So this was a book. I’ve considered reading it for years as it has a very attractive cover, with flower designs and gilt lettering. And it turned out to be this all along.
It’s overtly Christian and leans heavy on the moralizing. In modern terms, it would probably be classed as a young adult novel. And it’s about child brides. Several of them. And it very much uses the term “child bride” and sees nothing wrong with it.
First, there’s Zoe and her husband Edward, who she dropped out of grade school to marry. As a consequence, Edward is tutoring Zoe — or as he charmingly calls her, his “little girl wife” — so that she might someday be intellectually capable of talking to him, but Zoe is a willful child and must first be taught submission and obedience.
Second is Violet, who has just become the second wife of Captain Raymond, a man who has children her own age. Son Max is rather smitten by Mamma Vi himself. Lulu, the difficult middle child, also needs to learn to submit and be obedient.
After the Captain ships-out, they all leave for their ancestral home Ion, a southern plantation, replete with either slaves or essentially-slaves (“lazy niggahs” to quote the book) that speak in a dialect so thick it’s challenging to read. Grandma Elsie of the title turns out to have also been a child bride married off to her father’s friend, an adult when she was born and who knew her all her life. And it’s she who does the teaching.
This was, undoubtedly, the most disturbing book I’ve read in a very long while.
Inscription: on the front endpaper, “Private Library of Bernice Claire Bassett, Vol. No. 10”. On the facing flyleaf, “From Pearl, 1903”. You have my sympathies, Bernice.