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Road To Revelation > Road to Revelation ( aka Winter Harvest)

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message 1: by Barbara (last edited Jul 17, 2016 08:46PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2233 comments This is an early NL, in published in 1941, ie well into WW2 in the UK. It must have been a blessing to readers old and new, a well written exciting book placed far away from the awful contemporary times .
The times it describes and features are pretty awful too of course and the sense of displacement and and sometimes desperate hope for a better future must have resonated with many.

It's one of my favourite NLs ( though I say that all the time so it's hardly worth anything really! ) as it skilfully weaves the wider social times , in both England and America with the several lives of the women, men and families it follows.
Typically for NL the minor characters are as fascinating as the major whether their actions are mere backdrop, or almost as deus ex machina - a bit like a play or film where you would love to to see a sequel featuring a person whose role was minor but caught at your imagination anyway .

I think RTR can be fairly described as an epic , though the hero is a little ambiguous and perhaps in any case, is not the only hero of the journey. But a journey it certainly is, starting from various points and including several disparate people under the initially reluctant leadership of Kevin Furmage, a man whose vision is to find and travel the legendary new road through the mountains to the golden lands of California.

The book is divided into three , The Road, The People and The Revelation, with the Road section being short, the People quite long and Revelation also fairly long . I tentatively propose we discuss it in reasonably big chunks , with the first being all of The Road then maybe Mahitabel Smith and Nancy Jurer's stories, and then similar sized chunks thereafter .
Do you think that is a reasonable amount at a time? Do say if not.


message 2: by Sallie (new)

Sallie | 315 comments Winter Harvest was the title I remember. Rather a grim choice considering the content! Hope my copy arrives today -the RTR title.


message 3: by Jenny (new)

Jenny H (jenny_norwich) | 472 comments This is NL at her best! You are absolutely there with her characters, down to the grit under their fingernails, and though I have no idea how much she actually knew about C19th America, you believe it, totally. And here she is again getting so totally under the skin of her 'villains' that your heart aches for the children they once were even as you hate them for what they have become.
I am so looking forward to seeing what other people think.


message 4: by Marie (new)

Marie | 126 comments I'm excited to join in. This will be my first discussion. I've read "The Road" and begun "The People." Looking forward to sharing!


message 5: by Robin (new)

Robin Grant | 79 comments I just joined the group so this is my first discussion, too. I have all the NL books on my shelf so I went and found this one to re-read last night, but it's odd. I don't remember reading this one. I started reading NL over 40 years ago and have re-read my favorites over and over and was pretty sure I had read almost everything she's written. It will be interesting to see if Winter Harvest begins to come back to me. And how I like it. If I did read it all those years ago, it must not have been a favorite, obviously. :)


message 6: by Peggy (last edited Jul 19, 2016 05:41PM) (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 936 comments Welcome, Marie and Robin. Always great to hear from new members too.


message 7: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Jenny, I love your statement that "your heart aches for the children they once were [the villains] even as you hate them for what they have become." Maybe this is why NL's characters become so real to us.

Marie and Robin, so great to have new members to join in the discussions! Robin, it seems like so many of us who have collected NL's books for a lifetime, occasionally discover one that we acquired and then somehow set it aside - and we feel like we just discovered a treasure! In a way, I hope you never read it.

I consider this title a departure from NL's usual tales, especially since it is set basically in the 19th century USA, but it is well written and unforgettable, even if not her most popular book.

I was struck by the ominous tone in the very first paragraph, which speaks of the late July "premonitory chill in the air." We are beginning this discussion in late July, and right now most of the US is under heat advisories. Something told the travelers that this might be an unusual winter ahead. "...there was a secret sense of summer's passing, of a season grown old, of threatening change." That statement sends a chill through the soul!


message 8: by Barbara (last edited Jul 19, 2016 07:36PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2233 comments Hi everyone old and new , how lovely to 'see ' you all!
I'm so glad too that many of us remember RTR with such pleasure, albeit a grim kind of of pleasure!

I'm usually get very cross about title changes from NL originals and have yet to see one for the better, but Winter Harvest IS a good alternative isn't it ?

I do so agree with Jenny and Sylvia about the masterful way in which the scene is set, both in terms of the young people who will become the unforgettable adults and the literal scene , with its whispering promise of the deadly weather and conditions .
ahead .

