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This thin, limp saga (1806-1864) leads off promisingly in India. . . but then trickles through English radicalism, Jamaica plantation life, and revolutionary Mexico. The details of the death of colonial military hero Major John Entwhistle (he was shot by the husband of the young Indian woman he had seduced) have been hushed up by the Establishment; but John's son Peter will be a crusader for social justice and a foe of that same military/political establishment which hallowed his father's name. Feeling the call to act for the oppressed in England's caste society, Peter leaves his elegant Curzon Street home and his London family. (Beautiful mother Amanda; reliable sister Susan; fascinatingly ""foreign""-looking sister Hilda; young would-be soldier James.) He joins the lowly ones in London and Manchester, teaming up with members of the Workingmen's League; he writes for William Cobbett's Political Register, does his best to prevent bloodshed as the poor march against militia for better wages--or simply food; he lands in Newgate twice--meeting the great Cobbett. But Peter's second prison stay is ended when Susan brings him home to Amanda's deathbed. And, meanwhile, Curzon St. domestic dramas proliferate: Hilda, who is ""chi-chi"" (half white and half Indian) because of Amanda's early indiscretion, marries true love Ranjet, son of a Maharajah (Susan loved him too); poor James dies in Greece; and some years later there's waif Dorothy Watson--who, when a child of ten, was rescued by Peter from the doomed ""Manchester Massacre"" of 1819. Love blooms; Peter and Dorothy wed. But she dies giving birth to Arthur--so Peter, Susan, and Arthur are off to Kingston, Jamaica, taking up the cause of the supposedly liberated slaves there. Susan opens a clinic; later, when ""1837 was entering time's relentless orbit,"" the family buys a cane plantation--soon to be torched by the native-exploiting Planters Association. And finally, with Manchester friend Henry Livingstone, there's indigo-planting in Mexico. . . as the second generation takes over. Undernourished characterizations working hard to drag the Message--in an uninspired comeback from a prolific 1960s author of Colonial melodramas.

Pub Date: July 22nd, 1983
Publisher: Morrow