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Elsie Dinsmore

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In this first volume in The Original Elsie Dinsmore Series, sweet, motherless eight-year-old Elsie struggles with several bewildering problems. She has never known her mother, and her relationship with her father is filled with misunderstanding and tears. The young girl learns to depend wholly upon her faith in her heavenly father.


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In this first volume in The Original Elsie Dinsmore Series, sweet, motherless eight-year-old Elsie struggles with several bewildering problems. She has never known her mother, and her relationship with her father is filled with misunderstanding and tears. The young girl learns to depend wholly upon her faith in her heavenly father.

30 review for Elsie Dinsmore

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ellie Snider

    Elsie Dinsmore-part one Why I am even writing this in the first place. I loved the Elsie Dinsmore, (ED), books when I was younger. In the last few years, as I have made some new friends and started to actually talk to my friends about what they thought about things I was surprised by all the criticism, and mockery of ED. I slowly began to see the Elsie books in that same light, until recently when I was asked what I thought about these books. I was confused: did I really like them enough to stand Elsie Dinsmore-part one Why I am even writing this in the first place. I loved the Elsie Dinsmore, (ED), books when I was younger. In the last few years, as I have made some new friends and started to actually talk to my friends about what they thought about things I was surprised by all the criticism, and mockery of ED. I slowly began to see the Elsie books in that same light, until recently when I was asked what I thought about these books. I was confused: did I really like them enough to stand up for them, or were they just something that was forced upon me when I was younger? I decided to ponder it. I recently came to a conclusion. I have read every one of the 28 Elsie books, and loved them all. Out of the dozens of people whom I have told that I enjoyed the Elsie Dinsmore series, only three, ( that I can remember), answered saying they agreed with me. Everybody else either gave me a look of disgust, laughed in my face, or replied with, "Well I don't read those books." After further talking with the same people I leaned that most of them haven't even read ED and only two, if memory serves, had read the first book. I have often asked myself, "What makes these books so disliked now, when they were once the nation's best sellers for over thirty years, (selling over twenty-five million copies)?" In this post I will be trying to answer that question and one that so many people ask me, which is, "Why do you even read those books?" Before I start I would like to say that if you have not read the books you can read the basic storyline of the first book here real quick. Second, I am not talking about the "fake ED books" in this post, I am talking about the "real ones". Okay, I am ready now. ;) How I first meet ED. I was about six years old when my mother started to read the first book to my sister and me, and we loved it, and couldn't get enough of it! As we got older, we read all the books, ( there are twenty-eight in all), by ourselves around thirty times each. We later moved on to the Mildred Keith series, (which was also written by Martha Finley). The ED books really helped me learn how to trust God in all things, and that nothing is too small for God. They also showed me that I could go to God with all my problems. The ED books were exactly what I needed at that time in my life. The "problem book". In the second book, Elsie's Holiday, is where a lot of Christians have their problems with ED. Elsie's father, ( who is not a Christan, and who openly mocks God and Elsie's faith in him), asks Elsie to read him a "worldly novel" on one Sunday, and just like most believers in E's day she explains to her father how she doesn't believe in doing "worldly things" on the Lords day. She asks him if he would excuse her from this task. Needless to say he, refuses to grant her that request. E holds firm to her convictions, and ends up disobeying her father, though not in an impudent manner. People argue that E's actions in this case encourage girls to disobey their parents. I disagree - I did not get this impression in the least. Whether or not I agree with Elsie's reason for not obeying her father in this instance, she was bound to have to do it at some point as her father was not a Christian, and kept provoking her. Also in later years, Elsie repents to her father of her disobedience, and she tells him that she made a mistake in her decision to not read the novel to him. She is too perfect. This is the number one complaint when it comes to Miss Elsie. Let's stop and look at what we are really saying by this. First of all, she is not perfect. She makes lots of mistakes, and her father has to punish her for them. Yes, I will grant you that she is not nearly as naughty as Curious George or conniving as Tom in the Great brain books. Elsie is a little girl, (well, in the first three books she is), who loves Jesus, and tries to live in a way that brings glory and honor to Him. Elsie is an example of how God wants us to live for Him. That is why Martha Finley, (MF), wrote these books in the first place - to encourage girls to live for God. When we say Elsie is too perfect, are we not saying that the way God wants us to live is too perfect? Elsie would not seem so perfect if we would get with it, and starting living for God, and not for ourselves all the time. The way Elsie lives is the way God wants us, and tells us, to live. Could it be that E's, (sometimes awkward), efforts to live for God's glory convict us of our own low standards, and we're just too ashamed and guilty to admit it? A cry baby. This is something that people really dislike about ED. I agree, she is a cry baby as a little girl, but when her father helps her to see this error, she tries to stop herself, and in a couple of years she gets over it. I realize that this bothers people a lot, and if they decide to not read these books because of this, that is their choice. Of all the reasons I have heard to not read these books, this is one I can understand. I do realize that not everybody has the same taste as I do :) , and if you choose not to read them because of that, go ahead, it's your life. It is also your loss (:D). Martha Finley * About Martha Finley Martha Finley, bad writer? I have heard from a handful of people that they thought that Martha Finley was "a terrible writer", and "not worth reading". It is true that MF was not as great a writer as say, William Shakespeare, but it doesn't follow that she was "a bad writer". The ED books were mostly geared toward girls, ages six through twelve, (and therefore may not be as fun to read for older people), which also happens to be one of the hardest age groups to find good books for. Look through your library shelves for young girls' books, and most of the books you will find there are full of stories of girls living very impure lives. I know, I've looked. These are the books that encourage girls to live for themselves only, and teach them that they are smarter, and really know more then their parents do. The ED books were a life saver for my sister and I during that time, and not because they were the lesser of all other evils. We both just loved to read, and these were the perfect books for us. Like I said before, I understand that not everybody has the same taste as me, *what a world that would be*, and you may not enjoy these books for, "just because". I am just asking you to stop, think, and read before you cross them off your list. It's your choice to not read them, but it will also be your loss! This series is truly one in a million! What do you think? All right, that finishes my rant for now. Since I've told you what I think about ED, now it's your turn to tell me what you think! ( please) Also, I was planning on doing some follow up posts on this, so if you have questions, comments, or other reasons why you dislike these books, tell me, and I will try to answer those in posts to come. P.S. Thank you for reading the whole post before you comment, and for leaving your name. :) and don't forget to vote on the poll! Blessings, ~Ellie

