Barbara Corcoran JEAN MacINTYRE - Essay

JEAN MacINTYRE

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Barbara Corcoran's Axe-Time/Sword-Time … distances its characters in time and heaps up trouble for them, but takes … care with period detail. The story runs from September, 1941, to February, 1942, and heaps up local color to authenticate its time and place…. [Historical] verifications are supported by little-changed domestic details, as the characters eat meals, discuss real colleges, ski, skate, give and go to parties; we even learn the medical history of the heroine Elinor Golden. Against this background, Elinor struggles with her perceptual handicap and the misunderstanding others have of it, while her parents' marriage shatters, her mother nags her to live up to unreal expectations, her brother and her lover enter the armed services, and a high school friend dies at war. With the encouragement of the two fathers, both doctors, she at last rejects her mother's conventionality to take a job in a war plant and make friends with factory girls. Yet in spite of so much effort at authenticity, the troubles are unconvincing and the effort to depict lives disoriented by war and conflict does not succeed, mainly because the characters are too flat and glossy and their reactions too careful and considerate to make one believe they can fear, suffer, and die. In spite of the peripheral Ben Barker's death and the community's assertion of sorrow, the story creates no uncertainty about the lives of the charming Jeff and Tom, and no historical effort can make the war real, even in the distanced manner of romance. (pp. 42-3)

Jean MacIntyre, "Growing Pains," in The World of Children's Books (© 1978 Jon C. Stott), Vol. III, No. 1, Spring, 1978, pp. 40-4.∗