Contented Reader

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Dr. Lavendar’s People

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Dr. Lavendar’s People

Margaret Deland

Project Gutenberg

 

 

…she had heard Annie Shields that was, say that Dr. Lavendar had deliberately advised some one she knew to be bad; and that he had refused to help a very worthy man to study for the ministry; and that the Ferrises said he ought to be tried for heresy (or something) because he married Oscar King to their runaway niece; and that he would not give a child back to its repentant (and perfectly respectable) mother—”And a mother’s claim is the holiest thing on earth,” Mrs. Smily said—and that he had encouraged Miss Lydia Sampson in positively wicked extravagance

Between this book and Iron Woman, I think that Margaret Deland might be my favorite Project Gutenberg discovery.  None of her books are still in print (unless you count the low-rent reprints of Project Gutenberg texts you can find listed on amazon, which personally I don’t), but the two I’ve read remain charmingly engaging.

This one is a collection of short stories about the inhabitants of the small town of Old Chester, and the pastor, Dr. Lavendar, whose unorthodox attachment to human kindness over social norms or religious dogma guides him as he guides them.

The quote I opened with is from the first story in the book, the tale of a middle-aged schoolteacher who unexpectedly falls in love.  That was one thing I liked about this book- many of the characters are not beautiful young ingenues, virtuous and sweet, but people with flaws and complications, people you wouldn’t often find as the heroes of stories.

The stories are sweet, but not saccharine, and the people in them are interesting and have surprising depths.  I think I’d find that reading this book a second time would be interesting; the stories in them interweave, characters appearing for bit parts in one story who will later be the protagonists of a different one, and knowing from the beginning about what will happen in the final story at the Stuffed-Animal House, for example, would affect a second reading.

In fact, I think Margaret Deland’s work is interesting enough that it deserves rediscovery, to be brought back into print and perhaps to gain some champion to write about her work critically.  Alas, I’m just a humble blogger, and not in a position to do for Margaret Deland what Alice Walker did for Zora Neale Hurston.  Well, I may not be able to revive her from her obscurity, but I can go download another of her books, or maybe just read Dr. Lavendar’s People again.

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Written by Contented Reader

October 19, 2011 at 7:42 am

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