Read The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher Online


Although this novel first appeared in 1924, it deals in an amazingly contemporary manner with the problems of a family in which both husband and wife are oppressed and frustrated by the roles they are expected to play. Evangeline Knapp is the perfect, compulsive housekeeper, while her husband, Lester, is a poet and a dreamer. Suddenly, through a nearly fatal accident, theiAlthough this novel first appeared in 1924, it deals in an amazingly contemporary manner with the problems of a family in which both husband and wife are oppressed and frustrated by the roles they are expected to play. Evangeline Knapp is the perfect, compulsive housekeeper, while her husband, Lester, is a poet and a dreamer. Suddenly, through a nearly fatal accident, their roles are reversed: Lester is confined to home in a wheelchair and his wife must work to support the family. The changes that take place between husband and wife and particularly between parents and children are both fascinating and poignant....

Title : The Home-Maker
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780897330695
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Home-Maker Reviews

  • Zanna
    2019-02-02 00:19

    'Oh Lester, let me do that! The idea of your darning stockings! It's dreadful enough your having to do the housework!''Eva darned them a good many years,' he said, with some warmth, 'and did the housework. Why shouldn't I?' He looked at her hard and went on 'Do you know what you are saying to me...? You are telling me that you really think that home-making is a poor, mean, cheap job beneath the dignity of anybody who can do anything else.'Mattie shouted indignantly, 'Lester Knapp, how dare you say such a thing! I never dreamed of having such an awful idea... Home-making is the noblest work anybody can do!''Why pity me then?' asked Lester with a grin, drawing his needle in and out of the little stocking.Evangeline Knapp is perfectly suited to be a successful business woman, while as a home-maker she is micro-managing, overbearing and miserable. Her children are crushed to the point of illness by her impatience and resentment, but her friends pity and admire her. Eva’s husband Lester works in an accounting office, where he is miserable, absent-minded, and disliked by his colleagues. He has the potential to be a sympathetic, nurturing parent who brings creative thought to the problems of housework, and lives his mind’s idle moments in poetic reflection. The enforcement of USian gender roles by the community leaves the family in a bind.The crystal clear scenario so crisply laid out by Dorothy Canfield Fisher is impossible to misunderstand; it is an extended feminist thought experiment that indicts the social body for policing gender, and asserts the value of autonomy. The oppression of Evangeline impacts her family as badly as it does her. Dorothy Canfield Fisher said that this novel was for the rights of children, not for women. This checks out for me – I was more engaged with the children, and while I sympathised with Evangeline, she seemed like a mighty machine at times; cold, powerful, automatic. The novel asserts the importance of innate character traits and drives, and sees the parent as responsible for leading out the potential of the child. Each person, in an ideal world, would be helped by parents to become whole, and then find fullfilment in the right kind of activity.The individualistic philosophy is too strong for my coffee, the (dated) tips on how to be a great salesperson or department store manager too numerous, and the Christian literary quotes and references not to my taste. The style of parenting critiqued here has become duly unfashionable (I am not a parent, so can hardly comment further). Yet, I still enjoyed the book a lot. It reminded me strongly of The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead, which is also a manifesto for the humanity and rights of the child = )

  • Fiona MacDonald
    2019-02-22 22:30

    Firstly; I can understand that is is quite a shocking book of its time. The idea of a woman being employed whilst the father stays at home looking after his children and making the dinner. However, that didn't change the fact that I found it a pretty hard slog. I didn't seem to be getting any closer to finishing despite reading countless pages at each sitting. I do feel the book length could've been shortened. I'm giving it three stars because some pages were wonderfully written, witty, warm and perceptive, whilst others were dull and a pain to get through. I love Persephone books and it won't put me off reading them, but I will probably stay clear of this author in the future.