I think Mahitabel is one of literature's best heroines, not just one of NLs best . Where Ben proposes and is amazed she listened to him, there is a bit about only he , being a lover, remembers the high spirited intensely popular girl she has been. And her acceptance , starting "there was a man.." . So completely typical that she should feel she had to tell him. She is wonderful then and in the days to come . Can't you just see her, managing her family , supporting Bad Luck Ben..... etc. Yet there is that complex NL touch - she, doesn't really know her eldest children quite as as well as she thinks...

And Kevin, the visionary , he is almost visble to us on his good horse Persephone isn't he?

PS, are the discussion sections OK?


message 9: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments I like the plan, Barbara. Let us know when we've been "on the road" long enough!


message 10: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2233 comments Sylvia wrote: "I like the plan, Barbara. Let us know when we've been "on the road" long enough!"

Goodo. The Road plus Mahitabel should produce some good stuff. Then we do Nancy Jurer and Cordy Warren I thought ?


message 11: by Sallie (new)

Sallie | 315 comments My book STILL hasn't arrived in the mail! Think I'll run up to the main library in Harrisonburg today to see if, by chance, they have a copy. Plan sounds good. Hope I will be able to join in soon.


message 12: by Barbara (last edited Jul 20, 2016 11:33PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2233 comments Sallie wrote: "My book STILL hasn't arrived in the mail! Think I'll run up to the main library in Harrisonburg today to see if, by chance, they have a copy. Plan sounds good. Hope I will be able to join in soon."
I hope so too Sallie, when you do, please feel free to comment on anything from the beginning even if we have moved on . Fingers crossed for you.

Meanwhile , what do others think of Mahitabel? (love that name ) Are you a fan ofher as I am?


message 13: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 936 comments It's wonderful that Lofts draws us immediately into the story and outlines the different personalities so vividly. Sometimes when there are a lot of characters in a book, it is hard at first to keep track but not in this book,

The way that Nancy Jurer summed up Kevin's personality, yet missed the "hidden fanatic", how Abe was able to see Dave Glenny's personality in the way his animals shrunk away from him, and the camaraderie of the groups sitting around the campfire, drinking coffee. You are almost there with them.

Mahitable is a great character. She reminds me of Deborah from Gad's Hall and to some degree, Marion from Lovers All Untrue.

Is the young boy with Dave Glenny and Lou their son, do you think? He doesn't seem fatherly to him at all.


message 14: by Marie (new)

Marie | 126 comments Peggy, I'm so pleased that you also are reminded of Marion. Such moments are part of what I love about Lofts' artistry. It strikes me, suddenly, how many people I've met in her novels.
Mahitabel's and Marion's internal struggles and "brave face" moments show vividly the social strictures faced by young women.

The shopkeeper is nicely drawn: I deplored his greed and indifference to the travelers' stories, but realized that he would be unrealistic and distracting were he characterized more sympathetically.

I haven't read RTR/WH since before cell phones became common. The isolation is more powerful for me this time because I've grown to expect the comfort of constant contact.

Dave Glenny reminds me of another NL character (name/novel forgotten) who was described as "a hard man. Hard on hisself, hard on others."


message 15: by Barbara (last edited Jul 22, 2016 11:51PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2233 comments Marie wrote: "Peggy, I'm so pleased that you also are reminded of Marion. Such moments are part of what I love about Lofts' artistry. It strikes me, suddenly, how many people I've met in her novels.
Mahitabel's ..."

I missed the likeness to Marion, and on reflection and with respect I have to confess I don't quite it see really. I think Mahitabel is a far more upright and moral character and even when she was having (unmarried) sex with the awful Barney , she did it not out of mere concupiscence , but out of a sort of innocent and wholehearted abandonment to love.
Deborah yes, I can see that !

I wonder if the 'hard man ' you are thinking of is Pratt in Nethergate? That's interesting Marie , both warped - Pratt by pain and physical torment , and Dave Glenny by early experiences and influences... hmmmmm

I do agree Peggy , the deft way in which we are led to see we see Dave Glenny though Abe's eyes, and the ambiguous position of Lou and Dave's little boy.
And Nancy too, that women who was the best judge of men in the state. Up to a point !

Are we ready to move on to Nancy and Cordy?


message 16: by Marie (new)

Marie | 126 comments Oh, Barbara, thank you for remembering Pratt/Nethergate!
You're right, of course, about moral character: Mahitabel's youthful behavior reflects the devout woman she became. I admire her wholeheartedly. I wonder how Nancy, Cordy, and, later, Dave, will stack up?

