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Posted February 20, 2009
I was drawn to Margaret by the cover of a smiling girl in 1800's pioneer garb and the summary on the back promising an intriguing love story. It was disappointing to find that it was severely lacking in the former and poorly written in the latter. It was also a bit startling to find that even though it stated clearly it was a love story it seemed to be written for children in the late elementary grades due to the simplicity of the writing style and the absence of a momentous plotline.
Margaret is the story of a fictional girl of the same name who decides to uproot her posh Chicago lifestyle to become a one-room schoolteacher in the fields of Nebraska. Boarding with a melancholic elderly couple, she quickly finds that her dreams of being an inspiring mentor to a small group of well-mannered children were all a product of fanciful thinking. But with the help of a fellow teacher, with whom she shares many similarities, and a kindhearted though illiterate farmer's son, she may find the hidden reserve of courage needed to overcome all obstacles.
For me, personally, Margaret could have been so much more if the author had taken the time to lengthen the story and develop the characters. The heroine and her fellow minors came off being extremely two-dimensional to such a point that you never succeed in developing an emotional attachment to any of them. The students under her care are never much more than vague, stereotypical troublemakers. And despite the summary on the back of the book declaring perils, Margaret is never truly in any immediate danger and certainly never forced to prove herself worthy of any praise. The declaration of love at the end is also profoundly abrupt, giving off the vibe of being suddenly created merely as an afterthought. The fact that pioneer America is used as nothing more than a romantic background for the story, the author not bothering to disclose any true historical content, was the biggest shock of all.
Despite all of my ranting, this book would probably be perfect for a younger audience, such as those of the upper elementary grades. There is only the most minimal descriptive language so there's no danger of boosting anyone's vocabulary. It's nothing more than a simple story chronicling the day-to-day life of a girl who is not remarkable or significant in any way, despite what everyone else in the story hypnotically says.
Please don't pick up this book expecting the next Anne of Green Gables or a riveting account of frontier life as I did; you will be sorely disappointed. But do recommend it to any young friends who are a tad too young for a serious love story. They'll probably find it an enjoyable read.