E. M. Almedingen John W. Conner - Essay

John W. Conner

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Adolescent girls who love to read stories about nineteenth-century, middle-class English country maidens who marry wealthy European noblemen have an inviting … novel in store for them. Ellen is a book for these young readers to cherish. E. M. Almedingen relates the true story of her grandmother, Ellen Southee, with great affection and excellent taste.

Ellen is a beautifully developed character. Miss Almedingen sees her as a temperamental, sometimes lazy young lady who must mature when her mother dies leaving Ellen's family under the haphazard guidance of her fun-loving, free spending father….

There are a great many characters in Ellen. Yet, somehow Miss Almedingen makes them all real people as they aid or resist Ellen Southee. Ellen's prodigal father comes off rather too well, considering his inability to manage his own family responsibilities, and Ellen's mother will be remembered as an ever-ailing saint who keeps her family solvent and respectable for as long as she lives. Every reader will regret the moment when the Southeee's English home is abandoned and the faithful servants are sent away to spend their remaining years in somewhat less hospitable households. And every reader will share Ellen's excitement as she takes possession of her enormous Russian household.

It is easy to become involved in the lives presented in Ellen. An adolescent reader may sigh with regret as Ellen's adventures end. This is a book for quiet, personal enjoyment with an intrinsic timeless quality. Ellen should be a popular reader's choice for many years to come! (p. 405)

John W. Conner, in English Journal (copyright © 1971 by the National Council of Teachers of English), March, 1971.