Friday, July 23, 2010

The Harvester - Gene Stratton-Porter

Summary:  The millions of readers who have delighted in the wondrous touch of "wild woods magic" which distinguished Gene Stratton Porter's Laddie and Girl of the Limberlost have a fresh treat in store for them in this new edition of one of her best-beloved tales.  The Harvester.

David Langston, called The Harvester of the Woods, works long and diligently, after the death of his mother, to make a success of the business of raising and selling medicinal herbs which he and his mother had started together.  By dint of unswerving perseverance and diligence, he becomes very prosperous and is ready to consider marriage when he suddenly sees in a vision an exquisitely beautiful girl.  Convinced that she will become his wife, he builds a beautiful house in his beloved woods and begins a search for the girl of his vision.

Finally he discovers her--Ruth Jameson, by name--and learns that she has been living with an uncle who mistreats her shamefully.  He proposes to her and she accepts--more for the protection of his home than out of love for him.  Despite his attentions, he cannot kindle love in her heart and at length, she falls desperately ill.  How David's her potions save her life after all else has failed--including the attentions of a doctor to whom she had once been betrothed--and how David finally succeeds in kindling the spark of love make up the heart-tugging climax of this famous story.  (Summary from book and image from http://alledgesgilt.blogspot.com/2007/11/harvester-by-gene-stratton-porter.html)


My Review:  Reviewing this book is going to be difficult for me.  While I can appreciate it for its literary qualities, it was tedious to read.  Admittedly, I'm not a Dicken's fan or any other verbose writer who uses description to carry a story.  If the Harvester wasn't talking to a human being, meaning he was chatting with his dog, his plants, or even the stream, I tended to lose interest and fast.  There were parts of the story that held my attention and those were the highlights when there was some new plot twist or new information given about why the Dream Girl was just so very sick.

Here are the qualities I liked in the book: 1) I was told by a friend that her husband's view of how to treat a woman was shaped by this book.  I like that idea because even though the Dream Girl was irritatingly frail (almost like how Bella in Twilight is irritatingly clumsy), he always treated her with the utmost respect and consideration.  2) I can appreciate the metaphor of the harvest being a representation of how love grows.  It takes time, effort, care, work, and often pays off with great reward.  3) I could appreciate how the author, and likewise the Harvester, adored plants.  You can tell that each description meant something to the writer.  While this bored me at times and led me to skimming, I knew it was all stemming from a great love of the land.  4)  I loved seeing a man set a brutal man straight.  While the Harvester didn't actually finish her awful uncle off, when you learn what a horrid man he was you're sure hoping at times he would.  5) In the very beginning of the story the Harvester is ranting about how a woman would never be satisfied with what he could give her and therefore he felt all women weren't worth the time.  Then he has this life altering dream and does a complete 180.  It's hilarious and fantastic all at the same time.  It's fun to watch someone eat their words once in a while, especially when it doesn't hurt the person to do so.

Here's what drove me crazy about the book: 1) As stated above, the Dream Girl is ridiculously frail.  It seems as if this is a literary device of the times, and as such I can let it slide, but oh, was it annoying.  There were times I wanted to throttle the girl and say, "Do you even want to get better?  Because you sure don't seem to me to be trying!"  I do realize there are situations in life where someone's troubles begin to cause their health to falter, but this was just too extreme. 2) The detail.  Over the top detail.  It was mind numbing at times.  I like plants.  I like gardening.  I could care less about EVERY sunset and EVERY flower on EVERY vine that happened to be in his 9 acres of land!  AH!  Too much detail! 3) Maybe I'm jaded--I'd like to think of myself as realistic, but this really bothered me.  Porter writes the Harvester's character without flaw.  I kept searching for even one small, teensie-weensie flaw.  You can find none (well, maybe at the end of the story you could call one thing a flaw, but it really is a lack of knowledge and not a personal failing in my mind).  He's not real, therefore the story was not believable in my mind.  I apologize right now for comparing (again) this book to Twilight, but it seems most would understand my general idea by doing so.  Even Edward had flaws, and while they were minor, they were still flaws and I could still stomach the fact that he wasn't perfect.  The Harvester is literally written as the perfect guy.  Maybe that will appeal to you.  For me, it's an instant moment of cynical, "Yeah, right." 

Here's just a little information I thought readers mind find interesting.  At first I thought Gene was a man--nope.  Gene Stratton Porter is a woman with a fascinating life.  If you're ever curious and like her books, do a little research into her life.  You'll be interested to see how much she puts herself into her books.

If I was to compare this to other romantic books (clean ones) I think this would surpass all others in the area of romance.  Not that it's my favorite, but it is the ultimate chivalrous love story where the man does all, gives all, is all for the woman he loves--she isn't the perfect woman to me, but maybe she would be to others.  (Bella drove me nuts too--I know, I know, one more comparison...sorry!)  I personally like the banter better in Pride and Prejudice and the overall story better in Jane Eyre.  I don't think I've ever read a more romantic yet squeaky clean book.  Everything about The Harvester is focused on the absolute best in people (the main characters).  If you're needing an old fashioned, heart-warming love story, give this one a shot.

Rating: 4 Stars.  The overall story is great, but the overloading on detail brings it down in rating, at least for me.

Sum it up:  If you like clean romantic books, this should be your next read.

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