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Sarton's adoring fictional Portrait of a teacher and friend, here given the name of Jane Reid, granddaughter of a famous American poet and writer, Benjamin Trueblood. (This book is dedicated to Anne Longfellow Thorp.) Jane Reid, born in 1896, a Vassar graduate, became known to the narrator, Cam, when Jane taught seventh grade at a Cambridge, Massachusetts, progressive school, demanding excellence of her students yet always supPorting and giving. Through interviews, reminiscences and meditative digressions, Cam explores the many aspects of a vivacious, loving, adventurous and compassionate individual. She follows Jane's career--teaching, post WW I in a French orphanage, social work in Germany after WW II. But mainly Cam settles on memories of Jane's giving her support when Cam's lover, Ruth, died and the days of joyous friendship on the Reid family's island off the Maine coast as Jane cosseted a stream of visitors: her former colleagues; a woman whom Jane had loved (who didn't love back); a pack of children; weary friends in need of rest. Certainly Jane, with her Puritan self-discipline, ""married to a sense of adventure,"" buried her real self in rose petals of praise for others, while underlining Sarton's own views on the nuances of female society and female sexuality. ""Jane's attitude toward women was chivalrous (there she was always romantic), toward men humorously maternal, never taking them quite seriously, perhaps, and toward children, childlike."" She was a ""free spirit. . .not the marrying kind."" There are promising areas left untouched--for example, Jane's later failure as a teacher, when poignantly ""the children outgrew her."" The real ""Jane"" here seems swallowed in worship. A meandering but heartfelt tribute with a feminist slant that Sarton's many followers will anticipate, and appreciate.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1985
Publisher: Norton