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A Woman Named Smith

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Published: 1919
Language: English
Wordcount: 79,400 / 233 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 74.4
LoC Category: PS
Downloads: 15,987
Added to site: 2005.05.18 10360

Amusing mystery story, its melodramatic plot unwinding against the charming background of a South Carolina townlet stirred to its depths by the passing of an historic mansion, through a spite will, to the possession of "a Yankee woman named Smith."

Show Excerpt

lower part of which had been used for stables and carriage house, and the upper portion as quarters for the house slaves, in the old days. Another smaller building, slate-roofed and ivy covered, was the spring-house, with a clear, cold little spring still bubbling away as merrily in its granite basin, as if all the Hyndses were not dead and gone. And there was a deep well, protected by a round stone wall, with a cupola-like roof supported by four slender pillars. And everything was dank and weedy and splotched with mildew and with mold.

O'er all there hung a shadow and a fear
A sense of mystery the spirit daunted
And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
The place is Haunted!

When we opened the great front door, above which was the fan-light of Alicia's hope, just as the round front porch had the big pillars, a damp and moldy air met us. The house had not been opened since Sophronisba's funeral, and everything--stairs, settles, tables, cabinets, pictures, the chairs backed inhospitably

Reader Reviews

Average Rating of 4.8 from 4 reviews: *****

Beautiful all through the night just to finish it and read it again immediately I finished it.

Kieran Khote

Wonderfully written, full of romance and humor. The plot turns, varied characters and snappy conversations are excellent. One irritant is the main character Sophy which comes out looking stolid and laid back as opposed to romantic despite being surrounded by other interesting characters who all are in love with her, Sophy hides her feelings from everyone including the readers.


This was really a very captivating book! Once I got to reading it, I couldn't put it down. I look forward to reading more works from Oemler and daresay, she may oust Anne Rice as my personal literary favourite.

My only criticisms about the book (reason for 4 stars, rather than 5) are that when the author used spelling to mimic the accents of the Cockney English, Old Southerners or Negroes, I had a hard time following. I also did not like the recurrence of the word "nigger", but given the era that the book was written in, I suppose such a word was more normal than it was offensive. I would like to say though, that despite its use, I had no sense of racial prejudice in the book.

I would definitely recommend it.

Leah A. Zeldes

A wonderfully written gothic romance -- I'm definitely looking forward to reading more of Oemler's books!

Miss Sophronisba Smith, a 36-year-old spinster secretary in New York City, receives an unexpected inheritance. Her Great Aunt Sophronisba Hynds Scarlett, whom she has never met, has left her a mansion, Hynds House, in Hyndsville, South Carolina, on condition she go to live in it. Sophy, with her young friend Alicia Gaines, makes the move, only to learn that that the old woman, by all accounts a fearsome tartar, made the bequest largely to spite the town and her nearer relatives and neighbors, two cousins, feisty Dr. Richard Geddes and elegant Nicholas Jelnik.

The house, moreover, is full of mysteries -- at times a dark, oppressive feeling ... odd snatches of violin music ... a lingering scent of unknown perfume ... plus a legend of missing treasure. No servant will stay overnight, believing the house haunted; the place needs all kinds of work; and the town snubs the New York interlopers.

Incorporating loads of detail that will make antiques lovers drool, Oemler weaves a complex and charming tale around likable characters, with just a hint of the supernatural.

Note: Set in the South, and written in 1919, the novel contains a small amount of offensive description of African Americans.



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