  • Jane
    2019-01-30 23:16

    The very, very best novels leave me struggling for words, quite unable to capture what it is that makes them so extraordinary.The Home-Maker is one of those novels. It was published in the 1920s, it is set in small town American, and yet it feels extraordinarily relevant.It is the story of the Knapp family – Evangeline, Lester and their children, Helen, Henry and Stephen. A family that was unhappy, because both parents were trapped in the roles that society dictated a mother and a father should play.The word saw Evangeline as the perfect wife and mother. Her house was always immaculate, she was a capable cook, her needlework was flawless, and she had the gift of being to make lovely clothes, and wonderful things for the home, from the simplest materials.The members of the Ladies’ Guild were in awe of her, and they knew that, whatever question they had, Evangeline would have the answer. But they didn’t understand why her husband was so down-trodden, why Helen was so shy, why Henry has ‘a nervous stomach’, or why Stephen was so very naughty.But, if Evangeline’s quest for perfection was unsettling for them it was hell for her family. They had to live with her high standards, her quest for perfection, and she was desperately unhappy at the prospect of endless days of drudgery.“Henry had held the platter tilted as he carried the steak in yesterday. And yet if she had warned him once about that, she had a thousand times! Warned him, and begged of him, and implored him to be careful. The children simply paid no attention to what she said. None. She might as well talk to the wind. Hot grease too! That soaked into the wood so, She would never get it clean.”And Lester was no happier. He hated his job in the account office of a department store, that kept him away from his children, that pinned him down, that stole the time he desperately wanted to think and create.Now I may make that sound horribly dark and depressing. But it isn’t, because Dorothy Canfield Fisher makes her characters live and breathe, makes their situation utterly real, and pulls her readers into the lives of the Knapp family.Something had to change, or something was going to break.Something changed; Lester lost his job. He contemplated suicide, believing that his family would be better off without him, but fate had something else in store. He saw a fire at a neighbour’s house; he rushed in to help, unconcerned for his own safety; and then he fell from their roof as he tried to extinguish the flames.Lester survived, but he was confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk or work.Evangeline realised that she has to keep the family going. She applied for a job at the store where her husband had worked and the owners, sympathetic to the family’s situation and aware of Evangeline’s reputation, decided to give her a chance.They didn’t regret it: Evangeline’s organisational skills, her attention to detail, her determination to find a solution to every problem, had found the right home. She was promoted and very soon she was earning more than her husband ever had. She came home at the end of the day tired, but happy and fulfilled.Meanwhile, Lester stayed at home with the children and took on the role of home-maker. His talents found their natural home too, and housework and thinking went together in a way that thinking and book-keeping never had. He worked with his children to manage the cooking and the cleaning.“The attic was piled to the eaves with old newspapers. Every day Helen or Henry brings down a fresh supply. We spread them around two or three thick , drop our grease on the with all the peace of mind in the world, whisk them up at night before Eva comes in, and have a spotless floor to show her.”And he found time to talk to them, to draw them together as a family, to understand their concerns, to make them feel loved and valued. He talked to Helen about her hopes and dreams; he learned that Henry has a dog, kept at a friend’s house because he didn’t think he would be allowed to bring it home; and he discovered that much of Stephen’s naughtiness stemmed from his fear that his mother would subject his beloved teddy bear to trial by washing machine. Lester coped with all of this, and much more, quite magnificently.Evangeline, with her work to engage her, with her responsibility for housework taken from her, finds herself able to come home and relax and enjoy her time with her family. She had always loved them, of course she had, but she couldn’t cope with being at home all the time.The family thrived, and the neighbours were astonished. It wasn’t what they had expected at all!All of this was quite wonderful to watch, and the narrative shifting between family members worked quite beautifully.And Dorothy Canfield Fisher did something rather clever, that brought the central question of this story into sharp focus.The owners of the department store, Mr and Mrs Willing had found a wonderful way to balance their family and their business life. Mrs Willing was happy at home with the family, and she worked on business ideas at her kitchen table, while her husband went out to manage the day-to-day running of their story.Different families need different solutions!And that makes it clear that there is a bigger question here than how society should look at women who want to work outside the home, and at men who are happy to play significant roles in the home.Should every family, every person, not be able to work out how to do things in the way that works best for them without having to worry about what the world may think … ?We’ve come some way since this book was published, in 1924, but we aren’t there yet.The Knapp family faces a crisis when Lester and Evangeline have to face the fact that his paralysis is psychological, that there is nothing physically preventing him walking again. Neither can face the possibility of going back to the way things were, but neither is brave enough to defy convention.Both are in turmoil: it’s a little melodramatic, but the emotions are true and the dilemma utterly real.It is left to a wise, and far-sighted, doctor to save them.A little neat maybe, but the story needed the resolution.It brought the important issues, about how to live, how to share responsibilities, how to raise children, to the fore.I put the book down a week ago, but I’m still thinking about it.

