CHARLESTON by Alexandra Ripley


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Though lacking the bustle and gossip of Lonnie Coleman's Beulah Land epic, this is an agreeably easygoing Southern family saga set in Charleston from 18631898--all about red-haired Lizzie Tradd and her old-family graces being trampled by war, occupation, and Reconstruction. Little Lizzie's adored older brother Pinckney returns from battle with one arm and with ""white trash"" Shad Simmons, who saved his life. So, while houses are confiscated and gangs of marauders roam the streets, family jewels are sold to save the family plantations. And at war's end Shad goes into partnership with Pinckney to mine and sell phosphate. Meanwhile Pinckney has a brief affair with the daughter of his widowed mother's minister fiancÉ--Prudence, a self-styled bad girl who will jilt him for his own good, leaving him to be trapped into an engagement to greedy Lavinia (she breaks it happily when a gilded Northerner shows up). As for Lizzie, she's now grown-up and desperately in love with handsome Lucas, who-after marriage--turns out to be a drunk, a crook, and a sadist. But good wife Lizzie will not wield a fatal poker until he threatens their child. Through all this, of course, the obvious Mr. Right for Lizzie is Shad; but he's not ""old Charleston"" and thus is forbidden to court her. So, now wealthy, he marries a New York heiress instead (after vengefully removing Pinckney's phosphate customers). And, at the last, Lizzie must choose between now-widower Shad and a wickedly fascinating Irish wanderer and adventurer. A leisurely amble in spite of the marriages, births, and deadly deaths (poor Pinckney, after a brief marriage, will die in an earthquake)-with plenty of hoopskirted traditional balls, assorted scenery, courtly ritual, and stereotyped blacks; undistinguished, but fat and facile enough for matinee reading.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1981
Publisher: Doubleday