I'm ready for the next discussion section.


message 17: by MaryC (new)

MaryC Clawsey | 709 comments Jenny wrote: " . . . though I have no idea how much she actually knew about C19th America, you believe it . . . ."

Her depiction certainly rings true with this American! In fact, I've always liked and admired her depiction of American characters in general--much more natural than Daphne DuMaurier's or even Agatha Christie's. Of course, 20th century British writers overall had got over making their American characters begin every other sentence with "I guess" or peppering their speech with expressions like "durn tootin'.":)

Incidentally, my husband and I recently audio-read A Study in Scarlet. It might be interesting to compare the middle section of that book (the part set in Utah) with RTR/WH.


message 18: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Durn tootin', Mary! After reading all of these great comments, I can't come up with anything so enlightening, so I will just add that the name "Mahitabel" is from the Biblical Hebrew name, Mehetabel, wife of Hadad, King of Edom, and her name meant "favored by God" or "God rejoices." I consider RTR's Mahitabel the heroine of the epic, everybody turning to her for wisdom and survival, and I doubt anyone would have survived the ordeal without her.


message 19: by Barbara (last edited Jul 24, 2016 02:50AM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2233 comments Thanks for the note about Mahitabel's name Sylvia - not at all a random choice either by her parents or NL I would think . Like Ben or Abe for that matter.

I completely agree with your assessment of Mahitabel as the heroine, unambiguously. The choices and decisions she is called upon to make and to which she infallibly rises are enough to make even an unbeliever see the power of faith. The last paragraph of her story is masterful I think , more especially as NL wasn't a particularly devout woman , but goodness she could write!

Nice little touch when she takes on Mr Cooper isn't it, that she speaks and deals directly with him, gently but firmly showing everybody else in the room who is in charge.

I like too, the part where NL does another bit of foreshadowing , when she says that even the rather unpleasant trading post owner, much as he hated her managing and thrifty ways would not have wished on Mahitabel the ordeal that she and the others would undergo.


message 20: by Robin (new)

Robin Grant | 79 comments Hi, all. First let me say I am so happy that this book was chosen for my first discussion with this group—because it is apparently one of the very few NL books I haven’t read—and I didn’t even remember that an unread one was lurking there on my shelf. After looking at the old paperback copy I have, I think I vaguely remember why I never read it. 1) The back cover is very misleading, purposefully so. It has a line from the introduction in quotes that says something like, “The Donner party set out…” Then has a list of this book’s characters, then another line about the Donner party. So I partly felt it was one of NL’s dramatized historical books, which I never liked as much. And I really didn’t care to read about the Donner party. But this is pure Norah Lofts, and actually a new story to me!

I absolutely see Mahitabel’s resemblance to Marion, but with a twist—how they reacted and how their lives progressed after they were disillusioned by love and jilted. And after their prayers to save them from the disgrace of an unwed pregnancy were answered. The experience made Mahitabel more somber, but also stronger and wiser and she used it. Marion kept trying to wrestle control of events, even to the point of murder, and her course of action eventually unhinged her. But I think part of the difference is the way they were raised. Mahitabel’s parents loved her, gave her spiritual grounding, and even when she appeared, to their way of thinking, to be running wild didn’t try to control her to the point of breaking her. That is certainly not true of poor Marion’s home life.

I have just started reading the section on Dave Glenny so I can’t say yet whether he resembles Pratt. At the point I’m reading, he seems a very nice little boy who has just gone to work with his great uncle. It makes me sad to think what I’m afraid he’s going to become.


message 21: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 936 comments Yes, Robin, excellent points about Mahitabel and Marion and glad you mentioned the factors of the difference in their upbringing.


message 22: by Barbara (last edited Jul 24, 2016 07:07PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2233 comments Hi Robin, yes and glad you mentioned the Donner expedition too. It most emphatically is not about that , NL says she had read George R Stewart's Ordeal By Hunger , but it had merely given her the idea and some geographical/historical data.

OK , shall we move to Nancy Jurer and Cordy Warren ? Shall we do Dave Glenny with them? That would bring us to The Revelation. Or is that too much, too fast? I'll just do do a bit of Nancy till I get your inputs.

I think I enjoyed , if that is the right word, Nancy Jurer's story as much or more than as any of them. I find the recreation and depiction of the Tighle St ménage perfectly fascinating , is it meant to be New Orleans do you think? I guess the London equivalent for established, discreetly- housed mistresses would be St Johns Wood
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/h...

