Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter
I feel that this is a book often overlooked, which is a great shame, for in it I found one of the sweetest stories I have ever read. Having been written over 50 years ago, this little gem has slipped under the radar of most readers. I was lucky enough to stumble across it in an old room of a radio building in which our friends kept a collection of books that they invited us to borrow. Although the English and grammar used are rather old-fashioned and the chapter titles are a sentence, I was thoroughly enchanted with this book from the engaging beginning to the emotional ending.
The author was not only a writer, but also a naturalist, a photographer and conservationalist, all of these aspects are clearly woven into her books, conservation and nature awareness often becoming the focal point.
The main character, Freckles, is a young,one-handed Irish orphan looking for work along the wild fringes of the Limberlost. His pluck and courage impress the ‘boss’ of a large lumber company which hires Freckles to guard the timber in the swamp from robbers who wish to sell the valuable wood to other companies.During the story one grows to love the brave character who fights and braves the terrors of a wild, fearsome swamp to do his job.Written in charmingly, we also meet Mclean, the ‘Boss’, Duncan and his wife who take Freckles in to live with them, the Bird woman – an avid wildlife photographer with enough gumption for ten women and the star that caught Freckles’ eye – the angel. A daughter of a rich businessman who accompanies the Bird Woman on her outings – her sweetness and beauty entrance Freckles, who feels he is not good enough to be loved by her. Dark characters are also introduced, and a sub-story is built in which Freckles is given the chance to prove his true worth and become that much dearer to those who care about him.
Set in the land Stratton-Porter actually grew up in, Freckles explores the wild and untamed beauty of the Limberlost, a great unexplored tract of marshland in Indiana. Conflict and errands take him beyond the confines of the forest and into town, visiting the house of the Bird Woman and meeting the Angel.
During his time as a guard Freckles begins to appreciate the beauty all around him of nature. The stunning plants, curious birds and woodland creatures all become part of a wonderful adventure to him in which he begins to be healed from the scars of a traumatic childhood. The author wrote skillfully – sharing with us the beauties and treasures of the Limberlost, weaving her own knowledge in with the threads of the story.
Not only does the story draw you in and wrap you up in a warm fluffy blanket of adventure and excitement, but also allows you to realize the essential necessities of a good story. Being clear, colourful and masterfully written, I found this book enjoyable and intriguing – never for a moment double guessing the reality of the characters and the story in which they live.
Happily awarding this story four stars. ****