The Green Bay Tree

Bromfield, Louis. The Green Bay Tree.  Wooster, Ohio; The Wooster Book Company, 2001 (Originally published in 1924).

Every time I pass the Malabar Farm sign on I-71 near Mansfield I think, “One day I will visit there.”  Instead, I finally got around to reading a work of the farm’s one-time operator, Louis Bromfield. Though known as an early conservationist and Ohio writer who knew many celebrities today, Bromfield was a literary star as a young man in the 1920s.  His novel Early Autumn won a Pulitzer Prize in 1927.  He continued to write, branching more into non-fiction, up until his death in 1958.  He established the before-mentioned Malabar Farm in 1939.

Over the last decade-or-so, The Wooster Book Company has reprinted a selection of Bromfield’s work, including many of his early novels and later Malabar Farm-related writings.   Many of these titles appear to have been long out of print, so now is a time to learn the Bromfield way.

The Green Bay Tree is the authors first published novel (1924).  For a first work, its scope aims towards the grand, encompassing the industrial revolution in the Midwest, a World War in France, and, to a lesser extent, truly knowing oneself.  This  all told through a reclusive widow, Julia Shane, and her two daughters, Irene and Lily.  Plot-wise, the novel can be over-simplified as the daughters choose (for completely different reasons) to not get married: Lily for the idea of love and Irene due to piety.  The Shane’s refuse to play by the Town’s rules.  Bromfield’s focus is on the female characters, with the few males left incomplete. Continue reading