  • Vishy
    2019-02-01 21:18

    I discovered ‘The Home-Maker’ by Dorothy Canfield Fisher through the review of Nymeth from the Things Mean a Lot. I loved the basic premise of the book and couldn’t resist getting it. I started reading it a few days back and finished it in a couple of sittings. Here is what I think.‘The Home-Maker’ is about a family and the interesting consequences of what happens when traditional gender roles are reversed. Evangeline Knapp is the mother who is a perfectionist. She likes her house to be spotlessly clean, she likes her children to behave properly all the time, she expects her husband to work hard and move up the professional ladder and she keeps her real feelings to herself. She doesn’t have time to let her hair down. Evangeline has a daughter and two sons. Her children love her but they are not able to connect with her emotionally. Lester Knapp, Evangeline’s husband, works at a local department store. He is not ambitious and is regarded as a cog in the wheel, at work. He doesn’t care about career advancement or about making more money. He likes poetry and literature. He is able to connect with his children, but doesn’t have the time to do that, because of his busy work schedule. The department store that Lester works in, gets a new boss who is young. This young gentleman, Jerome Willing, wants to re-organize the store and make things more efficient. The first casualty of this is Lester who gets sacked. A depressed Lester returns home, gets caught in a fire and has an accident, which paralyzes him waist down. The environment at home changes. Lester recovers enough after a few months though he is still paralyzed, stays at home, suddenly has time to spend with his children and is able to contribute to their emotional growth, helps them in dreaming and discovering their interests and suddenly the Knapp family’s home is a fun place to live in. However the problem of how to make money and bring bread to the table remains. Evangeline goes and meets Mr.Willing at the department store one day. Mr.Willing sees promise in her and hires her and puts her in the Cloak-and-suits department. Evangeline works hard, discovers that she has unexplored talent, has a knack for the business and rises up the ladder quite fast. Soon she is not just a stock girl, but she becomes a sales girl and is making more money than her husband ever made. Before long, she is promoted as the head of her department. Evangeline loves her life and she is able to let her hair down. Her children are able to connect with her emotionally. It looks like Lester’s accident was not bad at all because it seems to have helped the Knapp family members realize their potential. Just when we are thinking that the Knapp family is going to be happy ever after, a grey cloud arrives at the horizon. Lester’s doctor says that Lester can be cured and might be able to walk again. Though this news should make everyone happy, it makes everyone worried. Evangeline worries that she will have to give up her career, because if her husband is back to normal, he will have to go to work, as that is the norm at that time, and someone has to be at home to take care of things there and that someone will be her. Lester worries that eventhough he would like to stay home even if he gets back to normal, it will be difficult to face the criticism of his neighbours and society if he does that, because an able man is expected to work and not be a homemaker and so he would have to get back to the work he hated. The children worry that if their father goes back to work, things will go back to as they were before and that will be the end of their home as a fun-place. Does Evangeline give up her promising career? Does Lester give up what he loves, because that is what society demands? What happens to the Knapp family? The answers to these questions form the rest of the story. I liked ‘The Home-Maker’ very much. To me it looked like a book which was not written to entertain the reader with an interesting story or which had deep philosophical prose to make the reader think, but it was a book which was written to make a point and make the reader think by playing with extremes. It explores what happens when traditional gender roles are reversed and when a woman becomes the breadwinner of the family and a man becomes the homemaker. One of my friends who is a personal coach and who is one of the wisest persons I know once told me that if we are not sure what we like with respect to a particular aspect of life, we should explore extremes. That way we will be able to find the right balance of the two opposites which fits our lives. My friend mentioned this in the context of work-life balance. This book does the same with respect to gender roles at home. I am guessing that ‘The Home-Maker’ must have created quite a controversy when it first came out. The year it was published, 1924, was really a long time back, and the world was a different place then, when compared to now. The roles of men and women at home were defined by tradition then and were set in stone. Any kind of deviation from the norm was probably regarded with suspicion then. Looking at the book from that perspective, I think Dorothy Canfield Fisher must have been really brave to write it and publish it. I thought it will be interesting to see how the book’s main theme applies to the world today. Karen Knox says this in the introduction to the book (written in 1999) – “The Home-Maker is seventy-five years old, but the situation it examines is as current today as when the book was first published. There are, of course, obvious differences in small town American life then and now, mostly technological advances in housekeeping and in business, but the basics remain depressingly the same.” I found it quite depressing to read that. I think that things have changed in many positive aspects with respect to what women can do to realize their potential. But some things remain the same. For example, if the husband and the wife are in similar positions at work, the wife’s career typically takes the backseat. When the husband is transferred to a new country on work, the wife is expected to tag along with him, giving up her career, or she is expected to find a job in the new country. But if the wife is transferred to a new country on work, she is not sure whether she can take up that position, because the husband may not tag along with her. Managing the home is still regarded as the wife’s responsibility, though the husband might help out in cooking, washing dishes and cleaning the house. There are, of course, exceptions to all this, which is good news. On the other hand, if we look at things from the husband’s perspective, if he decides to become a fulltime home-maker, it is going to be tough for him. It might be difficult for him to find a wife, or if he is already married, his wife might stop respecting him or she might even leave him. The idea of the husband being the breadwinner of the family is imprinted so deeply in the human mind for millennia that it is not going to go away anytime soon. It might require humans to unlearn their conditioned thinking with respect to gender roles, not just intellectually (which we have successfully done already, I think), but in a deep, emotional, fundamental way. I think till then, the themes depicted by ‘The Home-Maker’ will continue to be relevant to us. I read the Persephone edition of ‘The Home-Maker’. This was my first Persephone and I loved it – I loved the cover, the Galway-fabric-style endpapers, the thick pages, the wide spacing between lines, the easy-on-the-eye font, the wonderful introduction by Karen Knox. My only complaint was that Persephone editions are expensive – each book costs 10 pounds. But if one wants fine French wine or delicious Belgian chocolate – or Persephone editions – one shouldn’t complain about the price I will leave you with some of my favourite passages from the book. RestThe bed, the floor, the bureau, everything looked different to you in the times when Mother forgot about you for a minute. It occurred to Stephen that maybe it was a rest to them, too, to have Mother forget about them and stop dusting and polishing and pushing them around. They looked sort of peaceful, the way he felt. He nodded his head to the bed and looked with sympathy at the bureau.Beautiful words and children‘He that is down need fear no fall,He that is low, no pride,’Said Lester Knapp aloud to himself. It was a great pleasure to him to be able to say the strong short Saxon words aloud. For years he had been shutting into the cage of silence all the winged beautiful words which came flying into his mind! And beautiful words which you do not pronounce aloud are like children always forced to ‘be quiet’ and ‘sit still’. They droop and languish.Teaching and loving literature“What makes you think colleges want teachers who love literature? They want somebody who can make young people sit still and listen whether they feel like it or not. They want somebody who can “keep order” in a class room and drill students on dates so they can pass examinations. I couldn’t do that! And I’d loathe forcing literature down the throats of boys and girls who didn’t want it as I’d loathe selling things to people who didn’t need them. I’d be just a dead loss at it the way I always am.”The morning poetsNot infrequently his first early-morning look at the world told him with which great spirit he was to live that day. A clear, breezy, bird-twittering dawn after rain meant Christina Rossetti’s child-poems. A soft grey downpour of warm rain, varnishing the grass to brilliance and beating down on the earth with a roll of muted drum-notes, always brought Hardy to his mind. Golden sun spilled in floods over the new green of the quivering young leaves meant Shelley. And Browning was for days when the sun rose rich and many-coloured out of confused masses of turbid clouds. A Mathematician painting a pictureEva had no bread to give them – he saw that in this Day-of-Judgement hour, and no longer pretended that he did not. Eva had passionate love and devotion to give them, but neither patience nor understanding. There was no sacrifice in the world which she would not joyfully make for her children except to live with them. They had tried that for fourteen dreadful years and knew what it brought them. That complacent unquestioned generalization, ‘The mother is the natural home-maker’; what a juggernaut it had been in their case! How poor Eva, drugged by the cries of its devotees, had cast herself down under its grinding wheels – and had dragged the children in under with her. It wasn’t because Eva had not tried her best. She had nearly killed herself trying. But she had been like a gifted mathematician set to paint a picture.Have you read ‘The Home-Maker’? What do you think about it?

  • Margaret
    2019-01-23 17:11

    Fisher is best known today for the children's book Understood Betsy, which I read and liked a few years ago, but she also wrote many novels for adults. This one is a Persephone reprint -- I should just eventually buy everything they've reprinted, as I haven't disliked one yet. Evangeline Knapp is a smart, organized, determined woman, stuck at home in a role she despises; she loves her children, but she can't seem to sympathize with them, and her passion for cleanliness and organization has become an obsession in her house. Her husband Lester, on the other hand, is a dreamy, empathetic man who would love to write poetry but who is instead stuck in the role of earner, in a dreary job at a department store. When Lester is injured in an accident, the chance comes for the two to switch roles. The Home-Maker is a perceptive and often searing exploration of "traditional" family roles; Fisher is sympathetic to the characters and their dilemmas, but not at all to the society which forces them into the gender roles which make them miserable.

