Sometimes, and not in gloomier moments either, we get the impression that the merits of a given work might very well stand in inverse proportion to the author's acknowledgments which accompany it. Take this story about a young middle-class New York woman coming to maturity against the background of the Civil War. Van-Loon generously cites the people who have helped her, the ""hundreds of historians"" to whom she is indebted and the many libraries and museums she visited. It all shows--as if a guide were pointing out the various sites and conditions and the numbers involved. She's got the hard facts but the story itself is definitely soft core. The heroine, Beth Shepherd, comes from a comfortable, tolerant family--they have friends of all persuasions. She longs, however, to break out of the conventional mold. She tries teaching in the city and in rural Pennsylvania, she is a nurse at Gettysburg, an observer during the New York Draft Riots, a sympathizer with the suffragettes. But despite these events her biggest moments have to do with her sexual awakening. Though she denies it she is a belle even if she is given credit by her dearest friend for being ""the brainy one."" Her romantic life and her aspirations do eventually get sorted out and that might have been enough. But Van-Loon attempts to work it into a grand crescendo involving the rough beauty and history of the country as well. Margaret Mitchell knew better than that.