  2. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    I tried to like this book. I really did. But it is perhaps one of the worst books about biblical girlhood I have ever read. From the very beginning, Elsie’s contrived flawlessness was nauseating and stifled the sympathy I might have felt for her. Her faultless adherence to every tiny rule made me believe she was more automaton than human. The entire plot (especially the parts regarding her father’s unreasonable punishments and emotional abuse) exists solely to “develop” Elsie’s static perfection I tried to like this book. I really did. But it is perhaps one of the worst books about biblical girlhood I have ever read. From the very beginning, Elsie’s contrived flawlessness was nauseating and stifled the sympathy I might have felt for her. Her faultless adherence to every tiny rule made me believe she was more automaton than human. The entire plot (especially the parts regarding her father’s unreasonable punishments and emotional abuse) exists solely to “develop” Elsie’s static perfection. Despite completing that boring purpose within the first few pages, the storyline has no intention of going anywhere else. By the end of the book, I was wishing Elsie would just go drown herself to stop her incessant weeping and to liven up the stagnating plot. Aside from the technical aspects of the book, I think Martha Finley misses the beauty of Christianity. Everyone has sins and failures. Therefore, the Christian life is a constant molding and growing process. It is Christ’s great work despite our imperfections that makes life so beautiful and exciting. Although we strive to glorify Christ with our lives, we will never reach perfection here on earth. However, Elsie seems to exist outside this reality in a rigid Utopia of her own. No matter what doctrine Elsie spouts to the contrary, it seems like Finley's underlying message to girls is, “Look at Elsie. She is awesome and flawless. That’s exactly how you should act if you want to be a godly young woman.” This concept of attainable perfection is not only discouraging but also harmful to girls who read these books. Clinging to such an unrealistic idea can lead to legalism, depression, and even failed marriages. I've heard people try to defend this book by saying, "That's just the way they wrote in the 1800's. And that's the way girls and society were then." Ummm...excuse me? I can think of multiple books written in that same decade (e.g. Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss) that are much deeper, much better written, much more encouraging, and much more realistic. To be completely fair, I have not read the whole Elsie Dinsmore series. But I highly doubt the mindset, message, or writing style behind this first book radically changes later on. I feel bad for berating a book that the Christian community generally praises and which several close friends of mine have found “meaningful and uplifting.” But the painfully didactic plot, poorly created characters, and potentially damaging message leave me unable to recommend it to anyone. Although labeled as a “Christian Classic,” it falls far short of deserving that title.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anna Hutzky

    I learned that even though nobody may not love you, you can still trust Jesus' love.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Briana