  • Beth Bonini
    2019-02-11 00:30

    The Home-Maker completely subverts the expectations that will undoubtedly be raised by its title and publishing date (1924). The radical, revolutionary idea at the heart of this book is that a man, not a woman, might be better suited to the real work of the home. For Fisher carefully differentiates, in the unfolding of her storyline, between being competent or even gifted at home management -- and having the particular grace of understanding children and raising them lovingly. In the first chapters of the book, we learn that Eva Knapp is a brilliant home-maker -- admired by all. But she is nervous and unhappy, and she makes her children equally nervous and unhappy. The older two are cowed by her constant criticism, and the youngest is constantly engaged in an unhappy battle of wills with her. Eva is conscientious to a fault, and miserable from it. Meanwhile, her husband Lester works (unsuccessfully) at the local department store. He loathes his job, loathes American consumerism; Lester is a gentle man with poetry in his head. Of course, times and tradition being what they were (and to some extent still are) it would not occur to Eva and Lester to change roles . . . until an accident happens, and Lester is confined at home.Fisher describes the family's misery so wonderfully -- she is really a master at showing, rather than telling -- that the reader feels every emotion with them. Even better, we sympathise with all of the characters -- which is quite a feat. When Lester takes over home-life and Eva goes out to work, it is such a joy to watch them all begin to flower in their new roles -- including, in fact especially, the children. When Stephen, the littlest, gets his first real taste of being actually wanted -- and not just tolerated -- it made me weep.The Preface and Afterword of this Persephone reissuing are very enlightening. Do read them! Dorothy Canfield Fisher was a fascinating, accomplished woman, and one of her achievements was advocating (and writing about) the Montessori methods of early education and child-rearing. The idea that raising children should be creative and sympathetic work is very much evident in this book. She always maintained that the book was not so much about women's or men's rights as the rights of children.It take a kind of "trick" and then a subterfuge to make it possible for the Knapp parents to trade roles. Fisher skewers the idea that women's work in the home is 'really' valued, and every modern reader will understand her perfectly. Many of the conflicts and problems she was describing in 1924 are only somewhat better today. Although the novel might seem 'sentimental' according to contemporary standards, I found it tough-minded and authentically emotional. It was a thought-provoking, thoroughly satisfying novel. I highly recommend it.

  • Cheryl
    2019-02-16 20:29

    Read from for group discussion.Oh how wonderful. I read it all today, over a few sittings. So relevant! I always think of suffragettes and then a big gap and then Betty Friedan when I think of pioneering feminists, but here's a wonderful look at the issues from 1924. Thank you everyone who chose this for our BotM!There are a couple of casually racist remarks that don't mean anything, and a few references to obsolete artifacts of century-old culture, but most of it is spot-on human psychology. We've certainly come a long way, but otoh we still have our Mrs. Andersons and other dragging influences. I highly recommend this book!I don't want to return it already, but I will for the sake of ConnieD and any of the rest of you. :)

  • Sylvester
    2019-02-18 20:09

    How this book has slipped through the cracks and evaded notice is beyond me. Possibly on the surface it seems a simple story? It doesn't really have fireworks, and yet, within it are the contentions and battles of millions of marriages and families - the quiestion of roles vs. identity, of what makes a man masculine or a woman feminine, and how our perception of what is expected of us warp the truth of what is necessary for the thriving of our relationships and families. And there, I just made it sound boring when in actuality it's remarkable.I couldn't possibly get into all the issues it brings up - but one moment illustrates how punchy the entire book is -Lester, the father, is discovered by Mattie, at home, darning socks."Oh, Lester, let me do that! The idea of your darning stockings! It's dreadful enough your having to do the housework!""Eva darned them a good many years," he said, with some warmth, "and did the housework. Why shouldn't I?" He looked at her hard and went on, "Do you know what you are saying to me, Mattie Farnham? You are telling me that you really think that home-making is a poor, mean, cheap job beneath the dignity of anybody who can do anything else." The man in this book gets liberated - what can I say?! There are several stories going on at once here, and all are very worth the read. Highly recommended.

  • Jamie
    2019-01-24 01:26

    This book has made me feel so many things. I am definitely still processing. Published in the 20's, so much is still relevant today. Beautifully written and written where you have a full understanding of Lester and Eva. I have only heard of Dorothy Canfield Fisher this year with reading Understood Betsy. I don't know how it is possible she is not a household name or read in schools. How has a book like this or an author like her slipped through the cracks?

  • Mary
    2019-02-01 19:08

    What a gem of a book which was way ahead of it's time with a father Lester, looking after his children while his wife Eva went out to work.I loved it and can highly recommend it.

  • Lissie
    2019-02-15 01:14

    "The story of what happens when a wife and mother puts all her efforts into the house, and not the home. Fortunately, irreparable damage is averted when Lester, the father, takes over the role of homemaker." Reads the recommendation in The Gentle Art of Domesticity for The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. With that introduction the plot was pretty simple to guess. The real genius of Fisher is her spot-on psychology. She infuses each character of this little world with thoughts so much their own that they leap off the page. By the time you come to the last chapters you can almost predict how each will react next.I loved this book. It has been added to my mental "changed my life" bookshelf. I have always assumed that parenting ought to be learned ahead of time, if at all possible, and certainly involve outside expertise. This book dumps that idea on its head. Instead offering that parenting is so much more about the discovery-rather than the marshaling-of small charges.The Home-Maker shows plainly how some women will never truly be happy in the home, some will adore being at home, and some will straddle the domestic and world spheres. What's more they will each succeed and excel. Without any preachment at all The Home-Maker manages to apply the concept of "choose what you'll love and you'll never work another day" to homelife.Fisher also illustrates clearly a concept that modern society tries to ignore: parenthood involves sacrifice. Specifically the stay-at-home parent. Of course, we all know this, but we try to jump around it prattling off about taking care of ourselves, finding outside interests, broadening our horizons. Through her characters Fisher shows the different approaches one might take but she never ignores the implacable fact that being a parent involves sacrifice. This alone makes the book worth reading.Lastly, if nothing else, The Home-Maker is a worthwhile read just for being a well-written tome of domestic literature.

