HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Little Minister
Author: James Matthew Barrie
Illustrator: C. Allen Gilbert
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 12 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Barrie, James Matthew. The Little Minister (published in 1891 by Lovell Coryell and Company, New York City, NY; republished in 2017 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform). Twenty-one year old Gavin Dishart has moved with his doting widowed mother Margaret to the Scottish weaving village of Thrums to become the new minister with the Auld Licht (Old Light) Church. Gavin was born in Harvie, but after his father Adam Dishart was lost at sea when the boy was just four, his mother moved to be a housekeeper for her brother in Glasgow where Gavin grew up. The people of Thrums love their “little minister”—Gavin is not only young but also short of stature, a situation with which I can readily empathize. Shortly after his arrival, the weavers of Thrums revolt against the local earl, Lord Rintoul, led by a strange Egyptian (i.e., Gypsy) girl who calls herself Babbie. At first, Gavin believes that she is of the devil and preaches against her, but after she helps him keep a sick, old woman named Nanny out of the poor house, he begins to like her and eventually decides to marry her. However, problems arise.
Unbeknownst to Gavin and all the other villagers, Babbie is actually the fiancée of Rintoul, though she does not love him nor does he love her. If Gavin were to marry a Gypsy girl, his church would certainly dismiss him. Something else that he does not know is that the schoolmaster or dominie of the nearby Glen Quharity school, Mr. Ogilvy who narrates the story, had been a suitor of his mother’s before she married Mr. Dishart, and their parting was very bitter. Ogilvy ends up playing an important role in the relationship between Gavin and Babbie. How will Rintoul react when he learns that another man wants to marry his fiancée? What will happen to Gavin and Babbie? And exactly how does Mr. Ogilvy fit into the picture? Besides the euphemistic “daggone,” the “d” and “h” words are used a couple of times. Other than that, this story itself is wonderful, having good character development and addressing some of the disparities between social classes.
Author J. M. Barrie is best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan. One reviewer noted, “It is interesting that, in both Peter Pan and The Little Minister, mothers play such a significant role for Barrie.” The Little Minister was first published in Good Words magazine, spanning the months of January to December, 1891. It is one of several novels about the fictional village of “Thrums,” said to be modeled on Barrie’s home town of Kirriemuir. The beginning is a bit slow in its narrative, but the quickly moving conclusion is suspenseful and action-packed. Overall the plot is engaging. Another reviewer said, “Charming and less heavy than expected.” As would be expected from the title, religion plays a big part in this story. Some may find it a bit confusing because of all the names and the thickness of the tough-to-decipher Scottish brogue. For me, this was made much worse by the CreateSpace edition with its countless typographical errors, including incorrect paragraph indentations, copious misspelled words, punctuation mistakes, and breaking up the sentence structure in the wrong spots, all of which result from scanning without proper proofreading and editing. I will NEVER buy a CreateSpace edition again!