    Personally, I find perfect people boring and somewhat annoying. Elsie grated on me a lot...She cries incessantly, she's not particularly witty, and she seems to be out of touch with reality. And...is it just me, or does it seem kind of weird that she's all concerned with ethics, but her family owns slaves? I guess I can understand it for now, because she's young, but in the following books...I feel bad for not liking this book, because it really does tell a good message. Even when you're all alo Personally, I find perfect people boring and somewhat annoying. Elsie grated on me a lot...She cries incessantly, she's not particularly witty, and she seems to be out of touch with reality. And...is it just me, or does it seem kind of weird that she's all concerned with ethics, but her family owns slaves? I guess I can understand it for now, because she's young, but in the following books...I feel bad for not liking this book, because it really does tell a good message. Even when you're all alone, Jesus is all you need. But Elsie is just waaaaay too flawless (and too RICH) to be able to like or relate to...It would've been better to see Elsie being developed spiritually through her relationship with God. Character development is an essential part of a good book, and I found this element lacking in Elsie...She starts off perfect and weepy and ends perfect and weepy...She's like the Christian version of the Mary Sue.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Dearest Savior, help me, please. Take away these sinful feeling of mine. I want to punch Elsie Dinsmore right in the kisser. What a sanctimonious little prat. And her father? I want to stab him in the forehead with a fork. In this horribly Christian tale, tears constantly roll down Elsie's cheeks as she strives - and fails -to be a Christian. As her stereotypical Mammy says, "Lawsy, Miss Elsie, we'se all sinners!" So to achieve her preposterous Christian goal, Elsie ends up an abused child, despe Dearest Savior, help me, please. Take away these sinful feeling of mine. I want to punch Elsie Dinsmore right in the kisser. What a sanctimonious little prat. And her father? I want to stab him in the forehead with a fork. In this horribly Christian tale, tears constantly roll down Elsie's cheeks as she strives - and fails -to be a Christian. As her stereotypical Mammy says, "Lawsy, Miss Elsie, we'se all sinners!" So to achieve her preposterous Christian goal, Elsie ends up an abused child, desperately trying to please her tyrannical father, who -gasp! insists she play the piano on the Sabbath. Poor Elsie. What else can she do? She faints in horror, of course. Let's leave her lying on the floor while someone else plays a merry tune for us.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    I loved this book and I learned lots from reading it!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alisha

    Amazing book that teaches morals and standards. Growing up I learned a lot from Elsie, though only read this one book. She taught me how to stand up for what I believe in and love all who are around me no matter who they are. To see the beauty in everyone.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mecque

    Elsie, I adore you. Your father's kind of horrible (at the ripe old age of 27!) but you love him anyway. That takes guts, kid. I like following along with the Bible passages, and the writing is adorable. I'm on board for the next 27.

  9. 4 out of 5

    CatherineMorland

    I would rate this 0 stars if I could. This book gives me the creeps. Elsie is impossibly good and holy. Her father is abusive and the book makes it seem like his behavior is OK. The whole story has a very self-righteous, preachy, "You mustn't do this, gentle reader," sort of style. Elsie Dinsmore is probably one of the worst books I've ever read, and definitely not something I would allow my children to read. I wouldn't want my kids to read this and think it's OK if someone hurts you as long as I would rate this 0 stars if I could. This book gives me the creeps. Elsie is impossibly good and holy. Her father is abusive and the book makes it seem like his behavior is OK. The whole story has a very self-righteous, preachy, "You mustn't do this, gentle reader," sort of style. Elsie Dinsmore is probably one of the worst books I've ever read, and definitely not something I would allow my children to read. I wouldn't want my kids to read this and think it's OK if someone hurts you as long as they're related to you. Just... no. This book is terrible.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I read and reread this story over and over when I was in about the fifth grade. Elsie fascinated me with her innocence and she was surrounded by mean people, especially Enna. Her father also was distant and did not pay attention to her. I did not read this edition but the one that my mother handed down to me. She must have read it in the 1920s.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bkwyrm

    Creeeeeepy and weird. The ultimate patriarchal authority! The saccharine sweetness! The kissing and hand-holding and lap-sitting between father and daughter! The heavy-handed religious plot! Why did I read this? Why am I reading the sequel? Argh!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    I don't know why I still read these books. Ugh.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eustacia Tan

