Monday, March 28, 2016

The Winning of Barbara Worth by Harold Bell Wright

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I Read: The Winning of Barbara Worth by Harold Bell Wright

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: The Winning of Barbara Worth is a bestselling novel from 1911. Author Harold Bell Wright was living in the Imperial Valley when he researched and wrote the novel.  Its subject is the “taming of the West,” and its setting and plot were based on actual contemporary events surrounding the reclamation of the Imperial Valley desert via the damming of the Colorado River.  (Rubio City of Wright’s novel is based on Yuma, Arizona.)  The novel contains a love story in which Barbara Worth will be “won” by either Abe Lee, an uneducated but hard-working Western surveyor, or by Willard Holmes, an educated but soft Eastern engineer.  It also contains a showdown between Jefferson Worth, an honorable Western banker, and James Greenfield, an amoral Eastern speculator.

What I Thought: Wright’s novels were not critically acclaimed when they were released, and they have been largely forgotten today.  They have often been dismissed as being didactic and sentimental.  By containing characters meant to “represent” good and bad aspects of human nature, Wright’s writing is particularly open to complaints about wooden and unrealistic characters.  Wright was a former Disciples of Christ pastor whose vocation shifted from the pulpit to what he called “the ministry of print.”  He unapologetically aimed to provide his readers with moral lessons that upheld traditional (and rural) values in the face of an increasingly urban, modern society.  As America’s most popular writer in the decade between 1910 and 1920, Wright tapped into a widespread longing for the values and ideals espoused in his books.  I enjoyed reading this old fashioned, dated novel, not only because of the Yuma connection, but because the events of the novel unfold in an entertaining, dramatic fashion.  The Winning of Barbara Worth is not a literary classic, but primarily for historical interest, it is well worth reading.

The Winning of Barbara Worth was one of the Yuma Carnegie Library’s most popular titles when the library first opened 95 years ago.  For this reason, the Heritage Library will host a discussion program about the novel and its author on March 31 at 10:30 a.m. Please join us!

Readalikes: The Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright; Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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