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The Friendly Persuasion ()


San Francisco Chronicle Top 100 Novels of the West (91)

This is a perfectly delightful collection of stories about a family of Quakers, the Birdwells, in Civil War-era Indiana.  For the most part, they center around the ongoing but largely unspoken battle between the somewhat free-spirited husband, Jess, who likes singing and horse racing and the like, and his more serious wife, Eliza.   The themes dealt with are mostly minor, though the difficulty of remaining pacifist in the midst of war is treated, and, of course, became the core issue in the excellent Gary Cooper film version of the book.

The real value of the book lies in its implicit rebuke to one of the central conceits of the modern age,  that simply because rather restrictive religious beliefs were central to peoples' lives in that earlier America, their existences must necessarily have been dour and joyless.  This prejudice is silly on its face, contrary as it is to everything we know about human nature, and Jessamyn West's stories, with their devout, but playful, Quaker characters, are a terrific antidote.  Though the Birdwells' lives are proscribed by rules and social conventions which may strike us as odd, they are also filled with joy and love and a sense of community, both the physical and the spiritual community, which any one of us would envy.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B+)

  

Websites:

Book-related and General Links:
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : "west, jessamyn"
    -OBIT : JESSAMYN WEST, AUTHOR OF STORIES ABOUT QUAKERS IN INDIANA, DIES (James Barron, UPI NAPA, Calif., February 23, 1984)
    -West, Jessamyn (1902-1984), writer (Women in History)
    -Jessamyn West (1902-84)
    -Alfred S. Shivers Research on Jessamyn West

FILM :
    -FILMOGRAPHY : "jessamyn west" (Imdb.com)
    -INFO : Friendly Persuasion (1956) (Imdb.com)
    -BUY IT : Friendly Persuasion (1956)  DVD (Amazon)
    -ESSAY : Richard Nixon and the political appropriation of 'Friendly Persuasion' (1956) (Nicholas J. Cull, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television)

QUAKERS :
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : quakers
    -Friends General Conference of the Religious Society of Friends
    -"QUAKERS in BRIEF" or  "QUAKERISM made EASY" (An over-view of the Quaker movement from 1650 to 1990) (David M Murray-Rust,  Birkenhead Meeting,  Merseyside, UK  1995)
    -PROFILE : of William Penn : Penning a legacy. (Patricia Hudson, American History, Jan/Feb98)
    -ESSAY : The Prophet Disarmed: Milton and the Quakers (Steven Marx, Studies in English Literature 1500-1800 Winter 1992)
    -ARCHIVES : quakers (NY Review of Books)
    -ESSAY : Nixon a Quaker?  (Kenneth Briggs, Belief Net)

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