Poor young Nancy never had a chance really (not that I condone the woman she became) but what else could she have done ? Indeed what else did she know ?
In the convent school " wrong clothes to wear, wrong words to use, wrong part of town to live... Even her fees were wrong , always a little overdue, made up of odd coins obviously scraped together and handed over by herself "
And of course once her weak , lovesick mother did what she did , well, hardly any act could have cast a child more adrift than that, could it?

And no upbringing could be farther from Mahitabel's - or Marion's, come to that !


message 23: by Sallie (new)

Sallie | 315 comments YayyyyyyyyI Book just arrived...from England! Mystery solved. It had to clear customs.


message 24: by MaryC (new)

MaryC Clawsey | 709 comments Frustrating, isn't it, Sallie? Since there's no duty on books, they shouldn't have to go through customs, but the same thin happened to my husband and me a few years ago when I ordered a book he needed for a class he was taking. Since I ordered it through Amazon, which usually gets books to us even before we expect them, I just trusted that such would be the case with this one. No such luck. It came from somewhere in Asia (don't remember why), and it was evidently shipped in a huge crate containing other things as well, so that we had to wait until everything else in the crate cleared. I imagine that's what happened to your book, too.


message 25: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments All of these character studies are so richly painted! The account of Cordy's mother Mary having to give up her little cottage with its well and its oven (she had so little to begin with), and having to move into a mill's company housing, 2 room houses, identical and in a row, sharing one water pump, and having only a tiny coal stove to heat their measly meals. Not to mention Cordy's father Simon, another "minor" character and yet a book in himself, who was a skilled craftsman, reduced to extreme poverty by machines, and both parents agonizing over the futures of their children. I cried right along with Mary when a man looking for new chimney sweeps questioned her about her boys, and she saw one of his tiny, captive workers across the street, a broken 5 year old, and decided that even the dangerous textile jobs were preferable.

Twelve year old Cordy's .encounter with the starving, begging little boy he met, and saw beaten, when he entered the mill job is always there for me throughout Cordy's story.


message 26: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 936 comments Cordy ranks right up there with Mehitable as one of my favorite characters. The starving little boy tugs at your heartstrings, doesn't he. It's an early sign of Cordy's character that he couldn't be comfortable about the little boy until he tried to help him. So many people would just look the other way. Here I am talking about him like he was a real person!

I'm also reading Lofts' Domestic Life in England and the chapters on the lives of the poor in those days are really bleak.


message 27: by Barbara (last edited Jul 26, 2016 07:25PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2233 comments Oh Peggy and Sylvia , yes, the pathos of it , those poor little boys and girls, and so dreadful to think that it is absolutely drawn from life back then ( and of course for some developing nations still)

Cordy and Nancy were both so loved as children, and their parents, even Nancy's weak mother ( heaven knows who Nancy's father was - not the elderly nobleman who kept her mother I think ? ) did, in their very different ways their best for them. But Nancy's mother's was such a poor best and the example she set such a worthless one . Cordy at least knew protective , real parental love under the worst of circumstance and the values he imbued were poles apart from Nancy's .

I think of them as real too Peggy, NL is the master of characterisation for me.


message 28: by Sylvia (last edited Jul 30, 2016 09:08PM) (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!

Another traveler who came from caring, responsible parents was Dave Glenny. He was 11 when his maternal Uncle Tom, an apothecary in London, invited the boy to be his apprentice. This chapter gives us a date which sets Dave's birthdate in 1801. Dave's Welsh family had sent a request for help to this relatively wealthy uncle during a desperate time, but he did not respond at all, so when he wrote, offering this position to their eldest son, mother Megan distrusted him, thinking he only wants cheap labor. But Dave's tired father saw hope that Dave might break the vicious cycle of penury and felt he must take this chance.

When Dave arrived in London, he was an innocent 11 year old. By the time he was 13, he knew the more sordid facts of life, and he knew how Uncle Tom made the bulk of his money. The uncle was miserly with his stash of coins kept under his bed, but he was generous with food and clothes and a very occasional coin for Dave to "go out and enjoy himself." Dave's malleable nature slowly accepted that just about any deed was acceptable if it paid well.

