Original pulication date: 1915
My edition: 2009 (Persephone)
Why I decided to read: Browse on the Persephone website
How I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription received for Christmas
Fidelity is set in Freeport, a small Midwestern town that, ironically, is neither a “port” nor “free.” Ruth Holland shocks the town by running away with a married man. Eleven years later, as her father is dying, she comes back to Freeport, and faces the censure of the townspeople.
The novel, published in 1915, is the story of what happens when a young woman chooses her own happiness over that of other people. The novel asks, which is more important, “society?” Or the need for an individual to be “free?” It’s not until after Ruth returns to Freeport that she realizes the effect her actions have had upon the rest of the town—and that she starts to feel remorse for how much she has hurt them. Unusually, this is a novel about marital infidelity that is told from the point of view of “the other woman.”
One of the main themes of the novel is love—not necessarily romantic love, but love for family and friends. It’s remarkable how many friends Ruth still has in Freeport, despite all she has done. Most remarkable of all is Deane Franklin, Ruth’s old friend, who seems to be the only one in the town who can view her situation objectively. The title refers not to marital fidelity, or the lack of it, but a fidelity to a certain set of principles. And, ultimately, this book is about Ruth’s search for identity in a society in which her life would have been circumscribed had she not made the decisions she made.
This is Persephone #4 (endpaper below)