The Wide, Wide World

Ellen had plenty of faults, but amidst them all love to her mother was the strongest feeling her heart knew. It had power enough now to move her as nothing else could have done; and exerting all her self-command, of which she had sometimes a good deal, she did calm herself... -from The Wide, Wide World It was the first bestseller in American publishing history, this sentimental tale of an orphan's adventures alone in the world. Both hailed as a girl's-eye Huckleberry Finn and derided as misogynistic melodrama, its origins are strikingly simple and, in some ways, uniquely feminist: author Susan Warner wrote out of financial desperation only to find fabulous success, like many other women writers even to this today, J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter) being perhaps the most prominent contemporary example. Published under the pseudonym "Elizabeth Wetherell" in 1850, this is the tale of Ellen Montgomery, driven from her home and separated from her beloved mother only to journey through the wide world, where she suffers, submits, and is made pure. Modern eyes will see the story through many lenses, but to read the book today is to gain an extraordinary understanding of the mindset of the ordinary American of the mid 18th century, who heartily embraced the book. American novelist SUSAN BOGERT WARNER (1819-1885) was born in New York City, and lived there all her life. Among her numerous other books for children and adults are Queechy (1852), The Hills of the Shatemuc (1856), Melbourne House (1864), and Mr. Rutherford's Children (1853-55), the last written in collaboration with her sister, Anna Bartlett Warner.

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By Vanessa (Brooklyn, NY) · ★★★☆☆ · October 19, 2007
i have such a complicated response to this book; it is so very long and so very limited to the narrator's spiritual struggle (and a struggle that is not familiar to, i think, contemporary readers) but it is also so very full of possibilities and the author's intelligence. the reader can see, in t... ...more
By Todd · ★★☆☆☆ · June 29, 2009
I only read half of this book.

If I had to read more of it I may not be alive today. ...more
By Laura · ★★★☆☆ · September 25, 2014
I'll admit it, I love a good old-fashioned stuffily moral book, and enjoyed this one pretty well... but I think you should have a solid understanding of actual Christianity to put up with the extended lectures and didacticism of "The Wide, Wide World." I felt for the heroine, a 10-year-old at the... ...more
By Kathleen (Portland, OR) · ★★☆☆☆ · October 26, 2013
This is DREADFULLY preachy, and I can't believe Jo March ever really liked it and cried over it. Especially at 15 or 16 years old. It's also OVERLY tragical (poor Ellen gets separated from everyone and everything she cares about multiple times, more than once through death). And yet there are a f... ...more
By Nicole (Tampa, FL) · ★☆☆☆☆ · December 26, 2014
This book took me forever, mainly because it made me so angry. I know it's a product of its time, but somehow, that doesn't make it better.
Ellen is a girl of indeterminate age (we find out she's ten or eleven halfway through the book) whose mother is very sickly and must go abroad for her health... ...more
By Lisa (Kirkland, WA) · ★★★☆☆ · August 10, 2010
This is a deeply religious novel with a moral message: all life’s trials are sent by God, and to live a good life is to bow one’s head (as if in a snowstorm), and accept whatever weather God sends. It is a message of more than selflessness; it is a call to erase the self. Give all one has for oth... ...more
By Jill · ★☆☆☆☆ · June 27, 2013
The Wide Wide World was one of America's first best sellers and I thought that sounded like something I should read. But it seems to me that this novel starkly highlights the author's lack of education or worldy experience. Throughout, it's nothing but a woman's--or really a girl's--world, filled... ...more
By Elisabeth · ★★★★☆ · November 04, 2014
Excellent book that grips you so you can't lay it down and inspires you in your Christian walk.

I gave it only 4 stars because I felt like it left you hanging a little at the end. ...more