What I Read This Week – Main Street

I’d been meaning to read this book for years. I’m fascinated with the 1920s and while this book isn’t actually about the 20s, it was a bestseller of that era. The story takes place the decade before and is about of a college educated city woman who marries a village doctor and moves with him to his hometown in rural Minnesota.

She’s a feminist who wants to to make a difference in her newly adopted home. She’s full of modern ideas to make the town a better place. No one cares. The townsfolk prefer to keep things status quo. She longs for culture and a greater purpose but her husband would rather her forget about the highbrow stuff and just be a normal wife. For years she tries to settle in, but can never really accept the narrow minds, gossip and her role as housewife.

The novel was intended to be a satire about small town life in the United States and the tone was a little on the bitter side. I really liked it though. The plot was slow in parts but you couldn’t help but get sucked into the town’s little dramas and scandals. I was never sure who’s side I was on. While I pitied the protagonist at times, she wasn’t really likable. She reminded me of an early 20th century Diane Chambers . The rest of the characters weren’t exactly endearing either, but you had to respect their right to enjoy life in their own way. It takes different strokes, of course

I was impressed at how relevant this novel was, considering the story takes place before the first world war and was published 90 years ago. While I’ve never lived in a small town like the one depicted in the story, I understood the complicated dynamic and politics of being part of any small group. Whether its a classroom, workplace or neighbourhood, if you’ve ever been part of one of these microcosms, on some level, you can relate to Main Street.

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  1. It’s the 20s in general but I haven’t read much British lit of that era. In fact I was looking at the Persephone catalogue and the only saw one familiar author. The Home-Maker looks interesting, I’m going to look for a copy.

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