Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Old Peabody Pew

I found the book 3 months ago when visiting a used bookshop in North Carolina. The title and cover first caught my eye, then on turning the pages I discovered some charming illustrations and what looked like a lovely story of a small New England town at Christmas. I turned to a blank page inside and discovered that the author, Kate Douglas Wiggin, had inscribed a postscript to her story and signed her name beneath it. I bought it, along with some other exciting finds, and then I carefully packed it into my suitcase and managed to get it home without damaging the frail binding. Once here in Texas, I placed it in a safe location and promptly forgot about it - until recently, when on a lazy Sunday afternoon I retrieved the book from it's temporary home and read, in a few short hours, of a charmingly diverse group of women in a small town in Maine at Christmastime in the early 1900's. The narrative's pinnacle is reached when, on Christmas Eve, lonely and 30ish heroine Nancy is given the gift of romance when her once-upon-a-time lover returns after many years of absence. Pensive reminiscing and hopeful dreams of the future are skillfully woven into the story, which, incidentally, must have created a refreshing and surprising read for single women in the early 20th century, who were often considered too old for marriage when once into or past their 20's.

The book was originally published in 1905; my edition was published in 1907. It doesn't seem to be in print any longer (what a shame!) but is available for download if you have a Kindle.

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