Saturday, August 1, 2009

The American Flaggs by Kathleen Norris

Reading The American Flaggs was like reading three authors at once. The beginning was similar to the Grace Livingston Hill books I read as a teenager. (Poverty stricken but gorgeous female meets fabulously rich and handsome bachelor, they overcome all obstacles, and live happily ever after.) But the writing was more on the level of a Gene Stratton-Porter novel. By the time I finished, an Elizabeth Goudge-like twist had been thrown in which upped the book in my estimation quite a bit.

Basic plot: Penelope Fitzpercy (“Pen” for short) is tired of her family’s Bohemian lifestyle. Unmade beds, unwashed dishes, unpaid bills and a father who drops in and out of their lives are just a few of her concerns. When wealthy Jeff Flagg offers to take her away from it all she has a hard time saying no even though she’s not in love with him.

I thought I was reading a typically fluffy romance novel until I reached page 300 and the characters began making really bad choices. I was dismayed that Norris, writing in the 1930’s, seemed to be promoting a favorite modern-day theme: Be happy with the one you love and don’t let the person to whom you are married get in the way.

Happily, the book took a turn for the better. Instead of a fairy tale gone awry it morphed into a story about real people making tough moral decisions. Frankly, I was amazed and pleased at its un-Hollywood-like ending.

Any Kathleen Norris fans out there?


Anonymous said...

I've been reading all Kathleen Norris' books, and am a big fan. I'm struck by how "modern" the thinking is, while her characters pay lip service to the mores of the day. The first chapter of "The Venables" should be required reading in women's studies, because of the picture it paints of a woman's married life before birth control became widely available / acceptable.

Sheila Gibson said...

I first read this book many years ago, and I continue to go back to it from time to time. I can honestly say that it influenced me in my ability to deal with some issues in my marriage. I love Kathleen Norris' writings! Another of my favorites of hers, and another one that impacted me, is The Story of Julia Page. I am still working through all the books Norris wrote. Some are better than others, but there is a consistent theme of integrity that runs through them all.

Just subscribed to your blog. Looking forward to reading! ~ Sheila