Scott O'Dell Jean Fritz - Essay

Jean Fritz

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Writers may choose their subjects, but good writers have less to say about their themes, which are apt to rise, bidden or unbidden, from the raw material of their deepest preoccupations. Never does Scott O'Dell play better music than when he introduces what seems to be his favorite motif: the pull between the individual's need for solitude and the need for society….

After losing her father at the hands of the rebels and her brother at the hands of the King's men, Sarah Bishop, in fear of both parties, hides in a cave, gradually learning to take a fierce joy in her hard-won self-reliance. And when at the end of ["Sarah Bishop"] it is clear that Sarah will move back to town, the reader understands that Sarah is under no illusion that living with people will be easier than living alone.

Mr. O'Dell has always been a master at lighting up an era with details that seem to have been learned on the spot…. So this book is a vivid reflection of life in Revolutionary New York, and Scott O'Dell is obviously very much at home. First and foremost, however, this is the story of Sarah Bishop, a stouthearted heroine who, although caught in the conflicts of her own age, might have lived anywhere at any time.

Jean Fritz, in a review of "Sarah Bishop," in The New York Times Book Review, May 4, 1980, p. 26.