  • Misha
    2019-02-18 01:30

    What a charming book! For one, it was ahead of its time--depicting a family in which the woman much more enjoyed being in the workforce, the man better at being a stay-at-home Dad. Fisher was a Vermont writer and wrote extensively about Montessori school and childrearing. She didn't see "The Home-maker" as a feminist book, but as a children's book--namely, that it represented children, their personhood, their feelings, more than it was out to make a statement about gender roles of women or men. And she is a champion in this book for children, especially unruly ones--she seems to say that many kids act out out of a lack of understanding from their parents. There are some truly tender scenes--one in which a boy is terrified his mother may wash his beloved teddy, and the moment when his father recognizes his son's terror and tender affection for his beloved bear. I cannot wait to read more of this author's work!

  • Laura Moore
    2019-01-26 22:09

    I would give this book 6, 7 or even 10 stars if I could! How have I got to age 43 and 3/4 and not come across this masterpiece before? This brilliant novel, in my humble opinion, should be required reading for every parent, teacher, nursery nurse and anyone in any way connected with childcare and education (politicians included!!). It so clearly demonstrates the way that children should be brought up to explore, develop and thrive in a stimulating, loving and secure environment rather than the regimented, box-ticking, exam factories that today's so-called experts seem to favour. This book reduced me to tears on more than one occasion (which very rarely happens) and resonated so deeply with my own views on childcare and parenting that I think it now sits alongside Pride and Prejudice and To Kill a Mockingbird on my all-time favourite list.

  • Giulia (juliareadingdiary)
    2019-02-07 19:29

    *3.5I really liked this story, for it really makes you think about traditional family roles and how society tends to reject deviations from standards, often pressuring people into being what they're not.The writing style is very rich in describing the inner thoughts of the characters, in a way that reminded me of Virginia Woolf. Sometimes these thoughts are dragged too long in my opinion; nevertheless, it is a very powerful and touching story, I loved to follow the unexpected evolution of the Knapp family.Modern and insightful!

  • Charity
    2019-01-22 23:10

    One of the linchpins of the utopian society Plato describes in his Republic is the notion that each person should do the job for which she or he is best suited (and that there is a job for which each individual is best suited). This is one of the foundations of societal harmony. In The Home-Maker, Canfield Fisher shows us first what life is like for a couple engaged in the roles society would have them play, and then in the roles for which they as individuals are best suited. The difference in the family in these two scenarios is striking.For about the first half of this book, I thought the writing was rather simplistic and that the plot came together just a little too easily ("Sure, you've been out of the workforce for more than a decade, but it just happens we have a job opening that would be perfect for you, Mrs. Knapp..."), but then I realized that the point isn't just to tell the stories of two individual human beings, but to use these individuals as allegories. They represent, first, people trying to cram themselves into a prescribed mold (what to do with the bits that hang over?), and, then, people who manage to find just the right fit. It reads somewhat simply, but there is so much behind the words on the page.As I read this book, I kept coming back to this idea of it being necessary for one to be somehow crippled or diminished in her capacities to be a good home-maker. Mrs. Farnham is a sweet, even-tempered wife and mother, but she's a little slow on the uptake. Evie's a real live-wire, and she's going nuts as a home-maker and taking everyone with her. And then there's Lester, who is a fantastic home-maker and is crippled both by his lack of ambition and a spinal cord injury. It seems that a woman is assumed to be less-than and so she belongs in the caregiving role, but in order for a man (in 1924) to give up a paying career for the work of caring for family and home, he has to have a bigger something wrong. In order for a man to be accepted by society in the home-maker role, he has to have a reason beyond his desire to nurture his family; he needs to have no other options. In the 91 years since The Home-Maker was published, it's become more common for a man to stay at home with his children (and he doesn't need to relinquish the use of his legs to justify this choice), but it still raises eyebrows. Today it seems like both men and women have to justify their decision to give up paid work for the home-maker role. If our goal is to let people live their lives the way their hearts and intellect and individual situations tell them, we still have a long way to go.With all of these gender roles and what happens when what our hearts pull us towards isn't one of the options society has deemed acceptable, I expected this book to be more heavy-handed than it was. Canfield Fisher does a brilliant job of taking the reader inside the minds and hearts of her characters. She doesn't say that wage-earning or home-making either one is better, but rather that each person should have the freedom to choose the path that is right for him or her. After Lester and Evangeline trade roles, Canfield Fisher shows very vividly what Evangeline loves about working at the store and what Lester loves about being at home. Each of their roles fans the spark of passion in their individual hearts, and so the situation works in a way not even imaginable before the switch.My favorite chapter was the one in which we see what Lester loves about being home with his children. We watch him watch five-year-old Stephen trying to figure out how to use an egg beater. This struck me as very Montessori, and so I wasn't surprised to learn that Canfield Fisher is credited with bringing Montessori methods to the United States. It also struck me because one of the things I like best about being home with my children and homeschooling them is that we have the time to just be and for me to observe them just being. When I'm in the right mood, I find it transcendent to watch my children---and any child, really; I'm just around my own much more than anyone else's---identify challenges, get frustrated, and work through them to the triumph of discovery at the other side. Lester's experience watching Stephen reminded me of what wonderful things can happen when I let the to-do list go and bring my awareness to the incredible human beings with whom I share my life.Even if you're not interested in this novel, I recommend picking it up just for Canfield Fisher's article "Marital Relations," which is reprinted in its entirety in the front of the book. (This is in the 1983 "Cassandra Edition" from Academy Chicago Publishers.) I read it and then read it aloud to my spouse, and we were both blown away, not only because it seemed so far ahead of its time (it ran in the Los Angeles Examiner in 1924), but because it was just a wonderful viewpoint. For example, Canfield Fisher suggests that the very best thing we can do for married couples is to leave them alone. "We could let them alone; we could let them, without comment or blame, construct the sort of marriage which fits best in their particular case, rather than the sort which fits our ideas. We could leave them to struggle with a problem which, under the best circumstances, requires all their intelligence to solve, without crushing them under the weight of half-baked certainties and misquotations..."And that's just a taste of the awesome. (I think we could totally apply this suggestion to other people's parenting choices, too.)

