Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

JOANNA GODDEN is a novel about a remarkable woman who not only survives but thrives through her efforts to carve out a niche for herself within a man’s world. Her strength and independence are such that she wastes no time after her father’s death in building her inherited property, Little Ansdore, into a prosperous farm. She manages to accomplish this at a time when many men are financially sinking in similar enterprises. Her gift for management and insight into business matters finally earns her the grudging admiration of her neighbors who had been at first so disapproving of what they considered her indecorous and unfeminine behavior.

Sheila Kaye-Smith creates the character of Joanna with skill and sensitivity; her heroine is a vibrantly real figure who blends both strength and vulnerability, sharp judgment and naivete, staunch independence and the need for human relationships within her personality. Through an unfolding of her interpersonal relationships with her younger sister Ellen, her devoted admirer Arthur, her fiance Martin, and the father of her child Albert Hill, the author reveals Joanna as a very complex and deep woman. Her almost paternal relationship with Ellen, for example, brings out both the loving and the controlling, dominating sides of her character. In her tender affection and instinctive desire to protect her weaker sister, she exerts such control that the latter feels stifled and longs to escape into some kind of...

(The entire section is 509 words.)