Ruth Hall: A Domestic Tale of the Present Time
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Ruth Hall: A Domestic Tale of the Present Time

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  343 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Drawing on her own experiences - suffering the death of her child and husband, a bitter estrangement from her family, and her struggle to make a living as a writer - the author's heroine, like herself, is forced to create a life that defies traditional assumptions about a woman's place in society.
ebook, 336 pages
Published February 1st 1997 by Penguin Books (first published 1854)
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Kirk
A roman a clef by the nineteenth-century Erma Bombeck. "Fanny Fern" aka Sara Willis Parton (no relation to Dolly) was an acerbic columnist from 1851-1872 and at one point America's highest paid newspaper contributor. In retrospect, it's easy to see why her writing would prove popular: she is one of the few nineteenth-cen women whose style tended more toward the sarcastic than the pious, and she was all about calling dudes in cravats out on their hypocrises---especially her brother, Nathaniel Par...more
Shelly
Poor Ruth. She, like Rodney Dangerfield, gets no respect. But she's tough and determined and driven and soon enough things go Ruth's way. Hooray!
I do have one issue with this book though. Apparently, Ruth Hall's story closely parallels her author's--Fanny Fern. So when you get to the end of the book after Ruth has found some success you become subjected to page after page of how great Ruth (aka Fanny) is. There are four (!) pages where "Ruth" visits a phrenologists and he explains, based on his...more
Marne
I wrote my master's thesis on Fanny Fern, so obviously this book is very special to me. Like a lot of first novels, it hews pretty closely to Fern's own biography, and therefore the plot doesn't have a lot of big surprises, but Fern had a real eye for human behavior, and even the smallest bit characters in the story are rendered with surprising depth in just a few words. This is definitely the easiest of Fern's novels to obtain these days, but if you want to read the best, I would recommend Rose...more
Pam
Ruth Hall can be rather sentimental at times if one looks at it from our 21st century eyes. I gave it four stars because it is a great example of American Victorian "women's" literature. Deserves to be read for the experience of reading a Victorian popular novel. I fear, however, that we, comfortably seated in our reading chairs nearly 150 years into the future, will find it easier to toss it aside as "sappy" and "emotional" rather than to bravely admit to enjoyinig it as the simple little gem t...more
Jane
Oh what a maddening books. There’s a lovely story, drawn from the author’s own experiences, a story with something to say, and at times it’s wonderful, but there are too many times when it is spoiled by the author pushing her point, her side of the story, a little too hard.

Of course I should make some allowance for the fact that Fanny Fern’s ‘Present Time’ was in America in the middle of the 19th century, but that isn’t quite enough.

Fortunately I could see the heart of the story, and I am glad t...more
Darren
I'm giving it only 3 stars simply because this is one of the most depressing books that I've ever read. Never before have I encountered a book where I couldn't stand so many of the characters, in this case the horrible in - laws, the cruel and pathetic Hyacinth and his father and also Ruth's cousins.
The plight of Ruth was immensely moving and I daresay a number of modern-day women could relate to it.

I finished the book in two days simply because I was eager to reach the end with hopes that thi...more
Timothy
This was a drag to read.
Jenn McCollum
Ruth Hall is, as its author Fanny Fern is careful to note, a "continuous story" rather than a novel. It is a work marked by a few covert postmodern gestures such as its vignette style, fragmented narrative, and its layers of subjectivity. At its core Ruth Hall takes up the popular nineteenth-century question of female authorship. Fern, like Marie Corelli in novels such as The Sorrow of Satan or The Murder of Delicia, manifests a literary protagonist who much resembles herself. Yet unlike Corelli...more
Katie
The stars aren't letting me give this a rating, but I would give it 5 stars if I could.

The book club I attend chose this for the month of August and I loved it. I took a lot of American humanities and literature classes in college and I wonder why we never read this. The author, Fanny Fern (a pseudonym) was the first paid female columnist in America, and was at one time the highest paid columnist during her time.

I love stories with strong female character and I love stories written by strong wo...more
Gabrielle
Phew. I am so glad that I am done with this.

This is a biography about Sarah Payson Willis (pseudonym Fanny Fern) writen in the form of fiction. A couple of things that I love her for include stealing pickles at seminary school, carving her initials on desks, being aggressive in that time period, wearing low-cut dresses, cross-dressing for a period of her lifetime and praising the sexual passages in Leaves of Grass.