  • Shelley
    2019-01-25 17:12

    This is a feminist classic from nearly 100 years ago! I'm shocked that I never heard of it before and never read it until now. It really deserves to be better known by all who appreciate gender studies and gender issues. It's the story of a man who is really more comfortable and better suited for being the home-maker, and the story of a woman who is really more comfortable and better suited for being in business. The psychological impact on the children was so intense and realistic that it brought tears to my eyes. Much of what is described in this book is still true today as it was in 1924.

  • Mirte
    2019-01-29 00:12

    Another Persephone Book, another critical study of gender roles and expectations in the earlier decades of the 20th century. This book delivers exactly what it promises: a lovely story with an undercurrent of criticism of male and female roles.Dorothy Canfield-Fisher claimed the novel to be one focused on children and what is best for them, refusing to label it feminist. Still, feminist ideology is very much present in the novel; most interestingly a very modern brand of feminism, one acknowledging the pressure men are under having to provide for their families as well as the role of women as mothers and wives, and not much else. Lester Knapp works a dead-end job he hates, knowing he cannot quit it because his family needs him financially. The strain of it and the building feeling of inadequacy have their effect on his mental health, however, as he is deeply unhappy - depressed even. The same can be said of Evangeline, his wife, who is forced to be "home-maker" by the society she lives in, but micromanages the entire household and simply isn't very good at understanding and helping her own children. Being a mother and housewife - trying to be perfect at these roles - truly wears her out.The novel illustrates the situation before Lester's fall thoroughly, making sure that the unhappiness of all characters, including the children, is understood and sympathised with. The slow road out of misery, and the subsequent satisfaction of all parties involved therefore stands out clearly. I think it an absolute feat that every character gets their turn to stand in the spotlight, and every character is painted in true colours, not differing, not giving a moral judgment. Every one has their reasons, everyone's actions can be understood, be they not always the best in a more general sense.The conclusion is both devastating and happy at once, though open to questions as to the future of the arrangement. The issue described in this novel is still one men and women are struggling with today, and though pretending a handicap might not be necessary anymore, it still takes enormous courage to swap roles - society will judge, as Lester rightly knows, even if the individuals would benefit from an unconventional solution. The devaluation of women's work in the homes and the praise for a man bringing in the money has changed very little over 75 years, I fear.

  • Joanne - is from Canada
    2019-01-28 20:08

    This is one of four Persephone books I own and the first I've read. I liked this book a lot.This book was originally published in 1924 and is set in about that time period. Evangeline and Lester Knapp are a married couple with three children living a traditional lifestyle in which no one is happy. Lester hates his job and has a poet's mind. He detests going to a job each day and trying to sell things to people. Evangeline is a perfectionist and finds the drudgery of raising children and keeping a perfect house while never having enough money difficult to bear. The three children feel the effects of their mother's high standards and constant watchfulness/criticism and it affects them in different ways. One develops a nervous stomach, constantly getting sick, one is quiet and shy, and the last becomes a "terror", causing mayhem to feel in control.When an accident causes Lester to have to stay home in a wheel-chair and become a home-maker, Evangeline goes out and finds a job selling clothes in a department store. Both find themselves infinitely happier with their new way of living and the children thrive under their father's more relaxed attention.An interesting look at traditional gender roles and the effect they can have on the happiness of people. As someone who loves her job and would go positively crazy having to stay home and raise children, I could really relate to Evangeline and the suffocating feeling her life had before Lester's accident.

  • Hol
    2019-02-06 18:03

    This novel opens with Mrs. Knapp preparing an ordinary dinner for her family, but it reads like an ulcer-inducing horror story because her soul is so tortured by the job of homemaker. Meanwhile, poetry-loving Mr. Knapp is similarly tortured by having to be the breadwinner. Fortunately, however, he is soon disabled by a hideous accident and they get to swap gender roles. I should mention that this riveting little book was first published in 1924. Anyway, while Mrs. Knapp grabs the business world by the throat, Mr. Knapp becomes a boddhisatva of a househusband, sitting in a gingham apron in his wheelchair, peeling potatoes or darning socks and bearing reverent witness to the emerging individuality of his children--to him, hanging out with a toddler is “cosmic.” John Lennon in 1979 had nothing on this guy. You might ask, Why did this mystic with deep ethical objections to consumer culture and this ambitious woman who cares obsessively about appearances ever get married to begin with? Don’t bother asking. The marriage exists only in service to the author’s polemic, which is quite entertaining. And then, after all the utopian domesticity, the author plonks down a slightly diabolical ending. Worth reading!

