HARRIET DARK by Barbara Rees


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Burdened by a stifling plan to recreate the dark Bronte vision, this usually classy author turns out a fairly routine and insubstantial production. Harriet Dark is a foundling child brought to Thirleby Hall in 1829 by kindly, vague Mr. Ogilvie, and she is at first treated wretchedly. As a scullery maid, she goes for years without a kind word. But Harriet has character and fights her way to the knowledge of horsemanship and, more importantly, literacy, in her determination to learn to be a lady, to read and rise. Soon her childish ambitions escalate into fantasies of marrying her master, and when he brings home a beautiful bride, Nina Sanctuary--who uses Harriet as a chambermaid and whips her back to shreds--Harriet wishes the lady dead. And Nina does indeed die immediately thereafter. Harriet is naturally convinced that she is a spawn of the devil, as they told her in her unruly childhood, and thus cannot marry the young man she truly loves--golden Patrick, the minister's son. Unlike any Bronte, Rees seems too wholesome here to convince us there are any true devils or evils involved; it must all be some misunderstanding that will work out in Cinderella fashion with no real tears. As indeed it does.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1978
Publisher: Atheneum