THE FORGE AND THE FOREST by Betty Underwood

THE FORGE AND THE FOREST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Bernadette, the French orphan of the Tamarack Tree (KR, 1971), has switched schools and is living for a time with abolitionist preacher Robb McIves, a powerfully attractive man despite his strict notions of woman's proper place--so strict, in fact, that his wife has retreated into laudanum addiction to escape them. For a time Bernadette sublimates her crush on McIves by filling her spiritual diary with rapturous tributes to his friend Theodore Weld. She proves her independence by suffering over the plight of the Lithuanian and Swiss ironworkers, whose less dramatic form of slavery is beneath the parson's notice, and in the mill master's naughty but ultimately conformist nephew. Bernadette sees a lot of abolitionist history in the making (the Grimke sisters take her up) and more than one side of stiff-necked Robb McIves. But the author's fond overindulgence of her heroine makes for some sloppy going. No one will really believe that this gift would ever doubt her own incipient beauty. . . and then there's her silent farewell to McIves--""Touch me, her eyes pleaded. . . My darling everything in him cried, why couldn't we?"" Why they couldn't is abundantly obvious throughout and underneath the heavy vibrato, this has character.

Pub Date: April 25th, 1975
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin