THE SKYLARK'S SONG by Audrey Howard


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This rather swampy English romance begins in the slums of Liverpool circa 191O--when Zoe Taylor is a moppet of five, the last of seven motherless children being raised by 15-year-old sister Sarah, salty and tough as nails. (Sarah's poverty scarred cynicism and graveyard humor provide the liveliest bits in the novel.) In fact, when well-heeled spinster schoolteacher Joanna Dale, so taken with wee Zoe, wants to take her away for weekends, Sarah forces the teacher to pay up at ten bob a week: ""Righ' Queen, yet gorra deal."" Still, Zoe's dear ""Daly"" is soon bent on adoption; and, to Zoe's relief, the plan goes through--thanks in part to papa Zeb's boozing. But Zoe's paradise is short-lived: Daly walks in front of a trolley, it's back to ""one-up and one-down""--and Zoe's only relief from squalor is the occasional long walk on a distant moor with brother Jamie. Then, when battered Zoe flees to the moor after being raped by a Liverpudlian thug, she's found by kind Lady Pat, wife of kind (if unpassionate) Sir Jonathan Weston, and mother of four daughters. Tenderly cared for, Zoe eventually becomes a kind of companion to Pat and the daughters, while her fear of men disappears. And, after the birth of Pat's fifth daughter, Zoe receives that sort of a glance from Sir Jonathan. (""Their eyes locked together. . . a feeling she did not recognize grew in her breast."") Sir J. and Zoe become lovers; Pat has a disastrous accident; a son is stillborn; guilty Sir J. nurses the crippled Pat tenderly. Inevitably, however, one day Lady Pat sees the adulterers embrace. Zingo! Back to the Mersey goes pregnant Zoe--bearing son Daniel, starting a school for infants, and acquiring a respectable new suitor in lawyer Ned. But what of Lady Pat and Sir J.? Well, happy circumstance and the Heart will determine where the skylark chirps. From waif to wealth and True Love: foolish, harmless farina.

Pub Date: Dec. 26th, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's