The Small Room: A Novel
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In the hallowed halls of one of New England’s most prestigious colleges, a young woman finds new and unexpected life as professor while a scandal brews just on the periphery
On the train north from New York City, Lucy Winter takes inventory of her life. Twenty-seven and newly single, Lucy is headed toward a fate she never anticipated: professorship at a women’s college in New England. Her doctorate degree, obtained from Harvard, was more of a hobby than a professional aspiration—something to occupy her time while her fiancé completed his medical studies nearby. But at Appleton College she finds new enthusiasm in academia, teaching young women to be brilliant in a society that does not yet value their intellect.
When Lucy discovers a scandal involving a star student, she ignites controversy on the campus. Many in the faculty rush to either defend or condemn the student, who is carrying the burden that often accompanies excellence. At the center of the political maelstrom is Lucy, who, despite her newfound difficulties on campus, is finding that her unexpected detour to Appleton may lead to a more rich and rewarding life than she ever anticipated.
An insightful and inspiring study of scholarship, teaching, and women in academia, The Small Room is also the memorable story of a young professor coming into her own.
himself. “I was just thinking of those actual boots of Olive’s, do you remember? Girl-of-the-Limberlost stuff, a plaid jacket, khaki riding pants, and high laced boots. Good Lord, I’d forgotten all about them. And the old felt hat, her father’s no doubt.” Jack’s face was pink with laughter. But Blake Tillotson went on quietly with his train of thought. “I suspect that she may have had some sort of breakdown herself, after her father’s death, and that she pulled herself out of it on sheer guts.”
and promised to follow through on her father and if possible get a decision at once that she be given therapy as Dr. Gunderson had recommended. Lucy had a sense, for the first time in weeks, that there was hope. But Tillotson then warned her that “College Notes will have a rather vituperative editorial tomorrow. Things have got a little out of hand,” and she agreed to come to a meeting in his office at four the next day. So, she thought with a sinking heart, it was too late for the easy solution
suddenly remembered that she had promised to go to tea in one of the dormitories with a group of freshmen. It was the sort of occasion she most dreaded; but she had accepted at the height of the crisis when she felt that it was important to keep up what contact one could between the faculty and the rebellious student body. Oh well … And a half-hour later she was sitting in one of the parlors that seem to have been designed for just such preposterous occasions—the fancy satin-covered armchairs
recognition. Then she clasped her hands between her knees and smiled her faint ironic smile. “Yes, that was the one thing I was afraid to give. You may be right at that, Jennifer. You usually are.” It was handsome. It flashed through Lucy’s mind that if Carryl had been more detached she would not have been afraid. It was, she considered, not so much a failure of love as a failure of detachment, but enough had been spoken. “And you wonder why Henry finds Appleton intoxicating.” Jack moved in to
life lived here. It’s what you are.” “Oh well,” Carryl shrugged again as if she were shrugging off all the accretions of time and position, “when one is old, as old as I am …” She reached for a cigarette and went on talking without taking it out of her mouth. “I don’t really care a hoot about all this. What I care about is doing some work at last. And I might do that better in a cell.” Then she lit up and drew a long puff. “One of my fantasies is to be locked up in jail for a year, with a table,