When read without knowledge of the person the book may come off a bit dull but n...more
Catherine
Ruth Hall is one of those books that unabashedly allows its characters to say what most people only think. Feeble Ruth, bears the brunt of it all from father to brother, to mother-in-law, to employer, to stranger. It all works out for Ruth though doesn’t it? She gets all the fame, all the money, and all the glory, while ironically those who coveted their money so dear, and kept it so far from Ruth, can now only wallow in their remorse. Could we expect anything else? There was no other way for Fe...more
Katie
Read for 19th Cent. American Novel. Kind of an "F You!" to people in her own life who suggested she couldn't write. Reflects her primary focus on journalism.
Susan
I found this book at a "used book" store, and became enthralled immediately with this easy-reading, engaging novel. I don't usually say that about books written in the mid-1800s. The story is semi-autobiographical about a woman's life, with her beloved husband, and then, as a widow trying to achieve financial independence as a result of her family's lack of support. The book transports you to her time - for those who don't think they can read classic literature, give this a try. I highly recomme...more
Karen Hogan
This is a must read. Fictional autobiography of a woman and her two children, left destitute after her young husband dies. Her family turns their backs on them, and she must try to earn a living writing. It is said, that this story parallels the author's own story. Even reading this little gem today, you still get a sense of how dependent women were on their husband's and familes. The woman's struggles will disturb you.
Mary
One of those books I bought for a freshman/sophomore year women's lit class and never got around to reading. Really enjoyed it, actually. A woman is pretty much treated horribly by her in laws and doesn't get any support after her husband dies, still manages to earn money for herself and her child. You go, Ruth!
Lisa C
An excellent choice by a college professor for its uniqueness compared to other literature generally taught. It isn't so much that the work was unique in and of itself, but the exposure to an author who was popular in her time but ignored by history is something for which I have always been grateful.
Cassie Norton
Finished last week, just forgot to change my status. It was an okay. Gave some good perspective about women in nineteenth century America and was very well paced. It was a little annoying how perfect Ruth Hall was - but I guess that's what happens in a thinly veiled autobiography.
Jake
The overall story seems fairly obviously a criticism of family life, and in learning that it's autobiagraphical doesn't help make the message seem any more compelling. What does make this interesting to read is the over-the-top humerous presentation of the in-laws.
Kristen
If you enjoy 19th century literature, read this book! It goes along with her real life story and also shows the importance of newspapers in the 1800's.
I really enjoyed Fern's development of the characters and how she used dialogue to show their inner thoughts.
Ivette
Aug 08, 2007 Ivette rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All Women and Girls
This book is wonderfully written. Ruth Hall (our heroine) faces many obstacles. Her family turns her away when she is at her lowest. As a single mother in the 1800s Ruth struggles to survive and persues a seemingly ever-fleeting career in Journalism.
Finn Oliebollen
I did not enjoy this so much mainly because it was so soggy with revenge that it took away from the story. It had a narrow sighted purpose. She writes as though she was a pearl fallen in among the trash and she just needed to be plucked out.
Mary
Jan 08, 2008 Mary rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: classic lit geeks / feminists
Recommended to Mary by: assigned for my American Literary Renaissance class
Actually a really interesting read. You've got to love classic literature with a strong female lead (not to mention author.) Also, the chapters are ridiculously short, making it a quick go, which is especially nice so late in the semester.
Melanie
I gave this three stars due to its historical value. In and of itself, this isn't a story that I particularly enjoyed reading, but I do think it's an important piece of literature, considering the context in which is was published.
Laura
i really, really liked this novel, although i am not usually a fan of the sentimental pap of the feminisht writing of the 18th century. its a fast read, and just...endearing. definately worth picking up.
Rorreta Lampica
رواية تمثل المجتمع السعودي.
Sandy
Interesting to put in perspective of women writing but not a real challenging read. It is a kind of simplistic (in my opinion) telling of the changing life of women and domestication.
Hilary
This book rocked! I'd never heard of it before the class I had to take this semester, but I'm so glad I read it. The book is very modern and fun, and the story was wonderful.
Brian
Fanny Fern writes an engaging semi-autobiographical story that is effective, but incomplete, about a woman that "succeeds" in entering capitalist society.
Beth
Feb 01, 2008 Beth rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Beth by: Dr. Lyle Smith
Shelves: assigned-reading
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. A great commentary on sexism in the period. Ruth is a fascinating and multi-faceted character. Well worth the read.
Kristina
The more things change, the more they stay the same. I could relate to so many things in this book, though it was first published in 1855.
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Fanny Fern, born Sara Willis (July 9, 1811 – October 10, 1872), was an American newspaper columnist, humorist, novelist, and author of children's stories in the 1850s-1870s. Fern's great popularity has been attributed to her conversational style and sense of what mattered to her mostly middle-class female readers. By 1855, Fern was the highest-paid columnist in the United States, commanding $100 p...more
More about Fanny Fern...
Ruth Hall and Other Writings Rose Clark Fern Leaves from Fanny's Port-Folio. 2D Series. with Original Designs by Fred M. Coffin. Fresh Leaves Fern Leaves from Fanny's Port-Folio, Volume 1

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