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The Home-Maker

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  394 ratings  ·  81 reviews
"A remarkable and brave novel. I was astonished at the acute angle of vision and the fullness of sympathy toward both men and women—and children."—Carol Shields

An ahead-of-its-time novel about an unhappy and obsessively house-proud mother of three whose husband is disabled, leaving her free to work in a department store and him to be a Montessori father. One of the ten bes
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 14th 2011 by Persephone Books (first published 1924)
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The very, very best novels leave me struggling for words, quite unable to capture what it is that makes them so extraordinary.

The Home-Maker is one of those novels. It was published in the 1920s, it is set in small town American, and yet it feels extraordinarily relevant.

It is the story of the Knapp family – Evangeline, Lester and their children, Helen, Henry and Stephen. A family that was unhappy, because both parents were trapped in the roles that society dictated a mother and a father should
I discovered ‘The Home-Maker’ by Dorothy Canfield Fisher through the review of Nymeth from the Things Mean a Lot. I loved the basic premise of the book and couldn’t resist getting it. I started reading it a few days back and finished it in a couple of sittings. Here is what I think.

‘The Home-Maker’ is about a family and the interesting consequences of what happens when traditional gender roles are reversed. Evangeline Knapp is the mother who is a perfectionist. She likes her house to be spotless
Fisher is best known today for the children's book Understood Betsy, which I read and liked a few years ago, but she also wrote many novels for adults. This one is a Persephone reprint -- I should just eventually buy everything they've reprinted, as I haven't disliked one yet.

Evangeline Knapp is a smart, organized, determined woman, stuck at home in a role she despises; she loves her children, but she can't seem to sympathize with them, and her passion for cleanliness and organization has becom
"The story of what happens when a wife and mother puts all her efforts into the house, and not the home. Fortunately, irreparable damage is averted when Lester, the father, takes over the role of homemaker." Reads the recommendation in The Gentle Art of Domesticity for The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. With that introduction the plot was pretty simple to guess. The real genius of Fisher is her spot-on psychology. She infuses each character of this little world with thoughts so much thei ...more
What a charming book! For one, it was ahead of its time--depicting a family in which the woman much more enjoyed being in the workforce, the man better at being a stay-at-home Dad. Fisher was a Vermont writer and wrote extensively about Montessori school and childrearing. She didn't see "The Home-maker" as a feminist book, but as a children's book--namely, that it represented children, their personhood, their feelings, more than it was out to make a statement about gender roles of women or men. ...more
Another Persephone Book, another critical study of gender roles and expectations in the earlier decades of the 20th century. This book delivers exactly what it promises: a lovely story with an undercurrent of criticism of male and female roles.

Dorothy Canfield-Fisher claimed the novel to be one focused on children and what is best for them, refusing to label it feminist. Still, feminist ideology is very much present in the novel; most interestingly a very modern brand of feminism, one acknowledg
Jan 21, 2015 Charity rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Charity by: Shelf Love (Blog)
One of the linchpins of the utopian society Plato describes in his Republic is the notion that each person should do the job for which she or he is best suited (and that there is a job for which each individual is best suited). This is one of the foundations of societal harmony. In The Home-Maker, Canfield Fisher shows us first what life is like for a couple engaged in the roles society would have them play, and then in the roles for which they as individuals are best suited. The difference in t ...more
Jul 01, 2008 Hol added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hol by: the Persephone Books catalogue (tx Annie!)
This novel opens with Mrs. Knapp preparing an ordinary dinner for her family, but it reads like an ulcer-inducing horror story because her soul is so tortured by the job of homemaker. Meanwhile, poetry-loving Mr. Knapp is similarly tortured by having to be the breadwinner. Fortunately, however, he is soon disabled by a hideous accident and they get to swap gender roles. I should mention that this riveting little book was first published in 1924. Anyway, while Mrs. Knapp grabs the business world ...more
This book rather disturbed me because it dealt with, among other things, the possibility that not all women are by nature maternal. Written in 1924, that premise was even harder to accept than it might be today.

The husband/father in this story states that the wife/mother "...had passionate love and devotion to give (the children), but neither patience nor understanding. There was no sacrifice in the world which she would not joyfully make for her children except to live with them."

