Friday, April 5, 2013

Gene Stratton-Porter, A Girl of the Limberlost

Stratton-Porter, Gene. A Girl of the Limberlost. Illustrated by David Hendrickson. Triangle Books, 1909.
Gene Statton-Porter was a woman who lived in the woods and loved moths, birds, and trees. I read a bit about her biography since I read this book for my inquiry project. It turns out that she was a non-fiction writer who wrote fiction books to pay the bills and make her publishers happy. I think it’s interesting that she is so well known for her fictional books, yet her true passion was ecology and non-fiction writing. Her personal passion is very evident in her writing as a reader learns as much about moths from a story like this as they would reading a non-fiction moth book – maybe even more since moths are a central part of the plot in this story.
The story is about a country girl, Elnora Comstock, who decides to go to school. Her mother is very harsh, cold, neglectful, and unloving. Elnora struggles as she goes to school and is teased for her poor clothes and she almost has to quit when she finds out that people outside of town have to pay tuition and book costs in order to attend school. However, she finds a woman (the Bird Lady) who will pay money for moth specimens and she becomes self-sufficient as she puts herself through school collecting natural items to sell. In the climax of the book Elnora’s mother, who has never helped her with anything, destroys a rare moth specimen that Elnora needed to complete a set which would sell for $300. At this, Elnora finally confronts her mother and the relationship is broken and then restored as her mother realizes what a fool she has been to treat her daughter so poorly. There is also a romance in the book, Elnora falls in love with a naturalist she meets in the woods on one of her nature walks.
            A Girl of the Limberlost is a very old-fashioned story, written in 1909. I think the style is very modernistic and may not appeal to a current-day audience, but for others it will remain a timeless classic. Re-reading this story for the first time as an adult was a wonderfully nostalgic experience for me, and I was glad to find that I still really enjoyed it. It reminds me of other book series such as the Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell and the All Creatures Great and Small series by James Herriot. They are books which a nature lover would love, but others might find boring.

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