    Elsie Dinsmore is a rich heiress who happens to be a devoted Christian. She also lives with her extended family, where they emotionally abuse/bully poor Elsie, who bears all things with a patient and meek spirit. Basically, she is as near to a Mary Sue as one can be, except that she cries so often she annoys everyone. Strangely, though, I found the book addictive. As for the charge of racism, there is, in this first book, a comment by a black slave that Jesus loves her as though she is white. Bu Elsie Dinsmore is a rich heiress who happens to be a devoted Christian. She also lives with her extended family, where they emotionally abuse/bully poor Elsie, who bears all things with a patient and meek spirit. Basically, she is as near to a Mary Sue as one can be, except that she cries so often she annoys everyone. Strangely, though, I found the book addictive. As for the charge of racism, there is, in this first book, a comment by a black slave that Jesus loves her as though she is white. But on the other hand, we do have a white character treating her like a human being, saying "How do you do, Aunt Chloe? I am very glad to know you, since Elsie tells me you are a servant of the same blessed Master whom I love and try to serve." So, I'm quite willing to say that in the first book at least, there isn't much overt racism, and what there is, I can safely attribute to the mis-guided values of that time. At the very least, there are characters who (although they accept the concept of racism), treat the black slaves as human. What disturbed me more was the strong patriachism in the book. To me, Elsie's father is much too overbearing, a fact that is commented on by the other characters. However, by presenting this as good, I'm uncomfortably reminded of the teachings of To Train Up A Child. But if I remember correctly, he does change in the later books. Still, quotes like this is uncomfortable: "I love you all the better for never letting me have my own way, but always making me obey and keep to the rules." Perhaps there's a more wholesome meaning, but in the light of the 21st century, I can't say it has a very positive message. The main problem with Elsie is that it presents a role-model for girls, which means that it will probably appeal more to the pre-teen. However, due to some elements of racism and patriachy, I would only recommend it to older girls who have more discernment but may not want to read such saccharine books. I do wonder who would want to read the book (apart from the weird kids like me) First posted at Inside the mind of a Bibliophile

  14. 5 out of 5

    AlixJamie

    I read this book when I was eleven or twelve and couldn't believe that it was recommended reading for young girls. It is a weak, sappy, and altogether unexciting plot with inane characters and action that makes you want to roll your eyes until the page blurs. This is not a sweet story at all and it is completely not one you can relate to. I've read books where the main character is falsely persecuted by her family, but in those cases, I usually cared about the main character because they were be I read this book when I was eleven or twelve and couldn't believe that it was recommended reading for young girls. It is a weak, sappy, and altogether unexciting plot with inane characters and action that makes you want to roll your eyes until the page blurs. This is not a sweet story at all and it is completely not one you can relate to. I've read books where the main character is falsely persecuted by her family, but in those cases, I usually cared about the main character because they were believable and human. All Elsie ever did was cry and apologize. She was so exhaustingly perfect and "gentle" and "sweet" that I wanted to gag. Her family was portrayed as almost demonic compared to her. She had no spunk and became terribly tiresome after the first few sentences. There was no depth to her character. Reading it made me determine that if being a sweet little girl required becoming like Elsie, I was never going to do it. I'm almost positive that this mindset is NOT was Mrs. Finley was aiming for when she wrote this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alisha

    I am giving the entire series of 28 books the four stars. While most readers today probably would not, it is important to keep in mind that they were published between 1867 and 1905 and were meant for children and young ladies. Morality and faith abound. The first book begins with Elsie as a young girl and by the last she is a grandmother many times over but the focus of the series has shifted to the younger generations. I found them in early high school by looking up a reference to Elsie in L.M I am giving the entire series of 28 books the four stars. While most readers today probably would not, it is important to keep in mind that they were published between 1867 and 1905 and were meant for children and young ladies. Morality and faith abound. The first book begins with Elsie as a young girl and by the last she is a grandmother many times over but the focus of the series has shifted to the younger generations. I found them in early high school by looking up a reference to Elsie in L.M. Montgomery's Emily Climbs and managed to convince my mother to buy them all for me. They are very quaint and idealized, and they also contain a ton of oral history tales in the later books. Seriously, the characters are sitting around on a yacht, sharing stories and songs about American history. So, not for every 21st century gal, but for a girl who is in love with historical fiction of a 19th century sort, then this may be a place for her to go after Alcott, Montgomery, Wilder, and perhaps even Austen and the Brontes.

