I read A Country Doctor ten years ago for my American Literature survey course in college. I remember enjoying it quite a bit, but didn’t know that Jewett was more famous for The Country of the Pointed Firs. Ten years later, I finally got around to reading it.
It’s not a plot-driven text. In fact, it’s way more experiential than plot-oriented, and I’m not sure how to go about talking about a book like this. Jewett does a great job of creating a scene, a feeling, a setting, and you really feel like you understand the town in which the unnamed narrator is living for the season. The local anecdotes give you sense of Dunnet Landing’s history and its inhabitants, but why the narrator is there, and why she is staying with Mrs. Todd are never explored.
It’s well-written and interesting book, but if you expect a traditional conflict-oriented plot, you will be disappointed. So I learned to enjoy the novel for what it was: an experience-oriented sketch of life in a rural coastal area, peopled by women of strength and determination. You find out what drives a few of the characters, even if some of the obvious questions (“How did Mrs. Todd become a widow?” “Why is her mother still living in isolation?” “Why is the narrator living here?”) go unanswered. If you think of Sarah Orne Jewett as not only a regional author but a feminist author, you will find some interesting study. I’d be curious to see how a class might view her depiction of women as opposed to Willa Cather, Louisa May Alcott, Kate Chopin, even Edith Wharton.