Ruth M(abel) Arthur Jean Fritz - Essay

Jean Fritz

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The old wooden doll found by the three Mansell sisters living in turn-of-the-century England was obviously something that attracted evil [in "A Candle in her Room"]…. [Three] generations is a long time to cover in 200-odd pages. The reader just warms up to one heroine when, whoosh, he has to be whisked off to the next generation and a new heroine. Then whoosh again. This isn't magic, either; it't only a rather charming author in too much of a hurry. (p. 24)

Jean Fritz, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1966 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), August 7, 1966.

Is A Candle in her Room a book about witchcraft or about the enduring power of love? A bit of both, perhaps, as well as a touching story of family conflict and affection. The raw material of this book belongs almost to women's magazine fiction, but the author has lifted her story on to an altogether higher plane….

[The subtlety with which Ruth Arthur unfolds her remarkable story] takes hold of the reader with something of the uncanny power which Dido exercised over her victims; one does not readily put it out of mind. In a very quiet way, and with no stylistic tricks, Miss Arthur adapts her theme to its three narrators, but gives the whole a unity of mood. This is fundamentally a very sad story, but it is relieved by much tenderness and understanding. Girls suffering the bewildering growing pains of adolescence, for whom so few good books exist, may find here some of the answers to their problems and a strength with which they can identify themselves.

A Candle in her Room is a book which is much bigger than its parts…. (p. 1070)

The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1966; reproducêd from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), November 24, 1966.