  16. 4 out of 5

    TheBohemianBookworm

    “Dear papa, I love you so much!' she replied, twining her arms around his neck. 'I love you all the better for never letting me have my own way, but always making me obey and keep to rules.” ― Martha Finley, Elsie Dinsmore I don't think any more needs to be said. I will never read these books. What I do know about them by flipping through one I came in contact with as a child was enough to utterly repulse me. The messages in these books are pure poison. I truly fear for children who read these bo “Dear papa, I love you so much!' she replied, twining her arms around his neck. 'I love you all the better for never letting me have my own way, but always making me obey and keep to rules.” ― Martha Finley, Elsie Dinsmore I don't think any more needs to be said. I will never read these books. What I do know about them by flipping through one I came in contact with as a child was enough to utterly repulse me. The messages in these books are pure poison. I truly fear for children who read these books and grow up thinking this is the correct way to behave and that the abuse Elsie suffers in this book is in any way acceptable. No other children's book makes me more angry, the only reason I wrote this review was to add to other one stars to lower this book's rating even more and warn people away from it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I read this novel because I heard a number of Christian girls were encouraged to read it and I was interested in what the fuss was about. More of a morbid fascination really. Elsie is a persecuted main character who essentially behaves like a doormat while the rest of the family treats her poorly. But apparently, she is happier than all of them, because Jesus. All the characters are really more caricatures, with the traits of either being "extremely good" or "extremely bad". Then there is the rat I read this novel because I heard a number of Christian girls were encouraged to read it and I was interested in what the fuss was about. More of a morbid fascination really. Elsie is a persecuted main character who essentially behaves like a doormat while the rest of the family treats her poorly. But apparently, she is happier than all of them, because Jesus. All the characters are really more caricatures, with the traits of either being "extremely good" or "extremely bad". Then there is the rather creepy relationship between Elsie and adult men. It's disappointing that people still use Elsie as a shining example of how a girl should be. Kind and loving is great, tolerant to other people's abuse isn't.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    This book was good. Very good! It reminds me that no sin is a little sin. I love Elsie, and a few times I wished that I could go into the book to give her a hug... The ending was not conclusive, but that is usually the case in a series. I am looking forward to reading the next one. I gave four stars instead of five because I had a hard time understanding a few things. Such as how Elsie was related to those that she lived with. It is a minor issue, but I didn't comprehend it the first time I read This book was good. Very good! It reminds me that no sin is a little sin. I love Elsie, and a few times I wished that I could go into the book to give her a hug... The ending was not conclusive, but that is usually the case in a series. I am looking forward to reading the next one. I gave four stars instead of five because I had a hard time understanding a few things. Such as how Elsie was related to those that she lived with. It is a minor issue, but I didn't comprehend it the first time I read that paragraph, so I had to re-read it. This happened only a couple of times. Over all, Elsie Dinsmore is a encouraging and worth reading book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    The Original Elsie Classics by Martha Finley are some of the best books I have ever read. Elsie and her family endure several difficult trials through out her life. Through them she learns to trust God with everything, and rely on him to fulfill her every need. I would definitely recommend these books.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Knight

    Was this the most stressful reading experience of my entire life? The answer is yes, folks!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karen B.

    I only listened to this book (audio version) for sentimental reasons. My mother went all over when I was about 11 to find a copy of it because her mother gave it to her when she was 10 and she loved it so much. I don't think it would have much appeal to a young girl of today because it does seem so outdated. This was written in 19th century and suppose children of that day would enjoy it. Elsie Dinsmore lives with her grandfather, step-grandmother and young aunts and uncles of her own age. Her m I only listened to this book (audio version) for sentimental reasons. My mother went all over when I was about 11 to find a copy of it because her mother gave it to her when she was 10 and she loved it so much. I don't think it would have much appeal to a young girl of today because it does seem so outdated. This was written in 19th century and suppose children of that day would enjoy it. Elsie Dinsmore lives with her grandfather, step-grandmother and young aunts and uncles of her own age. Her mother died at birth and she has never met her father who has been away. Elsie tries very hard to be a "good" girl and do everything right and most of the people in the household seem to bully her. What holds her together is faith and for a little girl to have that deep a faith and know so much about the Bible is a bit unrealistic. When her father comes home their relationship is at first strained as he is a very strict disciplinarian and Elsie craves the love and affection she had always dreamed of. Eventually her father comes to love her deeply and to respect her as well even when her religious beliefs cause her to defy him. I enjoyed this book only because it brought back memories of my own childhood and my mother's love and encouragement for me to read. I am the reader I am today because of her. Also it is an interesting picture of what the young girl of the late 1800's might have been given to read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tara Lynn

    I feel that if I had tried to read this as a younger person, I would have been turned off to it completely. Elsie, the main character, is so thoroughly the image of what every parent wants or expects in a child that it can be very hard to relate to her emotionally. As an adult reading the series now, I can realize that the story has to be taken with the spirit in which it was written, with a clear understanding of the time in which it would have been received. Children were expected to be pious I feel that if I had tried to read this as a younger person, I would have been turned off to it completely. Elsie, the main character, is so thoroughly the image of what every parent wants or expects in a child that it can be very hard to relate to her emotionally. As an adult reading the series now, I can realize that the story has to be taken with the spirit in which it was written, with a clear understanding of the time in which it would have been received. Children were expected to be pious and humble, neat and well-mannered, and inconspicuous to a fault. This series of stories following Elsie's life from the 1800's can seem extremely "preachy" out of context. While some of us would have envied Elsie's character traits, a child of the 1800's might have been more inclined to understand the nature of the small jealousies that plague children even to this day, and might have found her reactions to these jealousies inspirational. I think I'll continue at least with the first three. Someone setting out to read this might be better suited to reading the Avonlea books first.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Galina Krasskova

    omg this child is a complete milksop. i can't believe these books are still being touted as classics nor that anyone would think such a whining, crying child is an example for anyone. i read this one after it came up on another discussion to see if it was as pathetic as everyone was saying and yeah, pretty much.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Catchastar

    she seemed too perfect, and rather spoiled. It's hard to relate to a character when they're flawless, and when you can't relate to the characters, the story falls flat. And this did.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I LOVE the Elsie books!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Juliko

