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The Home-Maker

by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Persephone book no:

6 7 8


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The Far Cry
A Well Full of Leaves
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PREFACE BY KAREN KNOX

AFTERWORD BY ELAINE SHOWALTER

288pp
ISBN 9780953478064

 

First published in 1924 and an instant bestseller at the time, The Home-Maker by  Dorothy Canfield Fisher is set in small-town New England. It is the moving story of Eva, who is almost literally dying of boredom as an obsessively house-proud mother and home-maker (a word that is in everyday use in America but not in Britain), and her husband Lester, who hates his job at a department store and wishes he could spend more time with his children. When Lester falls off a roof and breaks his back, the couple are forced to swap roles: he is wheelchair-bound at home and Eva goes to work in a department store. The rest of the novel explores the way their family life changes and develops in response to this very modern parenting arrangement. 

The children gradually blossom and all sorts of practical ruses are devised to help them all get through the day. For example, in one memorable scene, a nosy neighbour demands to know how Lester copes with having to clean the kitchen floor every day, a task which had previously brought Eva close to despair. Lester’s solution? 'The attic was piled to the eaves with old newspapers. Every day [the older children] Helen or Henry brings down a fresh supply. We spread them around two or three thick, drop our grease on them with all the peace of mind in the world, whisk them up at night before Eva comes in, and have a spotless floor to show her. What’s the matter with that?' What's the matter indeed. 

In Lester, we see a Montessori Father being born (Dorothy Canfield Fisher was responsible for introducing the Montessori method to the U.S.). The scene where he surreptitiously watches his youngest child learning to use an egg-whisk is one of the great scenes in the literature of childhood, in what is 'a remarkable and brave novel' (Carol Shields).

Also available as a Persephone Classic

Endpaper

The design of this Warner silk, velvet and terry material, exported to the USA during the early 1920s, was derived from a French fabric based on medieval tapestries: two birds are facing each other and away from each other - as in marriage, they are both coupled and confrontational.


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