Book Review: The Crux

Charlotte Perkins Gilman ~ The Crux


The story of a group of New England women who move west to start a boarding house for men in Colorado. The innocent central character, Vivian Lane, falls in love with Morton Elder, who has both gonorrhoea and syphilis. The concern of the novel is not so much that Vivian will catch syphilis, but that, if she were to marry and have children with Morton, she would harm the “national stock.”

Originally published in 1911, The Crux is often omitted from the author’s writing canon. However it is an integral aspect to understanding not only Gilman’s own writing ― but the history of feminism as a whole.


The first half of this book was excellent. It’s slightly satirical and well-observed, with characters that you can picture easily enough. It was amusing and also felt quite modern; I was very surprised that all of these women were able to travel unchaperoned to effectively start a business.

What I like about reading books from different eras is getting a sense of the beliefs at the time, which in this book – no matter what you think – are very interesting.

Unfortunately the second half of the book dragged somewhat. It also felt like the author was pushing their own agenda a bit too much, which I didn’t particularly like.

The Crux has always been a controversial story, but readers in 1911 may have taken issue with different elements to a modern audience.

It’s definitely interesting and a fantastic book to discuss, but after a promising start, there just wasn’t enough structure or humour for me.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I received a copy of the book from Love Books Tours and Leamington Books. Opinions my own.

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