    Ugh...what a mess of epic proportions. One website I frequent is TVTropes, and I found a lot of shows, books, and games that I've come to like or dislike from going there a few times and reading through it. Some stuff I wouldn't have even heard of had I not gone to TVTropes. One of those things is an old book series called Elsie Dinsmore, which focuses on the life of...well, a young girl named Elsie DInsmore. I read on its TVTropes page that not only does it contain a lot of things that would ab Ugh...what a mess of epic proportions. One website I frequent is TVTropes, and I found a lot of shows, books, and games that I've come to like or dislike from going there a few times and reading through it. Some stuff I wouldn't have even heard of had I not gone to TVTropes. One of those things is an old book series called Elsie Dinsmore, which focuses on the life of...well, a young girl named Elsie DInsmore. I read on its TVTropes page that not only does it contain a lot of things that would absolutely not fly in today's society, but that it's little more than an uber long mouthpiece for the authoress to preach her holy religious views through as a means to make young girls reading this become perfect, obedient, sweet, submissive, passive, Jesus-loving Christians who absolutely must love God and become wives to their husbands and bear children. Yeah, reading the premise and the background, I had a hunch that it was going to be either dull, annoying, or bad, but I found it on Project Gutenberg and decided to read it for kicks and to see if it was really as bad as people say. My verdict? It is. I've only read the first book, which is just called Elsie Dinsmore, so this review will only focus on that one. Mostly because I have absolutely NO desire to read the rest of the series, especially since it'll very likely be of the same quality. But the first book alone is just dull, annoying, poorly written, and not worth it at all. The book focuses on Elsie Dinsmore (Isn't repetition fun? NOT!), a sweet, religious little girl who loves reading her Bible and worships her heavenly father. But other than being rich and having nice clothes, she doesn't have a very nice life. Her grandparents and many cousins are always picking on her, her governess is always scolding her, her mother died when she was little, and the only one who remotely cares about her is one of the family's slaves, a black woman named Chloe. One day, her father, Horace Dinsmore Jr., suddenly returns from spending years in Europe, and Elsie is determined to be the girl he can love...only he spends most of the book either treating her like crap or being an absolute anal retentive control freak towards her, so much so that it'd probably make cult leaders look sane in comparison. But no matter how harsh he is to her, Elsie's faith never wavers, and she does everything she can to be the kind of girl that everyone will love, including Jesus. I really don't want to be hard on a book like this, as a premise like this can be done well in the right hands. Unfortunately, Martha Finley really messed up here, in more ways than one. One of the biggest problems the book has is that it's extremely easy to see that while the simplistic writing tries to make it seem like a cute children's book, there are so many sermons and religious speeches throughout the entire book that go on and on without end, some of which are taken straight out of the Bible. Half of them barely contribute anything to the story and are just there so Finley can espouse her religious views. Finley doesn't even try to hide the fact that she's writing solely to preach, preach, preach to the audience, often addressing the reader directly at times, which is not only jarring, but makes the book come across as extremely didactic and heavy-handed. God is constantly mentioned in every other sentence, and any attempts at actual prose are no better than L. Frank Baum's writing, favoring telling over showing. But I probably shouldn't make that comparison because that's an insult to Baum, who at the very LEAST wrote stories and didn't use them as blatant mouthpieces for his personal views, or knew when to keep his views out of certain things when needed. Surely the characters are interesting and likeable, right? WRONG! Nearly the ENTIRE cast of characters in this book are either extremely annoying or so repulsive and detestable that you have to wonder who you need to root for. Elsie is a whiny, overly perfect, flawless Mary Sue who is constantly crying over every little thing, never stands up for herself, and has about as much spine as a dead jellyfish, her entire family consists of uppity assholes who get off on picking on her because she's so perfect and God-obsessed, and the few good characters that appear in this book, such as the Carrington family, Caroline Howard, Chloe, Allison, and the Travilla family, are overshadowed by the Dinsmores, who happen to have much more page time than every other character. The characters are all so black-and-white and one-dimensional that they have zero depth to them. Elsie is a goody two shoes and everyone around her who doesn't love her is evil or straight up unnecessarily mean-spirited towards her. Miss Day, her governess and teacher, is pretty much just another evil teacher stereotype who is always yelling at and abusing Elsie for not being perfect at everything, even over stuff that doesn't need to be made into a big deal, like having ink blots on her writing books. Furthermore, the book doesn't have much of a plot holding it together. It's just Elsie having adventures, dealing with her family, and soapboxing about how much she loves God and Jesus at every opportunity. How does Finley compensate for this? By having every single situation be forced, contrived, and be rife with ridiculously overblown melodrama that would make Twilight, Fallout, and Fifty Shades of Grey look cheerful. No, I am not exaggerating. Now, a bit of angst is always healthy, and if characters are happy all the time, they'd be boring. But it can be just as bad going in the other direction. What do I mean? Situations that modern readers wouldn't bat an eye at and go "Eh, whatever. No big deal" are treated with all the gravity of a murder in the Elsie Dinsmore series. For example, everyone makes a HUGE deal out of every slip up Elsie makes, from freeing a trapped hummingbird from a glass jar to crying when she's overcome with anxiety about her father's