Having raised
While this wasn't always a scintillating read, Canfield certainly had some interesting things to say. I particularly liked her essay on marriage which was included in the front of the 2007 reprint. As for The Home-Maker it explored society's expectations of gender roles within the marriage. I think my main problem was the either/or nature of what was presented - Either you work outside the home and don't trouble yourself about things like your house and your spouse and your children or you do st ...more
At first painful to read (perhaps because of the minor elements of myself I saw in Eva), this turned into a really lovely story about finding the right role in family life. The parts from the father's point of view were particularly fascinating, especially as he got to know the children and feel a fierce protectiveness for them. I was biting my nails towards the end to see how things would turn out for the family. Fascinating for the characters as well as for how it makes you think about family ...more
Ian McLoughlin

Evangeline Knapp is down on her knees, scrubbing frantically, breathlessly and yet unsuccessfully, at a line of grease spots on her kitchen floor; her youngest son, clutching his beloved and very grubby teddy bear, watches warily from the door of the dining room before disappearing again, both relieved and somehow disappointed to remain unseen and - for the moment at least- forgotten by her.

So begins our introduction into the lives of the Knapp family; a family almost on the brink of self-destr
Why didn't I know that this book existed? A commercial on television while I was reading last night made it clear that little has changed in the ninety years since it was written. Evangeline Knapp is the envy of her friends. She's never been pretty, but she has style. Her husband doesn't make much money, but she is a perfect housekeeper, a perfect cook, a perfect seamstress. What no-one knows is that she is miserable with the endless round of housework she forces herself to do. When, after a ter ...more
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An important novel about parenting and the value of being a home maker. The mother, Evangeline, in the novel works hard at being the perfect home maker to the detriment of her children. Her desire for perfection stems from her frustrations at the limits society has placed on her as a stay at home mother. An incident occurs that results in her husband Lester becoming the stay at home parent while Evangeline goes out to work. The family undergoes enormous change and the children begin to blossom. ...more
It's amazing to me that even though women have more options now than they did when this book was written in 1924, many things have not changed. The author did an incredible job outlining gender-specific roles within a family and what happens when social norms don't work for certain individuals or families. Eva's interaction with her family changed substantially when circumstances took her into a less traditional role in the family. The petty prying of neighbors and their expectations of how fami ...more
Jeff Luce
I can't believe this was written in the 1920s. What's even more amazing is that we are still so stuck. Myth of progress, I guess. If you are lost in your marriage and society's predefined role for you, read this book and start listening to yourself.
Loved loved loved the book! The first section was frustrating because I recognized a bit too much of myself in it - but as the story progressed, there are some fabulous twists. Wonderful commentary on marriage and childrearing - an absolute must read!
This book was unlike anything else I've ever read. Written almost a century ago, but way ahead of its time, the author explores gender roles and presents an argument for individuals to follow their own, specific, unique path according to the gifts and abilities (or lack thereof) they've been given. I don't feel it was an affront to stay-at-home mothers, because it teaches how very important a homemaker's role is, but definitely invites thoughtful consideration on whether or not one is suited to ...more
Anna Karenina famously opens with the line, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." This duality reminds me of the Knapp family. On one hand, the Knapps represent that image of a happy family, a family that we all aspire to. Evangeline is the perfect home-maker and a supermom. The Knapp home is beautiful and spotless and their dinner table is filled with the best home-cooked meals. They must be happy and content, right?

But as we get to know the Knapps, we c
Best known for her children's novel, "Understood Betsy", and also for her non-fiction works such as "Montessori Mother", Fisher wrote many novels for adults, including this one first published in 1924, in which she fleshes out her insights and philosophy while digging at the roots of some of our most deeply held prejudices.

The work, as a whole, prompted me to examine my own experiences and philosophies as a wife, mother, and creative individual.

I won't attempt to introduce characters or summariz
Eighty-five years ago this book was scandalous. Today, the Home-maker is still a poignant critique of gender-roles and social expectations. Woman earn more than men, men stay home with the baby, but there is still the pervading sense that both are betraying who they were born to be. I remember being advised in 1996 by my supervisor to reconsider a career in archaeology because it necessitated so much time away from home, making it difficult to "have a family". Dr. C herself had been divorced bec ...more
Jul 07, 2009 Susann rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I can see why Persephone says this is popular among book groups.
Shelves: persephone
Mom may keep the cleanest house in town but, in doing so, she makes her whole family and herself miserable. Dad is a poet/dreamer, completely unsuited for his office job. All seems lost until an Event happens which causes the roles to reverse.