  • Diane
    2019-02-15 17:21

    I found this book oddly enough when I was looking up aClive Brook film (I just love old movies - they seemto go hand in hand with reading). It was made into amovie around 1924-5, what a confronting idea for 1924.A woman who is completely oppressed with her role asa wife and mother and literally making her family sickwith anxiety is given an opportunity to become the"bread winner" when her husband, Lester, becomes confined to a wheel chair through a life threateningaccident.This is such a readable book. Evangeline, through her"go-getter" personality finds herself being promotedat a rapid rate, at the same firm that her husband wasstuck in the same dead end job for many years. Lesterwho is at heart a dreamer finds the children respondingto his kindness and understanding. The riveting climaxhas Lester making a vital decision that will affect thewhole family's future.

  • Carole
    2019-02-22 20:31

    This book rather disturbed me because it dealt with, among other things, the possibility that not all women are by nature maternal. Written in 1924, that premise was even harder to accept than it might be today.The husband/father in this story states that the wife/mother "...had passionate love and devotion to give (the children), but neither patience nor understanding. There was no sacrifice in the world which she would not joyfully make for her children except to live with them."Having raised four children of my own, I was a little uneasy at the portrayal of Eva as a compulsive housekeeper, but not a nurturing mother. I saw myself in her frustration of dealing with things that never got "done," but always needed "doing."In this case, the father was also frustrated in his role as breadwinner, and the reversal of roles was beneficial to the whole family. Unfortunately, that approach was looked down on, and the ultimate solution was a heart-wrenching one.

  • carrietracy
    2019-01-22 23:15

    While this wasn't always a scintillating read, Canfield certainly had some interesting things to say. I particularly liked her essay on marriage which was included in the front of the 2007 reprint. As for The Home-Maker it explored society's expectations of gender roles within the marriage. I think my main problem was the either/or nature of what was presented - Either you work outside the home and don't trouble yourself about things like your house and your spouse and your children or you do stay home and you care deeply for them. While Canfield was pioneering in bending the gender roles, I was struck by little love and affection for the children is held by the breadwinner(whomever that may be).

  • Rose Ann
    2019-02-03 18:32

    Well, if this wan't one of the dumbest books I ever read! Lifeless, flabby, limp and stupid, it was perfectly dreadful, and Persephone Books ought to be ashamed of themselves for releasing it. It's hard for me to believe that the author of "Understood Betsy" (a classic children's book) wrote this overwrought and overwritten mess. Seriously! This book is simply not up to the standard set by all the other Persephone Books I have read! This book is not WORTHY of being on the same list as Dorothy Whipple's wonderful novels. I'm not kidding! How I wish I had the day back that I wasted on this! Especially when I think that I COULD have been re-reading "The Priory" or something!

  • Jess
    2019-02-21 20:28

    At first painful to read (perhaps because of the minor elements of myself I saw in Eva), this turned into a really lovely story about finding the right role in family life. The parts from the father's point of view were particularly fascinating, especially as he got to know the children and feel a fierce protectiveness for them. I was biting my nails towards the end to see how things would turn out for the family. Fascinating for the characters as well as for how it makes you think about family and society and child-rearing and gender roles, without ever feeling didactic.

  • Amanda
    2019-01-22 23:09

    Loved loved loved the book! The first section was frustrating because I recognized a bit too much of myself in it - but as the story progressed, there are some fabulous twists. Wonderful commentary on marriage and childrearing - an absolute must read!

  • Jeff Luce
    2019-01-31 22:06

    I can't believe this was written in the 1920s. What's even more amazing is that we are still so stuck. Myth of progress, I guess. If you are lost in your marriage and society's predefined role for you, read this book and start listening to yourself.

  • Cindy Bellomy
    2019-02-04 22:20

    I loved this book. The descriptions of how raising children feels & the descriptions of how the children feel about being "raised" - just stunning. I was rooting for each member of the family, while also seeing myself in them. A pleasure.

  • Marie Saville
    2019-01-28 00:26

  • Diana
    2019-02-05 23:26

    First published in 1924, The Home-maker is light years ahead of its time in its depiction of gender roles. ‘Ahead of its time’ has been employed to describe this American novel so often it now seems trite, but it remains utterly apt. Western culture still has a great deal of work to do to allow for the model Canfield Fisher set forth in this compelling narrative.Lester and Evangeline Knapp love each other and their three children, and yet they are wholly miserable in the roles society has prescribed them. Evangeline is what we would now call a perfectionist. Creative, detail-oriented and extroverted, the solitary and repetitive work of a housewife depresses her no matter how much she commits herself to the tasks at hand. Her children are consequently stressed and unwell. Lester, meanwhile, languishes in his job as a department store accountant. He’s sceptical of capitalism, instead relishing the subjective thinking he enjoyed in his liberal arts education but can no longer put to use.All this changes when Lester is paralysed in an accident, leaving him housebound with the children while Evangeline finds employment as a sales clerk at the department store. Friends and neighbours pity the Knapps in their altered circumstances, but to everybody’s surprise the family flourishes. Lester is free to read, reflect and subsequently educate his children, who respond positively to their father’s warmth and patience. Finding an outlet for her inherent strengths, Evangeline no longer worries about the imperfections in housekeeping. Fulfilment with an occupation outside the home allows her to enjoy time with her family in the evenings. Canfield Fisher perfectly illustrates how gender roles disregard individuality, to the detriment of many families. The Persephone edition’s contextual information states that the author’s husband took a back seat to Dorothy Canfield Fisher's lucrative literary career, providing an interesting biographical parallel to the novel. Canfield Fisher drives her point rather strongly throughout the text; subtlety is not her strong suit with such a clear agenda. Nevertheless, the reader naturally feels invested in the fate of the Knapp family. As someone with a history of customer service in the retail sector, I found the sections describing Evangeline’s new job somewhat tiresome and, well, cheesy. I can’t think of another word for it. I certainly never felt compelled to memorise customers’ personal details in my free time when working for minimum wage. I related much more to Lester with his literary interests and cynicism towards mass consumerism. The sections told from Lester and son Stephen’s perspectives are the strongest, particularly as the reader watches the family’s youngest child gradually transform under a radically different parenting style (Canfield Fisher was a vocal proponent of the Montessori method and considered the text to first and foremost advocate for children’s rights). Without spoiling anything, the narrative’s resolution is somewhat surprising. It left me pondering how much progress we still have to make. Despite rampant inequality in pay, etc., working women have made great strides in the last century. Full-time fathers, on the other hand, remain a minority who face considerable stigma. Canfield Fisher seems to suggest that the world isn’t quite ready for them, even if we should be.

