And Ladies of the Club, by Helen Hooven Santmeyer *****

andLadiesoftheclubThis tome was touted, at the time of its first publication, as the book written by “a little old lady in a nursing home”. May we be forever ashamed to pigeon-hole the elderly in such a manner again. What they MIGHT have said, is that this woman was a college dean of students and a professor of English. She was too busy to finish her book until her retirement. How lovely it was that she lived long enough to see it published!

In sumptuousness and richness, it is like Gone With the Wind without the racism. Most wonderfully of all, it is written in the manner in which time seems to go by, as we follow the life of a woman graduating from a women’s college in the late 1800’s. When she is young, a single year takes up many chapters, but when she is very elderly, one chapter spans years and years. As we age, time goes by so quickly.

Her use of the language is so brilliant that I now count hers as one of my favorite novels. It is thicker than some dictionaries, but infinitely more absorbing, and so I read it twice, once when I was a young mother with my first tiny babes at home; we were poor enough that I saved box tops and waited for double coupon day to buy groceries, but the Book of the Month Club was our one luxury, and they sent this. I read it again later when I was teaching. I gave my mother a copy for Christmas one year, and she loved it too.

I just may go back and read it again..
If you have grown up in the era of instant gratification and sound bites, this is not your book. This is a book to curl up with on a chilly afternoon and let the world fade away. Patience and a fairly high vocabulary level and awareness of the past will help, but give it a try if you aren’t sure. It will be worth it.

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