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442 LETTERS IN CANADA 1977 book and one can only suppose that the editor must be held responsible. The Lampman Symposium is the product of a university press and (for the most part) of university professors. That, surely, is a sobering thought. (w.]. KEITH) Frederick Philip Grove. Tile Master Mason's House Translated by Paul B. Gubbins, edited by A. W. Riley and Douglas O . Spettigue Oberon "976.243' $15.00 Maurermeister Ihles Haus was originally published in Berlin in 1906. Had Felix Paul Greve successfully hidden his flight from Germany to the New World from the inquiring eyes of Dr. Spettigue it is doubtful whether this novel would ever have been re-issued. Grove chose to write the novel within the naturalistic tradition which was drawing to a close in Germany. He lards the novel with precise detail about provincial town life in Pomerania in the late 1880s and early 1890S. Against this background of precise detail about social convention, education , work, politics, and the physical reality of the town itself, he documents the domestic tragedy of the Ihle family, members of the nouveau riche middle class. Such an approach demands that there be an integration of societal and family conflict, that the resulting tragedy appear to evolve from a set of inevitable naturalistic processes. Grove succeeds in this task in the last two sections of the novel but fails to do so in the first part. The resulting unsatisfactory coherence and pacing of the novel come about because Grove chose to tell the tale from the perspective of Susie Ihle, an adolescent whose personality pales before that of both her parents. Book I presents Susie participating in a series of childhood pranks which take place for the most part outside the Ihle household. The incidents do manage to introduce the reader to the fabric of town life but they fail to develop the central conflict of Richard and Bertha Ihle which dominates the remaining pages of the book. Thus after a slow, rambling introduction we are thrust into the much darker and more complex world of the senior Ihles. Bertha, the mother, abdicates her motherhood and declines into mental illness, attempted suicide, and death while Richard, the father, strives to find some core to his domestic life among daughters and a wife he cannot understand. The editors agree that 'some episodes seem to have no purpose' but they feel that 'in retrospect they are seen to have unity.' While some thematic unity may be articulated, the events of book I clearly lack the intensity and coherence of the later sections. In the last two-thirds of the novel we find Grove dealing with themes which continued to dominate his Canadian writing. Richard Ihle's father found himself in a marriage with a shrew. He and young Richard fled to Russia where Richard learned his trade from his father only in turn to HUMANITIES 443 have that father desert him. The pattern reminds us of In Search of Myself where the young Grove and his mother flee from the father. Richard Ihle, forced to grow up without the security of a strong family, seems doomed to repeat the pattern by marrying Bertha, a woman ofweak character who proves incapable of fulfilling the roles of wife and mother. Susie and Lottie, the daughters, grow up in an atmosphere lacking in familial support. Richard, denied sons and faced with three females none of whom he can understand, fails as a father in his turn. At the end of the novel Susie and Lottie choose to marry in order to escape the household, now governed by a stepmother who appears to be as unlikely a mate for Richard as was Bertha. Susie's choice for a husband is a man lacking in fortitude, a man much like her mother in disposition, a man easily manipulated and thus easily controlled. The sins of the grandfather are visited upon the grandchild. Grove investigated the structure of the family in considerable detail in later books. The necessity for the wife and mother to mediate between the father and his children became clear in Two Generations. TheMaster Mason's House, like The Master of the Mill...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 442-443
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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