For Dear Life and Selected Short Stories

For Dear Life and Selected Short Stories

For Dear Life and Selected Short Stories

For Dear Life and Selected Short Stories

Synopsis

The republication of Jelliffe's semi-autobiographical novel For Dear Life reintroduces readers to a strong southern writer, an interesting female voice, and a compelling story. The realistic portrayal of life among the rural poor during the early 20th century shows the struggle of a tough-minded woman.

Excerpt

In August of 1936, Belinda Jelliffe published her thinly disguised autobiographical novel, For Dear Life, to generally favorable reviews. A year later, it appeared in England, where the reviewer for the London Observer wrote “this book is too fine a thing to be the shooting star of a publishing season. But it will be there next year, and the next, glittering like Jupiter for all who have eyes to see.” Despite the reviewer’s prediction, For Dear Life had disappointing sales. Jelliffe frequently complained that if all the people who wrote her telling her they had read the book had actually bought it instead of borrowing it from friends or a library, she would have been a rich woman. Scribner’s, her publisher, allowed the book to go out of print, and although the now-defunct Arno Press (then a division of the New York Times) reprinted the original in 1980 (complete with the mistakes of the earlier version) as part of its “Signal Lives: Autobiographies of American Women” series, sales were again disappointing, and the novel once more quickly vanished. Shamefully.

This is a story that deserves an audience, a story realistically portraying life among the rural poor in the early part of the twentieth century and the tough-minded woman who fought her entire life to overcome the obstacles that confronted women, the poor, the isolated. The novel has mythic resonances: it reads like a woman’s version of the legendary American success story. As in the autobiographies of Benjamin Franklin and Booker T. Washington or the novels of Horatio Alger, a protagonist—through her own pluck and luck—works her way from an existence of poverty to a fairy-tale resolution when she leaves behind, apparently for good, the miseries of her

1. J. S. Collins, London Observer, Oct. 10, 1937.

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