Fisher (a champion of the Montessori method) shows us how we can each blossom when given the opportunity to pursue our own paths. It's pure delight to watch the Knapp family grow, and to watch Lester watching his children and nurturing each one individuall
I loved this book, which I got from Persephone. The story is one that any modern woman (or man, for that matter) can understand and empathize with, despite the fact that the book was published in 1924. Evangeline is a loving mother but is simply not suited, temperamentally, to raising her three children. She is lauded in their small community for her dedication as a "home-maker," but in reality, her home is an unhappy one. Her husband, Lester, a dreamy man who loves literature and poetry, toils ...more
Really enjoyed this interesting book about splitting domestic tasks and paying work. Eva is a full-time mum and homemaker. She's very house proud, copes really well with very few resources (she's able to recycle clothes and furniture to look better than most people's new stuff) and she always has home cooked food on the table. The trouble is Eva is frustrated by the never ending housework and it has taken on such importance that she's missing out on doing things with the kids. She's unhappy (but ...more
Fascinating book. The idea that the author is putting forward is wrong (see proclamation on the family), however there is much to think about in reading this. Her idea is that it is irrelevant who is in the home to care for the children and who is providing for the family, as long as it is a parent. Her argument for this is flawed in that it is a simplistic picture she paints and real alternatives to the difficulties faced by the main characters are available that would preserve the roles each i ...more
Nona Raines
I enjoyed this book and felt that it still had a very important message, especially in light of the "mommy wars". Evangeline is uptight and obsessive about housework and is terribly unhappy in her role, though she tries her best not to let it show. She's also bitterly disappointed in her husband Lester, who is a dreamer and just can't seem to advance in the working world. He, too, is miserable and feels like an utter failure.

When Lester has an accident and is unable to return to work, his wife b
Jul 03, 2010 Consuela rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
A lot has been written about how this book, written in 1924 (I think) was so "ahead of its time." Perhaps. The story is summarized on the back cover: a traditional family with 3 children, where the mother stays home and the father goes out to work, is turned upside down when the father is injured and can't work outside the home. The mother then goes to work, thus going against the traditional roles. But there is so much more to this book. I've never read a writer who could get so inside the char ...more
Am currently reading an original copy published in 1924. Judging by the aged date stamps, this book was heavily read in Minneapolis throughout 1941 & 1942, when women were working outside the home for the war. Hmmm...

This is a book that deserves a wider readership because its central drama is one that still echoes in society. Eva Knapp is devoted to keeping house & her children in line--but is miserable. Her children cringe from the 'waves of revolt, and exasperation' that roll off her.
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500 Great Books B...: The Home-Maker - Dorothy Canfield 1 3 Jul 27, 2014 07:42PM  
  • They Were Sisters
  • Greenery Street
  • Lady Rose and Mrs. Memmary
  • Miss Ranskill Comes Home
  • Saplings
  • The Fortnight in September
  • Good Evening, Mrs Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes
  • Family Roundabout
  • Little Boy Lost
  • William - An Englishman
  • Mariana
  • Few Eggs and No Oranges: The Diaries of Vere Hodgson 1940-45
  • The Crowded Street
  • The Shuttle
  • Tea with Mr. Rochester
  • Consequences
  • The Far Cry
  • The Blank Wall
Dorothy Canfield Fisher (February 17, 1879 – November 9, 1958) was an educational reformer, social activist, and best-selling American author in the early decades of the twentieth century. She strongly supported women's rights, racial equality, and lifelong education. Eleanor Roosevelt named her one of the ten most influential women in the United States. In addition to bringing the Montessori meth ...more
More about Dorothy Canfield Fisher...
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“How he loathed his life-long slavery to the clock, that pervasive intimate negative opposed to every spontaneous impulse. "It's the clock that is the nay-sayer to life," he thought” 1 likes
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