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The home-maker, [Unknown Binding]

Dorothy Canfield Fisher
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt, Brace and Company (1924)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00085I8ZG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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First Sentence
SHE was scrubbing furiously at a line of grease spots which led from the stove towards the door to the dining-room. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What makes a happy family? 17 May 2001
By A Customer
This is a wonderful novel which is just as relevant today as when it was first published in 1924. Lester and Evangeline Knapp live in small-town America. Lester is a miserable clerk in a department store, and Eva is equally miserable at home. The first chapters of the novel are almost unbearable as we see Eva mercilessly cleaning her house to within an inch of it's life, creating a "perfect" home with no warmth at it's centre. Her children are nervous (except her youngest, Stephen, who is rebellious),her husband is dyspeptic, and her neighbours admire her efficiency while Eva bursts into hysterical tears at the slightest upset. When an accident disables Lester, their roles are reversed. He stays home to keep house and look after the children, and Eva goes to work as a saleswoman in the store which once employed her husband. All the qualities which made Eva such a disastrous housekeeper make her a wonderful saleswoman. The children find their health and happiness improves when their house becomes a home instead of a torture chamber. Lester discovers his vocation in nurturing his family, the relationship which develops between him and the children is beautifully drawn. But, will small-town America allow this bliss to continue? Can the Knapps really be happy in such an unnatural situation? Canfield Fisher's novel is involving on every level. I loved Eva's blossoming in her new career, her enthusiasm was a joy. The author's theme is not just the rights of adults to follow their inclinations and talents, but the rights of children to be brought up in a nurturing environment. Who raises them isn't really the issue.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Persephone Books consistently chooses some of the most amazing fiction to re-print, and _The Home-Maker_ is a stunning example of a novel that's been undeservedly neglected. Dorothy Canfield's book raises some very important questions about gender roles in society, questions which are still completely relevant today. Not only is the book very assertive in its statements about society but it's also a very good yarn. The characters in this book have continued to haunt me after finishing the book and I've re-read the book once already. It's a brilliant, brilliant book and deserves a wider audience.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In search of America's domestic soul 28 Jan 2007
What an exciting find. I read The Homemaker cover to cover in one sitting, into the early hours of the morning. It's a remarkable book.

Lester and Eva Knapp are profoundly unhappy. He hates his job. She is a prisoner at home. Their children are paying the price, made sick by their parents suffocating misery.

When Lester is crippled by a terrible accident the Knapps' lives seem to hit rock bottom, but in the family's dark time they begin to see.

The Homemaker tells an uplifting story of Eva's discovery of the happiness brought by personal fulfilment and the family's defiance of the restrictive norms of small town America in the new shallow consumerism of the 1920s.

Most moving is Lester's journey from dispirited clerk to talented, loving parent. And the way in which his perceptive understanding of the real needs of his children cures them of their soul-sickness.

For in his accidental role reversal, Lester is allowed to become The Homemaker.

This is a beautifully written book, with characters you care deeply about and who will stay with you long after you have turned the final page.

It is also a profound comment on a society that cannot accept deviations from the traditional roles of breadwinner and homemaker that speaks as forcefully today as it did 80 years ago.

The Homemaker is a domestic Great Gatsby, asking the same deep questions about where America was heading in the early years of the 20th century. It is an unfortunate quirk of literary fate that one should be a revered set text and the other almost unknown.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A modern house-husband's perspective 30 Mar 2011
This novel was a Christmas present from my wife. First published in the 1920s, it describes a couple in which the wife is sharp, business-minded, and going completely potty running a household and looking after three sickly children. The husband is genial, slightly dreamy, and completely unsuccessful as a businessman. The solution to a modern eye might seem obvious, but it takes at least 100 pages and a fall from the roof leaving the man in a wheelchair to effect the complete swap of roles. And, naturally, everything changes; the trivial ailments recede, the mother's waspish temper softens, and everyone begins to emerge from their separate prisons and engage with each other.

Some of the humour is dated; the reader is expected to find the very idea of a man darning socks or scrambling eggs hilarious. But as much of the humour is not, and the delight of the book is in its minute domestic detail. There is a wonderful scene, for instance, in which the father and his young daughter do not know how to break an egg - but by dint of patience, discussion, and good-humoured experimentation, they finally work it out together. It last about 3 pages. You may have guessed from this that gender roles do not swap altogether; it is the daughter who is expected (by everyone) to help her father in the kitchen. Nor indeed are gender roles even altered much; when they swap, they are swapped intact. Some consideration is given to the fact that the man is wheelchair-bound, but rather more to the wife who must sigh and learn to accept a certain degree of slovenliness around the house. Quite familiar, really, and I don't even have a wheelchair to use as excuse...
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