Friday, May 3, 2013

Dawn O'Hara, the Girl Who Laughed  -  1911
Edna Ferber
152 pages
genre  -  Women's Fiction
my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

I made the mistake of reading a review of this book someone had left on Amazon.  What that person wrote was so well said that it's easier to quote that review than trying to rephrase it in my own words.

"How can it be possible that Edna Ferber wrote this book over 100 years ago? She had to be so cutting edge at the time, because the story of Dawn O'Hara is valid even today. Or, perhaps, our lives really are not so different from the lives of yesterday."  by Stay Curious (CA, USA)  June 4, 2012

Twenty-eight year-old Dawn O'Hara has suffered a complete physical and nervous collapse.  The doctor insists that she leave her job ("Newspaper reporting, h'm?  In New York?  That's a devil of a job for a woman.") and convalesce at her sister's house in Wisconsin.  For at least 6 months.

And here's a quote from the book concerning the Girl Who Laughed part of the title: "Surely you would not have me take myself seriously!  That's another debt I owe my Irish forefathers.  They could laugh - bless 'em! - in the very teeth of a potato crop failure.  And let me tell you, that takes some humor...I'll squeeze a smile out of the corner of my mouth, somehow."

The author did a wonderful job of bringing this incredible woman and other characters in the book to life.  I really came to care for them.  And is Milwaukee really as German as Ferber has portrayed it?

About the author  -

Ferber was born August 15, 1885 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to a Hungarian-born Jewish storekeeper and his Wisconsin-born wife, Jacob and Julia (Neumann) Ferber. Edna graduated from high school in Appleton, Wisconsin and briefly attended Lawrence University. She took newspaper jobs at the Appleton Daily Crescent and the Milwaukee Journal before publishing her first novel.

In 1925, she won the Pulitzer Prize for her book So Big. Three of her works – Show Boat, Saratoga Trunk and Giant – have been developed into musicals.

Ferber never married.  In her novel Dawn O'Hara, the title character's aunt is said to have remarked, "Being an old maid was a great deal like death by drowning – a really delightful sensation when you ceased struggling."  Ferber died at her home in New York City, of stomach cancer, at the age of 82.

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