"The House Behind the Cedars," by Charles W. Chesnutt. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston; $1.50. For sale by the Sanford-Sawtelle Co., Worcester.
The foundation of this story is an old one, arising from past conditions in the south. A beautiful young woman, talented and well educated, was brought out in the best society, and with nothing apparently to mar her happiness. Yet back of all this she held the dark secret of her birth, the knowledge that in her veins there flowed a trace of negro blood. Once this was discovered her position would be lost. To make her lot still harder she loved and was loved by a young man of one of the proudest families of the south. Their courtship was everything which could be desired, but after it came the discovery which made a tragedy of both their lives.
The story is a very strong one. The question of the position of white people in whom there is a strain of negro blood is one which for generations has waited for settlement, and which even now vexes certain families in the south. Mr. Chesnutt has given it most careful consideration in this dramatic story. The whole setting is typically southern, and the plot wholly within the range of probability.
Rev. of The House Behind the Cedars, in "New Books," The Worcester Spy, 25 Nov. 1900: 5. Youth" Mr. Chesnutt went a step further, and sought to give an insight into the life of the emancipated people in their attempts at adjustment to freedom and competition with the white race. The one was poetry, the other a dramatic and forceful study of present day conditions. In Mr. Chesnutt's novel, "The House Behind the Cedars," he has very skillfully and successfully combined the old and the new. Located in North and South Carolina, just before and after the civil war, it has the richness of local color which marked "The Conjure Woman," and contains a careful study of the picturesque old Southern town where the author spent his youth and studied the types which he has faithfully and sympathetically reproduced. The action of the story, which is of thrilling interest, concerns the efforts of a beautiful girl to escape the disabilities which the sins of others and the customs of the country and the time imposed upon her. The book is something more that a clever combination of a romantic novel and a social study of conditions which one instinctively recognizes were not only of the past, but are likely to become questions of the future. It will not only interest the reader, but furnish food for thought upon certain phases of one of the greatest problems that concern the future of our country.
Review of The House Behind the Cedars, in "New Books," The Wave [San Francisco] 22 (Dec. 22, 1900): 22.