Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Evelina's Garden  -  1899
Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman
124 pages
genre  -  Romance
my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

"When Evelina was a girl, not one of the young men of the village had dared address her.  She was set apart by birth and training, and also by exclusiveness of manner...Her father, old Squire Adams, had been the one man of wealth and college learning in the village."

There was one young man who caught her Evelina's eye, and he seemed to return her regard.  But he was shy and intimidated by her family's situation.  So he married someone else, and Evelina's heart was broken.  Evelina built a huge wall around her garden and became a recluse.

"When Evelina was nearly seventy years old...a young girl appeared...Nobody had seen her come to town, and nobody knew who she was or where she came from..."  This girl is "the image of Evelina in her youth."  And she is wearing one of Evelina's old gowns.

This novella was very well written and is almost poetic in its telling.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  I will definitely look for other works by this author. Pembroke is Freeman’s second novel. It was regarded as “the most profound, the most powerful piece of fiction of its kind that has ever come to the American press” by author Kate Chopin (1850-1904).

About the author  - 

Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman was born on October 31, 1852 in Randolph, Massachusetts.  She attended Mount Holyoke College for one year.  Freeman's parents were orthodox Congregationalists, causing her to have a very strict childhood. She later finished her education at West Brattleboro Seminary.

Freeman began writing stories and verse for children while still a teenager to help support her family and was quickly successful. While working as secretary to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., she began writing poetry and novels.

When the supernatural caught her interest, the result was a group of short stories which combined domestic realism with the supernatural.  A few of Freeman's ghost stories are still anthologized, perhaps most notably "Luella Miller" and "The Wind in the Rose-Bush."  

At the age of 49, she married Dr. Charles M. Freeman of Metuchen, New Jersey.

In April 1926, Freeman became the first recipient of the William Dean Howells Medal for Distinction in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  In November of that year, Freeman joined Agnes Repplier, Margaret Deland and Edith Wharton as the first four women ever elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

Freeman died March 13, 1930 and was interred in Hillside Cemetery in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.


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