Novel 096: Will Payne, The Story of Eva (1901)

Alson Skinner Clark, The Coffee House

Alson Skinner Clark, The Coffee House


Having abandoned her adulterous husband, a young woman makes a life for herself in Chicago.

Will Payne (1865-1954) wrote nine novels between 1896 and 1929.  The description in the first half of the novel of a woman’s working life in turn-of-the-century Chicago is especially interesting.

“It has been said that Chicago is fatal to any imaginative gifts, and that no novel of that city has ever risen above mediocrity.  An exception must be made in favor of a new novel of strong realism which pictures several phases of Chicago life with remarkable vividness and yet contains much of the spiritual quality that relieves its materialism. . . . The story as a whole is admirably constructed and true to life. . . .  In all the passages that bear on the working girls of Chicago the author shows singular closeness of observation, mingled with much sympathy.” San Francisco Chronicle, June 30, 1901

“The book is readable, and interesting to any one who wishes to hear about the way of life of the middle classes of Chicago.” Spectator, August 10, 1901

“Mr. Payne’s writing is not of the kind which arrests or startles.  Rather it compels attention to detail, to a word here, a phrase there; but the portrait which is left at the end is whole and in proportion, while the background is filled in with due regard to the high lights which the painter wishes to emphasise.” Saturday Review, September 14, 1901

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