  • Vivian
    2019-01-25 17:14

    Best known for her children's novel, "Understood Betsy", and also for her non-fiction works such as "Montessori Mother", Fisher wrote many novels for adults, including this one first published in 1924, in which she fleshes out her insights and philosophy while digging at the roots of some of our most deeply held prejudices.The work, as a whole, prompted me to examine my own experiences and philosophies as a wife, mother, and creative individual.I won't attempt to introduce characters or summarize plot. I will nail down a dozen passages. These may have the effect of "spoilers", so proceed with that risk in mind.p.76 (vocabulary: "Gehenna") "In Jewish, Christian and Islamic scripture, Gehenna is a destination of the wicked." -- WikipediaMrs. Prouty ...was looking at a $200 fur coat as tragically as though it were the Pearly Gates and she sinking to Gehenna. p.176 She never made the slightest effort of her own accord to escape from the rubber-stamp formula in which she had been brought up. By lively joshing you could occasionally jolt her into a spontaneous perception of her own, but the minute you stopped, back she sank and pulled the cover of the Ladies' Guild mummy-case over her.p.178 "Do you know what you are saying to me? You are telling me that you really think that home-making is a poor, mean, cheap job beneath the dignity of anybody who can do anything else." --Lester Knapp"How dare you say such a thing! I never dreamed of having such an awful idea." --Mattie Farnhamp.179 She brought out a formula again, but this time with heartfelt personal conviction. "Home-making is the noblest work anybody can do!"p.180 "Don't go looking to see if the furniture is dusted or the floor polished," said Lester calmly. "We concentrate on the important things in our house and let the non-essentials go."p.182 Stephen had squatted down again to his sand. She went cautiously towards the wide plank to see what he was doing, prepared to have him snarl out one of his hateful catch-words: "Go 'way!" or the one he had acquired lately, the insolent, "Who's doing this anyhow?" But what she saw was so astonishing to her that before she could stop to think, she burst out in an impulsive exclamation of admiration, "Why, Stephen Knapp, did you do all that yourself?" Beyond the board lay a tiny fairy-world of small tree-lined, pebble-paved roads, moss-covered hills, small looking-glass lakes, white pasteboard farmhouses with green blinds, surrounded by neat white tooth-pick fences, broad meadows with red-and-white paper cows and a tiny farm wagon with minute, plumped-out sacks, driving to the railroad.p.189-190 ... it was easier to talk about things you cared awfully about when you were working together. Helen often wondered why this was, why she didn't feel so shy when she was doing something with her hands, buttering a cake-tin, or cutting animal-shaped cookies...p.192 One day, as she washed the breakfast dishes for Father to wipe, she noticed how the daffodils ... were reflected in a wet milk-pan. It made her think a poem, which she said over in her head to make sure it was all right, and then repeated to Father, "The shining tin usefulness of the milk-pan Is glorified into beauty By the presence of a flower." ...She had secretly a high opinion of her own talents. Why had she said it aloud except to make Father think what a remarkable child she was? She washed the dishes thoughtfully, feeling a gnawing discomfort. It was horrid of her to have said that just to make Father admire her. It was showing off. She hated people who showed off. She decided ascetically to punish herself by owning up to her conceit. "I only told that poem to you because I thought it would make you think what a poetic child I am," she confessed contritely. "It wasn't really that I thought so much about the flower."p.193 She felt better. There now! Father would think what an honest, sincere child she was! Oh, dear! That was showing off too! As bad as the first time! She said hastily, "And I only owned up because I thought it would make you think I'm honest and didn't want to show off!" This sort of tortuous winding was very familiar to Helen. She frequently got herself into it and never knew how to get out. It always frightened her a little, made her lose her head. She felt startled now. "Why, Father, do you suppose I only said THAT, too, to make you..." She lifted her dripping hands out of the dishwater and turned wide, frightened eyes on her father. "Oh, Father, there I go! Do YOU ever get going like that? One idea hitched to another and another and another; and you keep grabbing at them and can't get hold of one tight enough to hold it still?" Lester laughed ruefully. "DO I? Nothing but!..."p.253 It was abominable to be poor! It brought out the worst in every one. When you were distracted with worry about money, you simply weren't yourself.p.258 Poverty...isolation, monotony, stagnation, killing depression over never-ending servile tasks...POVERTY!p.273-274 He thought of the long hours during which he bent his utmost attention on the children to understand them, to see what kind of children they were, to think what they needed most now--not little passing pleasures such as good nature and indulgence would suggest, but real food for what was deepest in them. He thought of how he used his close hourly contact with them as a means of looking into their minds and hearts; how he used the work-in-common with them as a scientist conducts an experiment station to accumulate data as material for his intelligence to arrange in order, so that his decisions might be just and far-sighted as well as loving. He thought how in the blessed mental leisure which comes with small mechanical tasks he pored over this data, considered it and reconsidered in the light of some newer evidence--where was now a good-natured young hired girl, let her be ever so indulgent and gentle? "You can't HIRE somebody to be a parent for your children!" he thought again, passionately. p.276 Over his head Tradition swung a bludgeon he knew he could not parry.p.278 Why, the fanatic feminists were right, after all. Under its greasy camouflage of chivalry, society is really based on a contempt for women's work in the home. The only women who were paid, either in human respect or in money, were women who gave up their traditional job of creating harmony out of human relationships and did something really useful, bought or sold or created material objects.