The Web of Days

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aka Edna L. Mooney Lee

✤ The Web of Days Download ➸ Author Edna L. Lee –
  • Hardcover
  • 276 pages
  • The Web of Days
  • Edna L. Lee
  • 05 April 2019
  • 9780120501021

10 thoughts on “The Web of Days

  1. says:

    I had hopes that this would be a gothic bodice rippery kind of thing, but it was more of a standard gothic in the proto-Victoria Holt vein - a girl with a poor background and a spine of steel meets all kinds of odds head-on and wins out in the end.

    Orphaned Hester Snow arrives at the plantation Seven Chimneys on one of the Georgia sea islands to serve as governess to the young heir. Her employer, the LeGrand family, is the Old Madame (a gluttonous, chair-bound, nasty bag of ass), the wife Loralie (a nervous, depressed drunk), son Rupert (troubled young lad), and the master Saint Clair (bored and indolent). Lurking outside is Saint Clair's half-brother Roi, who Hester takes an instant love/hate to.

    Since she's hardcore Puritan Yankee, driven to work and accomplishment, she sees the delapidated estate, the shiftless freedmen, the utter lack of leadership and authority, and decides to step in. She's hard-nosed and unsentimental and her work ethic isn't compatible with 99% of those around her, especially not with Saint Clair, who would rather lounge around in his robe and gamble all day. But she takes the job of overseer in hand and turns around the track record of failed crops and bad administration, even though she doesn't make any friends along the way.

    Always homeless and living on the kindness of others, she adopts Seven Chimneys as her brass ring and grabs for it when she has the chance. But she discovers that she's being used as much as she's used others.

    Even though it took me what seemed like forever to read it (free time being pretty scant), there was enough to keep me interested and plugging away until I finished. The writing really reminded me of Victoria Holt, and Hester was an engaging heroine, even if she wasn't always likable. She might be more annoying to others who don't understand her mentality, but I could really identify with her work ethic and thought she was very admirable in her attitudes. I can always get behind a heroine who wants to Get Shit Done and doesn't mind getting her hands dirty and trudging around outdoors all day in order to do it.

    The shock factor is probably diminished in this more jaded age, but the Big Reveal no doubt was more eyebrow-raising back in 1947. I expected more to be made of it in terms of Saint Clair's psychological make-up, but the author didn't really delve into it - which was disappointing. There was a supernatural element that didn't get addressed by the end, and I wondered if the author had forgotten about it entirely when she embarked on her HEA.

    All in all, it's a good piece o' vintage. Worth my time, even if it didn't blow me away.

  2. says:

    A Gothic novel--plantation setting, mental illness, mystery, cruel tyrant, indomitable heroine--that would be more fun if it weren't so horribly racist. A tag sale read.

  3. says:

    An interesting gothic in that the narrator is a total bitch, yet she still manages to be sympathetic. It's definitely of the old school (i.e., mid-century) authorship, with prose that harkens to literate genre-benders like Marjorie Bowen & Eleanor Smith. The prose is very pretty, though it has unapologetic rough edges in tone or word choice -- some due to the era in which it was written, & others due to the era in which it's set. Either way, I liked it.

    There's no easy route to examine the Reconstruction period, which is (still?) a touchy subject from all sides of the Mason-Dixon, but this one tries to portray both POVs from multiple angles. While Hester's abrasive pride & Puritan work ethic aren't always attractive traits, her disgust over wasted potential & the 'waiting to die' mentality of many defunct Southern plantations is entirely sympathetic. Likewise, you can see why her sanctimonious workaholic snobbery would have annoyed many natives -- but there's something inherently tragic in the way she's sucked into the mentality of I WILL NEVER LET THIS PLACE GO BECAUSE IT IS MINE & IT WILL PRODUCE, GODDAMMIT! Hester's obsession with Seven Chimneys is yet another facet of an untenable system -- not because it can't work financially so much as it destroys one's moral code a piece at a time, leeching away good intentions with the thrill of ownership.

    ...Anyway. All that Serious Stuff is sprinkled with demure WTFery like abusive marriages, traitorous bodies, creepster sadists, & sly townsfolk. It's a good balance of style & substance with a classic plot that tweaks the tropes just enough to keep it interesting.

    Nicely done; solid 4 stars.

  4. says:

    A gothic historical novel about a Yankee governess who goes to work on a decaying plantation during the early Reconstruction period. 1947.

    Full review at Another look book

    Reads as somewhere between "serious" historical fiction, a character study, and the typical gothic romance. A quality of writing and depth of characterization that makes me think Edna Lee will be worth sampling again. If you're a fan of Victoria Holt, Jane Eyre, or Rebecca: recommended!

  5. says:

    If this book wasn’t morally abhorrent, it really could have been okay. It’s part Southern Gothic, part white-supremacist fantasy. (I still like to pretend that the former does not imply the latter.) Once it gets going, the story is better than average, and the heroine is actually quite engaging. The problem is that the novel is so unapologetically racist that, for long stretches, it was very, very hard to focus on anything else.