stern, authoritarian ways. Even the barest, most asinine of misdemeanors are treated with super hyper vigilance, get her screamed at, told she's bad, sent to her room, or often left starving, even over stuff that's not even her fault to begin with. No, I'm not kidding. If Elsie so much as screws up at something, everyone suddenly behaves like a Christian who found out the pope got pregnant and freak out like they're foaming at the mouth. And the source of much of this melodrama? Elsie's father, Horace. Dear Jesus H. fucking Christ on a banana boat, this guy is the absolute most detestable character in this entire book, and the absolute worst of them all. Bluntly said, this guy is an idiotic dickish bastard who thinks everything he says is law, constantly expects the worst of his own daughter, and expects Elsie to be absolutely obedient to every single command he makes to the point of being completely self-effacing. That in and of itself would be considered emotional abuse, but this guy deliberately keeps Elsie away from people who care about her such as her friends, changes her diet because he thinks certain foods are bad for her, wants her to be more like an automaton than a human being, and completely flips his shit at Elsie over the most asinine things, such as going to a meadow for five minutes or crying in his presence (He considers crying to be babyish, even though he's the reason she cries so much. Can't you take a hint, old man?!) or refusing to play a song on a piano or refusing to read a book on Sabbath. Dear lord, every time this guy opened his mouth, I wanted to give him a good knee to the ballsack. At one point, Elsie frees a hummingbird from a glass jar that was set in the sun so it would kill it, which any sane person would consider to be a good thing, because trapping an animal with intent to kill it is obviously wrong. As it turns out, Horace trapped the bird and wanted to kill it because he wanted a specimen to add to his collection or some bullshit like that. What does he do when Elsie tells him what she did? He flat-out screams at Elsie for "meddling in his affairs," ties her hands with a rope, sends her to her room, scolds her for crying about the punishment and being too sad to eat because children obviously shouldn't have feelings or be allowed to be sad, and acts like a complete dick. Hell, he often straight up tells her that she absolutely MUST obey all of his commands, not ask questions about them (Even when asking why would have been completely reasonable). One of the things he says is "Remember I am to be obeyed always!" God, why hasn't someone fucking killed this guy yet? If anyone did any of these things to me, somebody would be well within their right to call CPS on the bastard! But the worst thing about all of this? Finley tries to JUSTIFY his abuse, not only by providing pitiful excuses for letting him do so, but making Elsie continue to obey him and treating his abuse of her as being a good thing! Here's a passage from late in the book that straight up confirms this: “Dear papa, I love you so much!' she replied, twining her arms around his neck. 'I love you all the better for never letting me have my own way, but always making me obey and keep to rules.” It doesn't help that when the few times they DO get along, all of their interactions and affections are so saccharine and sugary sweet that I'm pretty sure it'd make any diabetic reading this die. It doesn't help that Finley makes no secret of the fact that she wants Elsie to be the kind of girl that all little girls living in the Victorian era should be like: Quiet, passive, submissive, Jesus-loving automatons who must do everything their parents tell them to do no matter how bad or cruel they are, because that's just their roundabout way of showing how much they love you! Give me a break, Finley. Faith isn't the same thing as Stockholm Syndrome, and forcing a child to suppress their emotions and always obey all authority, whether those authorities are wrong or not, is not okay. And no, the time period this was written is absolutely no excuse. Other books have that excuse, but not this one. Also, blacks are made to be all slaves who talk in broken English, because that was the standard at the time. Scarlet O'Hara's mammy ain't got nothing on Elsie's mammy, Chloe, who is an even worse caricature of a black maid than Gone With The Wind could ever hope to create, and considering the time period that both books take place in, that's saying something! Okay. I better get off this soapbox before I drive myself insane. Anyway, the book is dull, obnoxiously preachy, mind-numbingly boring, with God-awful characters and morals that nowadays would seem extremely toxic and so full of so much stupid they'd make you fall out of your chair in agony. Lewis Carroll once said that he wrote Alice In Wonderland because he felt children deserved the right to read books solely for entertainment and that he absolutely hated moralistic books that tried to do nothing but teach good values. After reading Elsie Dinsmore, I have to wonder if this is one of the books he was talking about. Kids deserve better than frothy wastes of paper like this. I can recommend so many other books that are so much better, both aimed at kids and not. Don't bother with Elsie Dinsmore. These books are so not worth it. (On a related and even more fucked up note, I read somewhere that Horace's reasons for abusing Elsie the way he does makes him the absolute dumbest idiot in the universe. One of the later books says that the reason he hates Elsie is that his mother, Elsie's paternal grandmother, basically wrote him a bunch of letters while in Europe saying that his daughter turned out to be a mischievous, naughty, bothersome kid who is out of control and requires strict discipline, basically slandering her and making up lies about Elsie for no other reason than pure contempt and she felt like it. Not only is this piss-poor writing and make her into a complete caricature of an evil mother archetype (or in her case, evil grandmother), it makes Horace's abuse of Elsie even more appalling in that he just accepted everything his stepmother told her and didn't ONCE question it! He basically abused Elsie all because he was too much of a gullible idiot to fucking think rationally and question whether anything his mother told him was genuine or not! WHYYYYYYY?!?)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anna Grace

