Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fidelity



Fidelity is a heart-breaking and intelligent novel written in 1915 by Susan Glaspell, a largely forgotten Pulitzer prize winning author and playwright. 

The story follows the life of Ruth Holland, a woman who leaves her small midwestern town with her married lover and the repercussions and consequences that occur afterwards. Eleven years later, Ruth returns home to tend to her sick father. Though years have passed she still faces the censure and snubs of her former friends and neighbors. Ruth finally starts to reflect on the decision she made years earlier. Was it worth giving up her family and friends to marry a man she believed she loved? What is ultimately more important, love or society?


Fidelity is unique because it's a novel about marital infidelity that focuses on 'the other woman.' What her emotions are, what she has left behind to run away with a married man. Returning to Freeport, Ruth realizes how much she has actually given up, how much she misses her family and her friends. The love she now has for her lover is not the same as it was eleven years before. From an all-consuming affair it has now settled into a companionable relationship although sad at times for the lack of children and the difficulties of being shunned by society for 'living in sin. Ruth's separation from her lover while visiting her hometown gives her an opportunity to reflect on her life choice and whether it was the right one after all.

This is not a fairy tale novel. It is so realistic in conveying the emotions of everyone involved including Ruth's friends, family, her lover's wife and especially of Ruth herself. Susan Glaspell's message is 'to be true to oneself.' and that is what the word 'Fidelity' refers to in the title of the book. This is a very powerful novel. It's hard to believe that it's been out of print for so long and it's wonderful that Persephone Books has resurrected it for a new generation of readers.

12 comments:

  1. This sounds like me to deal with a lot of issues that Loving Frank and The Group did. I'm not in the mood for it now, but it definitely looks like a book I'd love to read after some time :) Thanks for the great review!

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  2. This blew me away when I read it many years ago. I'd never read such a painful and honest book before. Glaspell's belief in love as an all consuming force is also the theme of Brook Evans and I love them both. I hope Persephone reprints more of Susan Glaspell's books because they're so hard to get hold of in the UK and I want more!

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  3. ooo, I am absolutely going to read this one. It is going straight to the wish list with a link to your review

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  4. How serendipitous that you should post this today as I reviewed Susan Glaspell's other Persephone, Brook Evans yesterday... It sounds as if they share some common themes and the message of being true to oneself, of loving oneself and seeking happiness (I sneakily used the word fidelity in my post to evoke that concept).

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  5. What a scandalous topic to be writing about in 1915! An excellent review of a book that sounds most intriguing.

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  6. @Paperback Reader - I haven't read Brook Evans but I'd love too. Glaspell is a brilliant writer.
    @Claire(The Captive Reader) - yes, definitely a scandalous topic. I can't believe it was written then.

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  7. This is a wonderful review, and I LOVE that it was written in 1915. Thanks for bringing this to my attention! Much appreciated :-)

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  8. This sounds absolutely stunning - very human and real and powerful. Thank you indeed for posting on it and I do hope that you are enjoying the reading week!

    Hannah

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  9. This sounds excellent! I discovered Glaspell last year through her short story A Jury of Her Peers... have been wanting to read one of her novels ever since.

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  10. This sounds fascinating - what a great choice! Glaspell is a completely new author to me so especially enjoyed your introduction.

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  11. I need to read this, I love American literature. Great review.

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  12. I love this book and am so glad you discovered it! Persephone helped us out with this one. I'd never heard of Glaspell, and yet she grew up less than 100 miles from where I did. She is little-read anymore.

    What a nice blog!

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