    Take for example the following exchange our heroine has w/ the master of the house:
    “We are not accustomed to so much cleanliness, Miss Snow.” His voice was as ever drawling, and not knowing whether he was pleased or displeased, I answered somewhat tartly: “I can see that, sir. In all my life I have never seen so much dirt. And Negroes thick underfoot too.”

    “Negroes, Miss Snow, are the most no-account creatures alive.”

    This is but one example of dozens, many far worse. I chose this exchange b/c it gets us pretty near the heart of the story. A northern ice maiden comes to Reconstruction Georgia as a schoolmarm, but, unable to bear the chaos and disorder she sees around her, (which is blamed on the “laziness” of the former slaves and the dissipation of their former “masters”) she decides to set the plantation to rights.

    As a Gothic novel, this book had a few things going for it. To start with, the setting works. Our story takes place in a secluded, run-down plantation called Seven Chimneys which is hidden in the middle of the Georgia bayou. It’s verdant and sultry, full of beauty and impending death -- be it from “gators” or disease.

    But the thing that works the best for this story is the main character, Hester Snow. She’s smart, ambitious, organized, and hardworking. She’s also a bit of a sociopath. Ms. Snow navigates her life by setting her will either for or against things. After the war, the Southern way of life, embodied by Seven Chimneys and its occupants, is dying, and Hester is there, shovel in hand, waiting to bury the corpse and collect the spoils.

    There's a romance thrown in too. The Master, Saint Clair (whose depiction as a refined, laconic dandy gave me a visual of late 50's Vincent Price that I couldn't shake, totally killing the mood), and his bastard brother Roi. And it is through those relationships that we get an indication that our girl Hester may not be made of ice after all.

    In spite of these advantages, the book has major failings. Not the least of which is that it is a product of its time, and, while some of its views may have been considered progressive in 1947, I cringed through much of it. The racism in this book cannot be ignored, even if one should wish to do so, b/c, true to life, the success of the plantation, and of the central white characters, is wholly dependent on the work and mastery of former slaves.

    I counted two whippings (post slavery), and the stereotypes of black people as slow, lazy, and lascivious abound. The brief concession that the black foreman, Shem, was actually a competent human being who could have done great things except for the “accident of birth and color” was somehow worse than anything.

    From start to finish, it was a tough read. But, even if the social context was creepier to me than the actual plot, the writing was fair and it was a true window into a different time. I'm not going to hate on a book b/c it accurately reflects the attitudes of society at the time it was written -- but, at the same time, it did make it hard to "enjoy".

    Finally, a bit of a spoiler here: it’s also worth noting that the book indulges in that form of misogyny peculiar to the first half of the 20th century, which gave us so many stories featuring strong, intelligent, independent women who push through insurmountable obstacles to achieve unprecedented success --- and then, on the last half of the last page, give all of it up in order to land their man.

  6. says:

    I etched the line deeper with my knife. "Rupert," I said, "if you live on this side of this line, and another boy lives here on this other side, does that make you a good boy and this one bad?"

    "That's too silly to answer."

    "Yes. Isn't it? But a line all the difference there is between you and me," (Lee 33)

    I wish I could say this to Edna Lee about Caucasians and African-Americans.

    This is probably the most racist book I have ever read. Unfortunately, this fact can easily ruin the gothic themes, humor, romance, and the feminism within the book. I found myself cringing throughout the book because of said representation.

    Hester Snow is quite interesting and I love her relationship with Rupert. Her mentality is progressive for a young woman living after the civil war, and one can easily admire her ethic and determination towards work.

    Until she gets married to the plantation owner.

    The book declines from there and I found myself rooting for the heroine to lose rather than win. She really becomes unlikeable, as well as the rest of the characters.

    I think the most important thing a reader must be aware of before even opening this book is the racism and northern/southern stereotypes. The book takes place after the civil war, so it is to be expected, but not in the way where the book and author are aware of the historical facts. I am therefore left confused if this was intentional by the author, or the actual purpose of the book.

    Personally, I found the story to be very uncomfortable and I struggled to get through it. It is a shame because the prose is well written. However, I would not recommend this book to anyone.

    If you are still interested in reading it, you have been warned.

  7. says:

    Honestly I couldn't finish this book. I think it is a boring predictable book.

  8. says:

    Wow, this book was really racist. It was also not very good. Jane Eyre set in the Reconstruction-era South, tinged with tawdry romance.

  9. says:

    The narrator worked hard, but had little in the way of a heart.

  10. says:

    This was a trip down memory lane for me, given than I first read this book at least 45 years ago. I remembered so many details! But what seemed so romantic and scandalous for my younger self now read as racist, stereotypical, and melodramatic. I hope that means I have progressed somewhat in my world view. I expect the other Gothic romances I adored during that time wouldn’t pass the test of time either. My earlier self would have given a five, prompting my older self to assign a charitable 2.

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