When Dave was 16 and made a part of the "treatment" sought by a Marchioness for her pregnant daughter, in this girl Dave felt the first stirrings of possibilities between a man and a woman, in her touch, her trust, and her fear. But after his uncle's botched surgery killed her, he was able to dismiss those concerns for the girl and assist his uncle in ridding themselves of her body and making up a plausible tale. In 5 years, the 11 year old who loved and respected his mother and worked hard to learn to read and to help his father on the farm, had evaporated. His life following took a turn that earned him the nickname of "a hard nut."


message 29: by Barbara (last edited Jul 30, 2016 08:08PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2233 comments Nice summaries Sylvia !

Dave Glenny I always think of as the nastiest character NL ever created. ( though actually I think the boy in House at Old Vine who killed the old lady , a girl and her baby and let his friend, the girls husband take the blame was the real worst )

But Dave Glenny was so truly warped by his dreadful uncle wasn't he? After the tragic scenario with the abortion , Dave's uncle performed - and Dave's actions after - he steps into a serious villain role, young as he is.

Would Cordy have been so warped by these experiences ? I think not , because Cordy's conscience was awakened and live and well . And Dave's somehow never kicked in. (I have to say here I love Cordy, I grew up in exactly the countryside he did and 200 years earlier could have been his sister)

The mill scenes and the abortion/chemist's apprentice scenes are are masterful writing don't think ? And set up so believably the men these two boys became .


message 30: by Sylvia (last edited Jul 31, 2016 11:02AM) (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments I agree, Barbara. These two are so real , they breathe! Yes, I think Cordy's conscience was tender and mature by the time he entered the mill. Unlike the little girl who casually explained that Timmy always begged without a drop of her sympathy, Cordy could not ignore suffering. Wasn't he 11 or 12, about the same age as Dave when he came to London?

NL gave us some insight as to why Glenny never developed a conscience. His account tells us, "Neither of his parents had had the time or the surplus energy to bother about Dave's soul or psychology." When he departed from home, his father told him to remember his prayers and be a good boy. His mother only warned him that in London, he would probably be required to use a fork!

I can't remember the account you mentioned from The House At Old Vine, and the Suffolk Trilogy is my absolute NL favorite! It's awful when you've lost half of your grey cells.


message 31: by Robin (new)

Robin Grant | 79 comments Sylvia wrote: "I can't remember the account you mentioned from The House At Old Vine, and the Suffolk Trilogy is my absolute NL favorite!."

I can't either at the moment, Sylvia--although like you, it's amazing how much of this stuff I forget. I'm re-reading a couple of NL books I only read a couple of years ago and have forgotten so much! I do, however, remember in that trilogy the little girl who allowed the monk to starve to death in the wall where he had been hidden. That little girl grew to be an old lady and was a major player in the book, I remember. I think she was the most disturbing NL character to me!

Like that little girl, I think Dave Glenny was a bit warped from the start or he wouldn't have become hardened so quickly. NL has written a lot of characters who go through really terrible times and don't turn so rotten. Although come to think of it, maybe the easy life offered by his uncle (as someone else said, anything for a price) was more prone to warp a child than deprivation.


message 32: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 936 comments Good point that there are other ways to warp a child besides being poor and deprived. Like Dave growing up with a uncle who dabbled on the shady side, cheated people, and emphasized the freedom of a "love 'em and leave 'em" life or Nancy's mother making her daughter an outcast at the school , with the scraping up of fees and inappropriate clothes, and then leaving her totally alone with no other family to step in.


message 33: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Hi Robin. I went so far as to look up the name of the little girl who let the hidden priest die, and she was Elizabeth Kentwoode, who was not, I believe, beloved of anybody. I also vaguely remember the priest's bones being discovered several hundred years later, in another "Layer Wood/Suffolk book! I love those unexpected bits of information that NL inserts in other titles.

I hate to admit that I reread RTR entirely just 4 months ago, and still have to find passages and reread to even make a comment! I'm not sure that Glenny had "an easy life" with Uncle Tom because he seemed to be kept busy with chores, errands, and gradually assisting in sordid surgeries, but the very first night he was fed at Uncle Tom's table, the young Glenny had never in his life been given such a choice of foods and in such abundance, even at Christmas, and I wonder if that was the beginning of his new value system.

