Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Her son's wife (Canfield) VMC 220

I first encountered Dorothy Canfield when I read The Home-maker earlier in the year, a Persephone republication about the role reversal between a husband and wife following the husband's disablement. However, I didn't quite connect the two until I read the introduction when I picked up Her son's wife on Monday from Oxfam as she is given her full name on the Persephone title of Dorothy Canfield Fisher.

Like The home-maker, Her son's wife is strongly concerned with family relationships. At the beginning, we meet Mrs Bascomb, a fifth-grade school teacher. The book opens with a parents evening, which I found entertaining, and then Mrs Bascomb returns home for supper with the first-grade teacher, Mary. It is immediately obvious that Mrs Bascomb hopes that Mary will marry her much cherished son, Ralph. However, after Mary leaves that night, Mrs Bascomb opens her mail to find out that Ralph, has given up law school and got married that day to Lottie. Not only is this a huge shock and out of character for her son, but the letter has a postscript "she is not your type mother, but she is alright". The new couple go to live with Mrs Bascomb, in order to enable Ralph to finish his diploma, and the first part of the book is about the friction between the couple and Mrs Bascomb. Eventually Lottie has a daughter, Dids, the reason for the sudden marriage, and Mrs Bascomb tries to free Dids as much as possible from Lottie's influence.

I liked this book very much because it was an interesting study of the four main characters - Mrs Bascomb, Ralph, Lottie, and Dids, and the way in which people are forced to examine their ideals. In some ways I felt that none of the characters got their behaviour "right", regarding their actions towards each other, but Dids grew up happily, and departs for college in the final chapter.

Just the one cover, the one I stumbled on in Oxfam for £2.49.


  1. This sounds really interesting.

    I've been wanting to read The Home-maker for some time and The Brimming Cup (also a VMC) is supposed to very good but I haven't had a chance to take it off the shelf yet.

  2. The Home Maker is I think my favourite Persephone - I got it for Christmas a couple of years ago and read it straight through on Christmas afternoon - I adored it. I had actually read The Brimming Cup beforehand, after finding it in a charity shop and recognising the name from the Persephone list, and that was superb too.

    I was pipped to the post on a copy of The Deepening Stream on ebay a few weeks ago and I was really annoyed as there is no reprint of it as yet! I keep looking out for Her Son's Wife but I am yet to find sounds fantastic and maybe just maybe if I have a few pennies left at the end of the month I might treat's only a a penny on amazon, after all...

  3. I did like the Home-maker very much. Maybe you should read it the week after next Claire.

    Rachel, you are so lucky to get a Persephone book for Christmas. No-one I know ever buys me books anymore :(

  4. I would if I had a copy!

    I received a Persephone for Christmas last year :). I have a wishlist and family know from that which books I don't have; mainly though it's my boyfriend who buys me books and his sister gives me books she's enjoyed previously as gifts (we have similar tastes but living in Canada opens her up to writers I haven't necessarily heard of so it's always a surprise and a new experience)

  5. I was just about to offer you a lend of my copy when I realised that I borrowed it from the library! Doh! I need to keep better track of my books what with buying duplicates of things that I have already!

  6. My dad buys all his Christmas presents online. I send him a list of the books I want, and he chooses from the list. He likes ordering me Persephone books because they do the wrapping for him. ;) Most of my Persephones are gifts or charity shop purchases - I have over twenty actual Persephones (other 'Persephones' I have in original editions), and out of that, I think I have only had to buy two myself from the shop.

    I'm surprised The Homemaker hasn't become a Classic yet - it seems very popular amongst the Persephone reading community!

  7. Lucky you Rachel - I need to educate my relations. I have 35 Persephones according to a quick check of librarything, but I have bought all but one myself (eek!)(quite a lot through special offers though, and I don't have all of the bookmarks).