The Forgotten Daughter

Author:  Caroline Dale Snedecker

Illustrator:  Dorothy P. Lathrop

Era:  2nd century B.C. (around 113 B.C.)

Published:  1933 (Doubleday)

Award:  Newberry Honor (1934)

Age Range:  8 – 14 years old

Review:  ★★★★

Twelve year old Chloé lives with her companion, Melissa, in a shack in mountains of Samnium outside of Rome.  The daughter of a Greek slave and a Roman centurion, at her mother’s death she is abandoned by her father to her fate, which is that of a slave.  As Chloé grows to womanhood, she draws from the animals and nature around her as companions.  Her character is as lovely as the woods around her, yet still she nurses an abiding hatred for the man who should have loved, nurtured and raised her as his own.  When a young Roman nobleman arrives at a neighbouring villa and encounters the young girl, Chloé’s circumstances appear destined to change for the better, yet her past finally catches up with her and Chloe must decide whether she will hold on to the ghosts of the past or reach forward into a new future.

Map of Ancient Samnium
from the Historical Atlas William R. Shepherd (1911)
source Wikipedia

Snedecker was known for her extensive research using only primary or secondary sources, and The Forgotten Daughter sings with a melody of the past.  Snedecker’s writing brings Roman life to the reader in vibrant colours and poignant emotions.  The descriptions of the setting are beautiful and living, and as a reader you feel that you have stepped right into the story.

Chloé’s life as a child slave was perhaps the most troubling and effective portrait that I’ve every read in a book.

“Forever besetting mankind is this temptation — to make other men into machines.  Always in a new form it comes to every generation, and always as disastrous to master as to slave.”

 Snedecker delves into the emotions of the characters in such a visceral way and with an uncanny perception.

“Despair in the old is a grievous thing, but not so bad as despair in the young.  The young have no weapons, no remembrances of evils overcome, nor of evils endured.  They have no muscle-hardness from old battles.  They see only what is present, and they believe it to be forever.  And they are very sure.  Besides, joy and up-springing are the right of youth, and without it youth falls to the ground.”

The theme of slavery was obvious on the surface but also subtly explored through other occurences, weaving fine threads of insight through an already well-constructed story.  I absolutely loved this read and will be seeking out other books by Snedecker.

This book was read for Amanda at Simpler Pastimes Children’s Literature Event.

A more extensive review can be found at my children’s blog, Children’s Classic Book Carousel.

Deal Me In Challenge #3 – Ace of Hearts

12 thoughts on “The Forgotten Daughter

  1. There are so many forgotten children's books that are just excellent. I looked up 1934, the year this one was an honour book, and I hardly recognized any of the books chosen. What a shame! Or looking on the bright side, we get to discover them again! 🙂

  2. Yes, if you have access to a copy! There is another one, The Winged Girl of Knossos, that I am dying to read, but my library doesn't have it and secondhand copies are very expensive…well, it's good to have something to search for.

  3. I think that you'll really like it, O. She does such a good job of presenting the Greek and/or Roman mindset and makes comments to remind us how different it was back then. It really helps you get into the story.

  4. Thanks for another book recommendation to add to my list, Lory. I've included it in the master list on my children's blog. It looks just about impossible to find though …… 🙁

  5. We have this book but I haven't read it myself yet. One of my girls read quite a few of Snedecker's books. I think Downright Dencey was her favourite (1812 setting)

  6. I read a lot of the Newbery winners when I was a kid and then read more of them later as an adult. I set out on my blog to read them all; however, I haven't made much progress. Your post inspires me to read more of them (and the honor books).

  7. By all means, read more of them! I kept dragging my heels about reading the children's books on my list but this challenge has inspired me. It's only taken a couple of reads of children's books to get me hooked.

  8. I'd never heard of The Forgotten Daughter, but I wish I had stumbled across it when I was young–it sounds like just the sort of novel I would have devoured! I think I'll still have to add it to my list. I wonder if my library has a copy…

  9. It's not a dumbed-down children's book so it's still enjoyable for adults and very informative too. Snedecker researched all her books using only primary and secondary resources. I hope you can find a copy!

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