Brand : May Sarton

The Magnificent Spinster: A Novel



Harriet cush |

Different

Very different. she was one of a kind, and you don't have that today. the story was exciting but sad.

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Gentle and passionate

Excellent prose. this was my introduction to may sarton. i especially enjoyed the book for what i learned about her. this is both a gentle and passionate story.

Mary e. sibley |

Little women

The narrator, cam arnold, recalls jane reid, a magnificent person. she, now age 70, used to write impassioned poems for jane reid. jane reid was a seventh grade teacher at warren school. she was one of five daughters living on an island off the coast of maine during the summer months. a family of five girls on an island has an enclosed reality. one is reminded of the alcott family living in concord, massachusetts, even living in a communal society at fruitlands. jane met her most significant mentor at vassar, frances thompson. the narrator of the book is in the process of writing the novel, fictionalizing that is to say, the story of her seventh grade teacher. as an experiment, per the dalton plan, the students were given a month's worth of assignments. cam rushed through the work and was scolded by jane for sloppiness. it was a lesson she took to heart. in the late twenties jane reid made a decision to turn down a proposal of marriage and remain at the the warren school. miss reid became a friend to the narrator's mother who taught art at the warren school. at the time of jane's mother's death the narrator, cam, and her mother were invited to the family's island in maine. the island came to signify shelter and peace. cam noticed that jane had a kind of generosity. cam felt that the sacco-vanzetti case had been a horror. she wanted to go to vassar to study socialism. cam was thwarted in her desire to obtain press credentials to cover the war in spain. in the end jane sent cam to spain. afterwards cam stayed at jane's house at sudbury, built when jane was thirty-eight, to overcome the experience of witnessing war's brutality. some of cam's hopes, expectations died in that war. it seemed like a playing field in which russia and germany ran experiments. in 1941 jane reid was forty-five. jane's house at sudbury became a haven for a brother-in-law who suffered a sever heart attack, for her sister who was a widow, and for another sister who had cancer. a friend, teaching with jane in 1941, thought her rather beaten down and tired. cam visits a contemporary of jane reid, now ninety, to help her round out her picture. one of the problems facing cam is that she is an historian, not a novelist. jane, at age 45, was ready to resign from the warren school. she was becoming a less effective teacher, and children are cruel. the head of the school, frances thompson, was no longer seeking advice from jane and as a consequence she had lost her nerve. a new head put her in a position doing remedial work with the students and she excelled at the new task. jay, a cousin, and jane worked together on the papers of their ancestor and famous author, benjamin trueblood. (trueblood is a delightful name.) jane was told by a director of a community center in cambridge that she was unusual because she never used money as power. jane dreamed of going to germany after world war ii to serve on the unitarian committee. she did manage to learn german in order to help with the reconstruction of the country. she orchestrated stays for family and friends on the island during the summers and died in her early eighties still embracing a zest for life. the novel is just about perfect.