The Romance of Eleanor Gray

Written by Raymond Kennedy
Review by Suzanne J. Sprague

When twenty-year-old Eleanor Gray takes her first position as teacher in western Massachusetts’s East Becket, she considered it to be an “adventure among the familiar.” Her two years at Normal School and experience in the city of Fall River prepared her to be a role model to the community as well as to her students. But Eleanor never expected to become involved in a clandestine relationship with a troubled girl. After eavesdropping on the ethereally beautiful sixteen-year-old Evangeline and then on other members of the boarding house, Eleanor determines that Evangeline is pregnant and quietly decides to take Evangeline’s side in the matter, shocking for the year 1910. Because Evangeline is from the up-country, northerners raised on misfortune and wary of strangers, she is considered an outsider in East Becket. As Evangeline accepts Eleanor’s assistance, their relationship changes and Eleanor finds herself in the throes of obsession.

Eleanor is at times unlikable because she thinks so highly of herself that she is occasionally moved to tears by her own eloquence. Her attitude towards the residents of East Becket borders on condescending, but everyone politely encourages her wittiness by frequently complementing her sophistication. Evangeline makes few actual appearances in the novel, but her presence is continually felt, as Eleanor’s every thought involves the girl. As this novel slowly builds to a crescendo, it gives the reader an opportunity to explore the areas of isolation, love, and obsession.