A Lady Quite Lost – Arthur Stringer

A novel about a jilted man who runs away to the Canadian wilderness, and the woman who accidentally disturbs his solitude. 1931.

A Lady Quite Lost was a recent random find in our local university library. Lacking even a Goodreads listing for guidance (how’s that for a measure of “forgotten”!), I am pretty sure I was first drawn to this book because of the title. The interwar period is also a favorite of mine for fiction.

What hooked me, though, was the action right at the novel’s opening: It begins with our male lead, Darrow, waiting at the altar for a bride who, it turns out, has decided not to come. As both Darrow and the would-have-been bride come from families of old wealth and social position, all eyes are on the jilted groom. Darrow can’t stand the humiliation or their inevitable pity, so he makes an impulsive decision to escape from it all. On a recent adventure, Darrow discovered the total isolation of the Far North (think: Canadian Article Circle). Darrow now decides to leave for his old hunting camp–this very minute, with no intention of ever coming back.

The story then cuts to Claire Newcomb, an heiress of industry, who’s tagged along on her father’s business trip in the Far North. Claire has a similarly impulsive and adventurous spirit. To combat a sudden sensation of smothering boredom, Claire sneaks into a nearby seaplane and goes for a jaunt. (She’s an amateur pilot.) At first the flight is liberating and breathtaking, opening up a huge expanse of woods, lakes, and muskegs (swamps).

She had heard a great deal of talk, she remembered, about a shrinking world and easily spanned continents. But there was something wrong about such talk. For the earth was not small, after all. It was an immense place, apparently, stretching away on every side of her as far as vision could pierce. The mere thought of its immensity, of a sudden, sobered her excited mind, brought a wave of depression following her wave of exaltation.

By now Claire has flown quite a distance, and on top of that has lost her landmarks. The plane suddenly has some mechanical difficulty, and with her amateur skills the best solution Claire can manage is a crash landing in a lake. Claire survives, and begins a lonely wander through the wilderness, in search of help from another far-flung human.

You’ve probably guessed that she’s going to somehow meet up with Darrow. It’s not a fluffy little love story, though; it’s an adventure shared by two people who are both a bit disenchanted with civilization. The real suspense, to me, is whether these two can really survive in such a remote and unforgiving environment.

A Lady Quite Lost is admittedly very rare to find in print, and doesn’t appear to be digitized as an ebook. (But maybe your library has an old copy, like mine did!) In case you can’t get ahold of this book, I’d recommend checking out another of Stringer’s novels; his writing style is engaging and oftentimes moving. The Prairie Wife and The Mud Lark are both on my “to read” list.

10 thoughts on “A Lady Quite Lost – Arthur Stringer

  1. What a wonderful find! I wonder how often it has been borrowed from your library, or if it has been sitting on the shelf, waiting years for you to come along! 🙂 Lovely review.

    • You have no idea how many times I’ve wished I could know these things! This particular library evidently stopped stamping books quite a few years ago (the latest stamp is from June 1980). A definite downside to these digital barcodes!

  2. The Prairie Wife is part of a trilogy. I read them a few years ago and enjoyed them. A Lady Quite Lost sounds enjoyable. It is a pity it is so hard to find but what a wonderful discovery for you.

  3. Don’t you just love it…. those early 20th century novels where the hero strikes out for the far unknown wilderness, where men are men and woman are… non-existant (ignoring, of course, all the indigenous people who have been around for millenia). So it’s either the Canadian north or the wilds of Africa.

    Sounds like this one might be truly lost. I took a look, and discovered dozens of his books (but not this one) in the reserve stacks at Toronto Public Library, which means I could go there and read them, but not take them out. Some are even on microfiche!

    Perhaps I will give them a pass.

    There is, by the way, a public school named for him in London, Ontario.

    • Yes, I do so love a good exploration and “discovery” story! If you’re able to get ahold of a copy of his books, it sounds like he has quite a few that are worth checking out. (Also, I’ll bet the Toronto Public Library is amazing–I envy you having such a proper city library!)

  4. I’ve long been intrigued by Arthur Stringer, though I must admit that this has a touch more to do with his life than his writing. It’s probably for this reason that my favourite of the five novels I’ve read to date is The Wine of Life (1921), which was inspired by his failed first marriage to Gibson Girl and actress Jobyna Howland. You may be interested in White Hands (1927), in which a pair of spoiled Jazz Age Manhattanites are made to live in the Canadian wilds by their fed-up father.

    Susan is right about the school. I’ve visited it and the Stringer house in London (which, I’m happy to report, is a protected heritage property).

    Wonderful to read your thoughts on A Lady Quite Lost. I’ve never so much as seen a copy!

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