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[Review of The House Behind the Cedars]

There is a notable sobriety about Charles W. Chesnutt's "The House Behind the Cedars," which comes from the house of Houghton, Mifflin & Co. ($1.50). The love of a young Southerner for a girl of surpassing beauty and rare accomplishments is not enough to let him marry her when he discovers that her mother was a black woman. There is a fair recognition of the difficulties of the race problem, and the book is full of passages which mark a thoughtful and observant student of Southern life. For example, he says: "The corruption of the white people's speech (in the South) was one element–only one–of the negro's unconscious revenge for his own debasement." With all the promise and merit shown by the book, it is not sufficiently well-wrought. The plot is good and there is a just recognition of the demands imposed for working it out, but the author somehow fails to translate all this into action. It is, however, far superior to many books that deal with Southern life, which has been the scene of a vast array of fiction.