1 APRIL 1905, Page 20

Amanda of the Mill. By Marie van Vorst. (W. Heinemann.

Gs.)—The optimist who reads this book will have his faith in the well-being of the world most rudely shaken. The mills in which Amanda works in the second part of the novel are in South Carolina, and the conditions of labour therein are regulated by no Factory Acts. This in itself is a lamentable circumstance ; but even more lamentable is the discovery that, if the facts here given are accurate, owners of mills, unless compelled by legislation seldom or never see for themselves that the conditions under which their operatives work are such as render it possible for them to lead decent and civilised lives. Masters extract as much labour from their employees as they dare, having due regard to keeping "on the windy side of the law." Considered as a story, Amanda of the Mill is almost too unrelievedly gloomy, and the reader's heart is wrung not once but twenty times. The scenes are only too vividly depicted, and it is the sort of book which few people would read for pleasure. Only the strong motive of wishing to inquire into the labour conditions described would be able to carry the reader to the end. Amanda herself is a fascinating creature before she is adopted by a benevolent lady, and receives a more or less European education. It must be acknowledged, however, that after this has happened the heroine becomes much less attractive. The redemption of the hero is not quite credible. Nowhere in the beginning of the book does he show such iron determination as he must have possessed to relinquish suddenly and for over the drunken habits of many years. Considering the subject, it would be no compliment to the author to call the book "readable." Powerful it is, and well written, but the construction suffers from the difficulties which always assail the author whose story covers a long series of years.