I agreed with Barbara that both Cordy and Nancy had caring mothers, in very different aspects, but after rereading some of Nancy's account, I am feeling like Nancy's mother, though understandably heart-broken, raised her daughter (or rather, allowed the convent school to raise her) in a distracted, self- serving way. She didn't even withhold enough of her patron's money for Nancy's tuition, but handed it over to her worthless lover, and this irresponsibility caused Nancy to be friendless and mistreated at school. And when her mother committed suicide, how did she expect her daughter to live? I think she did love her, but loved her lover more.


message 34: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Sorry, Pegs! I was writing my two cents while you were, and said some of the same things! We are all really driving it home that childhood influences, lack of good examples, and sometimes no guidance at all push those lumps of clay in every direction!

By the age of 13, Nancy could see right through the seemingly kindly intentions of her Sister teacher, who tried to probe information from this product of Tighe St. Nancy realized that just a few years before, she would have spilled her heart out to this Sister, but now she saw the power of withholding information.


message 35: by Marie (new)

Marie | 126 comments I'm so enjoying the insights here. There was a comment early in the thread referring to the full, rounded humanity of even minor characters. Nancy's mother and Dave's erstwhile fiancée are just two examples: both women made "romantic" choices that pushed Nancy and Dave to become hardened and self reliant in cruel ways. After fifty years of reading NL, I'm seeing her world view, thanks to this discussion.

I see clearly now the differences between the chronic, corrosive poverty of the Glenny family and the Warrens' straitened, but manageable finances (when Mr. Warren still had work). Hunger changes society because empathy and conscience are luxuries to people living wth the specter of starvation.

Another minor character who bears out the societal ills caused by hunger was the pickpocket mentor of the little Hatton girl whose father gambled. The book's title escapes me. I fell that, albeit indirectly, NL crusaded for social justice. A parallel message in her writing is the transformative power of literacy.


message 36: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments So many wonderful points here, Marie. I particularly love your last point about NL's message of the "transformative power of literacy." I don't think I've ever considered how almost every title contains some instance of education, even if it is only a child being tutored at home or at the vicarage.

You call to mind the early instance of Glenny when he was still at home, having only had a few years of school but learning the rudiments of reading. His family admired his singular ability to decipher Uncle Tom's letter.


message 37: by Barbara (last edited Aug 02, 2016 06:55PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2233 comments I so agree Sylvia, with many things but particularly with your comment on your lovely phrases Marie. "The chronic, corrosive poverty ......" for eg.

Perhaps more than any book NL in RTR, I think, explores how a mixture of 'nature and nurture' to use a terribly hackneyed phrase works. Dave was innocent , but even then he enjoyed seeing his mother angry so long as he wasn't the target . Just as at the same age Cordy couldn't bear Timmy's hunger, and and Nancy, almost in self harm, moved the pin along her hated hemming task.
Something , NL says, was already in all of them that circumstances and social pressures brought to full fruition in adulthood. What would Cordy have done if he had been made an apprentice to the egregious Uncle Tom one wonders? Not become Dave that is for sure . But would his early home life and innate decency have saved him altogether ...?

And so their lives unfold. I think perhaps Dave and Nancy fared better in purely selfish terms, both devoid of conscience and empathy pretty much. Cordy had his brief sparkling, doomed happiness with Susie. And of course before that , some satisfaction at changing the dreadful conditions of millworkers - though that was heavily leavened with failure and defeat. He seems to have got no real joy from his children, and while Ruth became a total pain in the arse, she did have a very legitimate grievance.

The beginning of the journey is masterfully written isn't it?. All the minor , but important characters, the wonderful Floribel Toit , the future multilayered hero Abe, Joe Sterry , Hendryx, Scanty and Janna - everybody. I feel I can see the campfires, the wagons carefully drawn up as social ranking and respectability dictates , the gradual loosening of parental authority etc .

I'm thinking the next section of discussion can cover all that, up to the part where it starts to snow. Does that sound OK?

PS, Felicity Hatton was the pickpocket I think, in House at Old Vine.


message 38: by Marie (new)

Marie | 126 comments Ah! Thank you!


message 39: by Jenny (new)

Jenny H (jenny_norwich) | 472 comments Barbara wrote: "Cordy had his brief sparkling, doomed happiness with Susie. And of course before that , some satisfaction at changing the dreadful conditions of millworkers - though that was heavily leavened with failure and defeat. He seems to have got no real joy from his children, and while Ruth became a total pain in the arse, she did have a very legitimate grievance. "

