There is ``no shilly-shallying,'' as the author might put it, in this collection by Jewett (1849-1909), the admired New England writer who advised Willa Cather, ``Write it as it is, don't try to make it like this or that. You can't do it in anybody else's wayyou will have to make a way of your own.'' Jewett's way, radiantly evident in these 17 stories, is to observe the verities of New England country life in implicit contrast to an encroaching industrial society. Never the sentimentalist, Jewett also exposes, but gently, the conceits and complacencies of provincial existence, as when elderly sisters in a Maine village whose ``mother's social position was one of superior altitude'' adorn themselves with foolish new hairpieces in ``The Dulham Ladies.'' Her evocation of the natural world is superbly sensitive; equally impressive is her nose for human detail. Jewett was a master whose work (three novels and several collections of stories) Cather rightly called ``almost flawless.'' Illustrations not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Like her best known novel, The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896), Jewett's short stories touch sensitively on places in 19th-century rural New England and on the lives of the inhabitants. We see their habits, actions, and eccentricities just as the narrator and as friends and family see them--sometimes with sympathy, other times with wonder and awe. Mixing humor, realism, mystery, and moralism, these compelling portraits of humanity can be enjoyed by literary scholars and the general public alike. Highly recommended.-- Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick, N.J.
YA-- Since her rediscovery, Jewett has been showing up on many reading lists and research assignments. This book brings together 17 of her short stories written between 1874 and 1900. A few, such as ``A White Heron'' and ``The Courting of Sister Wisby,'' are frequently anthologized, but others, such as the delightful ``Going to Shrewsbury,'' about an old woman's forced relocation and eventual success, and ``Tom's Husband,'' the story of a couple who trade roles, will be new to most readers. Not heavy on plot, Jewett is the master of the ``village sketch,'' telling about the characters and events of backwater regions in detail, with faithfulness to reality. Students wanting research material will find it in the variety of stories and the helpful introduction by Josephine Donovan. Those wanting to step back in time and read of a slower, more neighborly era will find hours of enjoyment as well.-- Carolyn Praytor Boyd, Episcopal High, Bellaire, Tex.