Ever since last summer when Kathy at Catching Happiness wrote about Ellen Glasgow's Barren Ground (a book I own myself--a lovely old Modern Library edition that I found at a library sale), I've meant to give her a try. Glasgow is another author who was immensely popular at one time, even won the Pulitzer in 1942, but then faded away into obscurity. By and large her works are no longer in print, though a few are available from the University of Virginia Press (including Vein of Iron), a handful more can be bought in reprint/reproduction editions and a few can be had for free as ebooks.
A native of Virginia, she was schooled at home and published her first book at the age of twenty-four in 1897. It sounds as though she was particularly adept and was most skilled at writing about life in Virginia and the contemporary South. Her later works also dealt with female independence (she was a suffragette for a time). She published nearly two dozen works, and my library owns most of them.
Although I should probably have chosen one of her better known or admired works, I liked the sound of Vein of Iron, which was one of her last books published. The story takes place in the mid-1920s and 1930s. Ada Fincastle falls in love with Ralph McBride, but her happiness is shattered when he's seduced into marrying another girl. Instead of love she turns to work to find fulfillment, but in the end she finds a more mature love. About Vein of Iron, Glasgow wrote:
"For once in Southern fiction the betrayed woman would become the victor instead of the victim."
From the reviews I've read this is a book that begins slowly but builds, but is well worth the the time and effort spent. The review appearing in the New York Times in 1935 called this a story of "striking depth and power".
"This novel is beautifully written. Ellen Glasgow has made herself, from inauspicious beginnings, one o the finest prose stylists of her time. There is in America, no novelist, and few writers of any other description, who can vie with her in the felicitous phrase, carrying its core sharply perceived truth or slowly garnered wisdom. She is, without a doubt, the most fruitfully thoughtful, as she is, upon occasion, the wittiest novelist that this country has yet produced."
High praise indeed. I'm most curious about the setting, rural Virginia as well as how life is depicted in American during WWI and after during the Depression. Glasgow is known more for her highly developed characters and vivid settings than for a fast moving plot. And sometimes that's really preferable.