    It was so nice to re-read this beautiful story!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mei Makes

    I think it is very good. I like how Elsie is very obedient and doesn't tell on people, even if she knows they purposely tried or did hurt her. She also is very kind even to the people who are mean to her. The book tells all the good and the bad in her childhood. It's just like normal human life. Another good thing about her, is her love for God. She is very willing to suffer for the Lord and she is very strict on things that she should not do on the sabbath. She sometimes gets in trouble by her I think it is very good. I like how Elsie is very obedient and doesn't tell on people, even if she knows they purposely tried or did hurt her. She also is very kind even to the people who are mean to her. The book tells all the good and the bad in her childhood. It's just like normal human life. Another good thing about her, is her love for God. She is very willing to suffer for the Lord and she is very strict on things that she should not do on the sabbath. She sometimes gets in trouble by her father but she is very firm. She says that her father's frown is way easier to bare then her heavenly father's glare. Overall, she is a very obedient girl but she always obeys her heavenly father over her earthly father. See my full review at: https://meimakes.blogspot.com/2020/08....

  29. 5 out of 5

    Faith Burnside

    A horrifying book. I read and enjoyed it as a child, I re-read it as an adult and was really and truly stunned. It has everything, backing down to abusers, absent and then hyper controlling parents, racism, a child clinging to literally the only kind adult they had ever met and the old south! Admittedly, these stories did significantly improve my grammar. But please. I beg you. DO NOT LET A YOUNG IMPRESSIONABLE CHILD READ THESE.

  30. 4 out of 5

    bird

    Saying I hated this series growing up is a wee bit of an understatement. I really don't have the words to describe how much I disliked this series. Maybe that's my wild ten year old self talking here, but as a child I read and struggled through this entire series kicking and screaming all the way. I attempted to re-read it a few years back to see if I still felt the same way and what do you know, I did. Elsie has no flaws. She is perfect and everyone around her is simply a bunch of sinners she mu Saying I hated this series growing up is a wee bit of an understatement. I really don't have the words to describe how much I disliked this series. Maybe that's my wild ten year old self talking here, but as a child I read and struggled through this entire series kicking and screaming all the way. I attempted to re-read it a few years back to see if I still felt the same way and what do you know, I did. Elsie has no flaws. She is perfect and everyone around her is simply a bunch of sinners she must reform. Hey, I'm all for role models in children's stories, but this book.....er series pushes it. Not only is it far too preachy, Elsie is really unlikable. She is portrayed as perfect. 24/7. After the first five chapters it gets a little old. She isn't real, never makes mistakes and is overall just blah and a pretty cardboard character. Maybe I'm just jealous because as a child I was a wild thing (ha I still am) who was nothing like Elsie (although in my defense, my heart was almost always in the right place), I just really struggle saying anything positive about this series. It grates on my nerves and as a young girl made me feel like something was wrong with it because I had a fiery nature. Looking back I blame this series on part of the reason as to why I went through a rough time. I attempted to change my spirited nature simply because it wasn't what "fit the mold". I honestly feel like this entire series is trying to put young girls in a box. What is so wrong with being passionate and on fire? Not all of us are tame, genteel little things. While there is nothing wrong with being sweet (actually, that's a character trait I admire in people), not all of us are born good or able to tame our wild spirits. And to have an author tell a young girl that being spirited is a bad thing highly offended me. Maybe if this series had taken a different approach to teaching Jesus's love and kindness, I would like it better. Less Bible thumping and throat stuffing perhaps. Perhaps other less wild girls will find a companion in Elsie, but as for me I'll just find something else with a more....real.... heroine to read about and relate with. I wish I could recommend this series, but I can't.

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