I can't help feeling that Cordy's kindness was ill-repaid in many respects, and there is a sense of failure hanging about him all along. The struggle for worker's rights seemed to get nowhere in his lifetime and, as one person shouted out to him "You only make things worse!"
And his marriage is another example. When Ruth's longing to be married causes her to see his remark as a proposal, he simply hasn't the heart to make things clear to her and it's that which sets off the whole disaster. In fact, it's because Susie needs his help that their relationship becomes so dangerously close (it would never have happened with a competent woman like Mahitabel or Nancy!).
Cordy's defining virtue seems at this point to be his greatest weakness.


message 40: by Barbara (last edited Aug 03, 2016 11:11PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2233 comments Jenny said
"Cordy's defining virtue seems at this point to be his greatest weakness"

Perhaps it a could be it could be said of him - that damning phrase - "he meant well" . He is a pretty tragic charater in some way isn't he. Nothing he does really prospers and as NL comments of him, he actually despite all, was not a good leader . Though a good, good man . His only hint of worldliness seem to be the rather sharp-practice deal he made over selling the paper.
As a slight aside , I was amused at Abe's finding Cordy's unhandiness typical of a 'Limey'.

And so on with the journey , through the dreadful Valley of Brambles, through Dave Glenny's mad selfishness, and Nancy simple selfishness and the unfolding of various relationships to that first ominous, caressing snowflake .................


message 41: by Sylvia (last edited Aug 05, 2016 10:02AM) (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Can't you just imagine the wagon train looking down upon what looked like a lush green valley before those brambles came into focus? Mahitabel's quiet example of simply picking up Ben's ax, while the exhausted men breakfasted, and attacking a small tree, may have been one of her first acts that saved the situation, since the following 2 weeks of miserable hacking may have turned into a defeating month or more. Klara's immediate response was as cheering to me as to the travelers.

The very fact that the company was happy to see the return of the hateful but strong Glenny, who just missed the bramble clearing, was a sign that they realized their desperate situation. We will have to give Glenny credit also for moving the clearing work forward, since he chose to work by lantern light, which encouraged Abe's competitive reaction. NL doesn't say it with words, but can we assume that Dave chose to work at night because he knew the others didn't like his company, and he didn't like theirs, or was it just cooler after sunset?


message 42: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments I hope the following will not be considered off our topic. If you are mentally "in the desert" in this reading, some "mood music" might be a good addition to the experience. Several huge hits from the 1930s - 50s that evoke the sights, fears, and hopes of crossing the desert are available on YouTube. They are: "The Shifting, Whispering Sands" by Billy Vaughn (the 6 min. recording has 2 versions and is better), "Cool Water" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" by the Sons of the Pioneers. The colorful word portraits are what is most important in these.

The trick on YT is to find a good HD recording. Some offerings are even live performances, which are great, but the sound can be terrible, especially those taken from the old 78 rpm records!

Any other desert music suggestions?


message 43: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 936 comments Syb, nothing wrong with a little mood music! Thanks for the suggestions.

I want to step back just a bit to Cordy. He should not have married Ruth to avoid hurting her feelings and he showed amazingly little interest in his children. It's sad that he put no effort into his own personal life and had never seen a woman he thought he could love until he met Susie. With all his failures, he was successful with the newspaper; his downfall was his affair with Susie. That would rock a small town. Susie's letter to him was one of the most beautiful passages that I've ever read.

Now to the Road!


message 44: by Sylvia (last edited Aug 07, 2016 12:27PM) (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Cordy's mistake with Ruth reminds me of Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Gouge. A boy meets two sisters (Marianne and Marguerite) who both grow to love him. He loves the younger sister, Marguerite, but gets drunk and sends for the wrong sister and marries her out of kindness.

Of course your assessment of Susie's letter made me go back and find it again, Pegs. If anybody else wants to reread her letter, it is just a few pages before the Glenny account. And it IS very touching. Also her short Easter poem (which is NL's poem).


message 45: by Barbara (last edited Aug 06, 2016 07:06PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2233 comments I'm always happy to go back and revisit interesting areas!

One wonders what would have happened if Susie had revealed her pregnancy to Cordy . Obviously she couldn't stay in the small town, unless prepared for the most dreadful ostracism What would he have done ? Left Ruth ? Part of me feels NL was a little dismissive of Ruth ( and this continues later in the journey) . Yes she was no intellectual and perhaps no great companion for Cordy , but he assuredly did not do the right thing by her.

