As many of the books that I choose for my lost in the stacks posts are early twentieth century titles and my library removes dust jackets from books, it's unusual for me to find an obscure author/title in such a lovely, new edition like Grace MacGowan Cooke's The Power and the Glory. Cooke (1863-1944) published The Power and the Glory (not to mistake this novel for the one by the same name by Graham Greene--perhaps that's why the title caught my eye on the shelf?) in 1910, and it remains in print in this edition from Northeastern University Press.
Cooke was born in Ohio but was raised in Tennessee eventually settling in Appalachia. After more than 20 years of marriage, which she never felt was quite successful at, she divorced in 1906 to write full time. She had been published at the age of twenty-five in 1888. She began writing stories for magazines and after her divorce supported herself through her writing.
When The Power and the Glory was first published the New York Times gave it a positive review saying it had "undeniable charm". I suppose like so many other authors who were once celebrated and popular, eventually interest in her waned, though it seems as though this one has a little something extra since it is still in print more than a century later. It could be regional appeal, since she writes about the place she knew growing up, but the themes are also higher-reaching. It was, however, the description that made me bring it home.
"A rollicking good read, The Power and the Glory is filled with plot twists and turns that include romance, a lost silver mine, kidnapping, shoot-outs, scheming villains, a wandering chiropractor, and a dramatic automobile chase."
An automobile chase ca. 1910 (hence the great cover image) sounds like fun. I wonder just how fast cars even went in 1910? I read some of the introduction, which had this to say about Johnnie, the heroine of the story:
"In The Power and the Glory, the auto becomes a symbol of all women's capabilities, as Johnnie harnesses technology to get herself and the people she loves out of dangerous situations. Cooke completely rewrites the conventional action plot when Johnnie becomes the rescuing hero, and she does it by putting her heroine in the driver's seat."
Sounds like fun doesn't it? Even a little progressive, too. Along with a dashing heroine who doesn't mind driving at breakneck speed, the novel also deals with the themes of "ecological feminism, social activism, gender roles, and class distinctions." I like heroines who show a little moxie and Johnnie behind the wheel of a car in 1910 sounds like an independent woman indeed.