only as a story, but as a historical reflection of the times.

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7 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Critical Thinking, Reading, Recommended Reading

7 responses to “Vintage Book Review: Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Vintage Book Review: Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter « Layinda's Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Layinda, you never disappoint. This sounds like an engaging read, and one that raises questions about life in the past.

    The thing about history, we only know it from what we are told. And as we all know, there is fundamentally as many truths as there are people who experience things.

    Great food for thought.

  3. Hi Layinda….please put me out of my misery…what is a kindle?????

  4. Dena Sschmitgen

    I have a 1904 hardcover copy of “Freckles”; the spine is in need of a bit of repair. I would gladly give it to someone who would appreciate it.

  5. My mom read this book to me in the 80’s. I think the copy was from her little library from here teens. I LOVE this book. The movie is good but the book can be dreamy at times and beautiful.

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