I think you are right Sylvia, Mahitabel picking up that axe was the first act in a chain of heroism. And a typical NL touch is the subsequent action of Klara , who in her lesser way is also heroic . Her act foreshadows a later act ...not unconnected with undergarments...

PS Sallie, are you out there , did the book come OK ? We miss you .

Now, are we ready for the Revelation?


message 46: by Sallie (last edited Aug 06, 2016 08:00PM) (new)

Sallie | 315 comments I'm here guys!
Have been thinking of one of NL's persistent themes...those who have the least, those in the most dire of straits are the most generous with their meager possessions. Nancy, living in the most comfort and luxury on the trip, hoarded..even hiding life saving water from the children. The group of travelers was emotionally distant from each other, reluctant to share their fears, feelings, hopes for the future. They were aware that they needed each other for survival..even accepting the despicable Dave back into the fold.
Book arrived from Austraila! Can you believe it? Obviously I wasn't paying attention when ordering. Duuuuhhh.


message 47: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Sallie, maybe Barbara sneaked your AU copy into the mail! Speaking of the thought of Suzie announcing her pregnancy, her last words made it probable that she would have adored their child simply because he/she was Cordy's, but we have to wonder if Cordy would have relegated even this child to the background as he did his other children.

Barbara, your hint regarding the undergarment episode to come reminded me of how useful women's slips and all that other yardage came in so handy, at least in books and movies! It was like women were wearing built-in survival kits! (bandages, rags, stopper-uppers, birthing sops, etc.)


message 48: by Barbara (last edited Aug 08, 2016 08:09PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2233 comments Sylvia wrote: "Sallie, maybe Barbara sneaked your AU copy into the mail! Speaking of the thought of Suzie announcing her pregnancy, her last words made it probable that she would have adored their child simply be..."

Well I think they would both have adored the child. I think Cordy's lacklustre fatherhood for his legitimate children by Ruth was because he didn't love her and never had loved her and she was very much a mother who didn't brook input from the father . (not that I'm condoning his actions at all, mind!) But no matter how much he and Susie had loved the child , I think the social aspects would have been insuperable.

Yay Sallie . I would have sent it myself had I known! Well at least you are here for this amazing saga's great last Act .


message 49: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Barbara, now that we are getting deeply into the Revelation segment, I realize that even though I've read RTR twice and again via scanning, I never came to a conclusion regarding what the revelation was. So for me it took two readings plus a "review" and our discussion to come to the conclusion for me. But maybe it is too early to give my opinion until all of us are ready to conclude.

After the early disagreements, the unexpected length of time in the desert, the shooting of Kevin in his arm by Glenny, and the surprise attack of the Indians, the early optimism of the group was gone, but pure stubbornness kept them moving forward.

NL's amazing description of their climb of the steep, marrow gully, and especially the nervousness of the oxen and horses, told us that the worst was not over for them. The near utter destruction they suffered from the cloudburst even made me feel like lying down on the rocks and giving up! But once again they regrouped, gathered together the little bit of food left, treated their wounds, and moved forward. The next four days were clear and sunny, and NL discerns their hopeful thoughts that "perhaps the run of bad luck had ended." !!!!


message 50: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments I had never heard of the "Digger" tribe of American Indians and wondered if this was a fictional name, but they were, and are, from multiple tribes in northern California and several other states. Their formal tribal name is the Maidu, but they were named Diggers because of their habit of digging up roots for food. Their main "harvested" food was acorns, and some tribes kept a grove of oak trees for harvesting acorns. They also ate fish and hunted, but did not farm.

One article said that there were about 100,000 Digger in N. California in 1850, but the tribe was decimated by the white man when gold was discovered in their territories. According to one report from the time of the gold rush, it was unspeakable how the Indians were treated. Their hunting grounds were so depleted that they had to turn to stealing, and this information may may have been a part of NL's research. In 1930, according to the US Census, there were only 93 Maidu left, but they have built up their population to about 3,500 today.

I did not find any reference to their physical size to explain why NL referred to them as little men, but one article said the tribes were stereotyped in the extreme, and they were stigmatized to the point of being considered subhuman. Their tradition of digging a hole about 3 feet deep as a base for their houses gave cruel intruders an excuse to call them moles and rodents.

The Maidu (Diggers) were exemplary basket weavers, making watertight containers, trays, bowls, and even graineries for acorns, from the size of a thimble to 10 feet or more in diameter! Because of their extensive familiarity with plants and roots, they were able to use many colors in the designs on their baskets.


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