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The Elsie Dinsmore Series by Martha Finley

by Kellyn Roth |
March 7, 2016

Hello, Readers! Today I’ll be reviewing, or rather discussing, the Elsie Dinsmore series by Martha Finley.

Martha Finley was born in 1828. She wrote numerous books, the most popular being the twenty-eight “Elsie books.” She died January 30, 1909.

The Elsie Dinsmore series is, essentially, a devotional (and, meanwhile, an interesting story) for Victorian children. I have read most of the books and enjoyed all of them.
True, modern readers can’t always identify with the strict morals of the 19th century. For instance, Elsie’s Sabbath-keeping (which is an important plot point, by the way) may seem ludicrous.
Elsie Dinsmore (Book 1) begins in the mid-1840s on a Southern plantation, Roselands.
Elsie’s mother died soon after giving birth to her, leaving her in the care of her paternal grandfather. Elsie’s aunts and uncles, who are about her age, mistreat her, as does the cross governess. Though supported by her strong Christian faith, Elsie longs for the love and companionship of her only remaining parent, Horace Dinsmore, who has been away in Europe for Elsie’s entire life.
When Mr. Dinsmore returns, Elsie is sadly disappointed to find that her father doesn’t love her at all. He is very strict and cold, only speaking to her if he wishes to reprimand her. Can Elsie win her father’s love? Even if she does, can she stand firm in her faith against her non-Christian father’s influence?

I often use these novels as a historical reference. It’s also a very interesting story, and the Christian content is inspirational. On the other hand, Elsie’s perfection can be a bit annoying at times.
There is also, a rewritten Elsie Dinsmore series, “A Life of Faith.” I’ve read those, too. For a modern audience, it is definitely improved. I believe there are eight Elsie books and eight Violet books (Elsie’s daughter).
The new books are definitely worth reading; they make it easy to understand the complicated plot and remove some of Martha Finley’s flowery, oftentimes superfluous, prose.
Thank you for your time! Be sure to comment; I’d love to hear from you!
~Kellyn Roth

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21 Responses

  1. I have read the A Life of Faith Elsie books; they are very good! You are right in your belief that there is also and eight-book Violet series. There is also an eight-book Millie series. (Millie’s a distant cousin of Elsie’s) We have all of those books. We only have a couple of the ‘real’ Elsie books.

    1. Yes, I’ve read the eight-book Millie series. I haven’t read the original Millie Keith books, though. I kind of want to, but I really haven’t the time. I didn’t really like the eight-book Violet series. It seemed a little … far-fetched and weird, with Violet being a crazy feminist person. I don’t think any child of Elsie Dinsmore would dare!

  2. Oh, I didn’t think she was a feminist. Which book are you specifically talking about? The last one, where she’s an artist for the archaeological expedition?

    1. Basically the whole series. XD But I may have misinterpreted it. I read it pretty fast (like, I was reading about a book a day for a while there) and may not have caught everything. 😉

      1. Oh, okay. I suppose their main idea was that Violet was becoming an adult. Or something like that. 😀

        1. It just seemed a little unbelievable to me that she struck out on her own like that … but then, I could just be reading a lot more into it than there was! XD

  3. I love the elsie dinsmore series! Of course, ya know, kellyn, that I used to…uh, hate? the elsie dinsmore series because of the…lack of guts and perfection…but now I really like them! Even if everybody cries everytime someone else cries… 😉

    1. You just have to bear the lack of guts and the amazing perfection because it’s so dramatic … and you know that, even if no one could be that perfect and they are preachy, they’re probably right …. XD

      1. I know, I used to hate it cause, well, sadly, they were goody two shoes and better than me but now I admire them (kinda)…. like what I mean is, I admire goodness and dislike evil cause im Christian 😉
        Know what I mean? 🙂

  4. I have all 28 of the books, read about 14… I love them so much… but I just can’t get myself to read the rest of them for some odd reason. That’s a great Review Kellyn!

        1. Yeah. Well, you kind of have to get into the other characters to like them. I like Lulu Raymond a lot. She’s actually *clears throat* a lot like me. We’re both bulldog stubborn. XD

            1. I’ve got all the books mixed-up in my head. *sighs* After a certain point, I lost track of where one book ends and another begins, you know what I mean?

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