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More about the mill-owning Barforths of Yorkshire--now at mid-19th-century--who again, as in Verity (1980), wend their way through gossip, plush surroundings, simplified politics, smoky passions, and a women's-lib theme. This time we switch focus to Verity's sister-in-law Elinor Aycliffe (nÉe Barforth), who dances a jig of joy when her repressive husband dies; she flits seductively abroad, returning to dreary Cullingford to marry an ex-secret lover. And, meanwhile, Elinor's three daughters have problems with love and independence. Timid Celia, dying to marry, is the second choice of calculating Jonas, son of an upwardly-mobile farmer and step-son of tough, manipulating Hannah (sister of Elinor), Prudence, the eldest, is frustrated by the double standard which denies her the money and freedom needed to establish a school; finally, by patience and subterfuge, she succeeds. And middle-daughter Faith, the narrator, falls hard for powerful, hard-headed cousin Nicholas (Verity's son), who unfortunately chooses to wed patrician ""wild bird"" Georgiana Clevedon--a gallant representative of doomed, impoverished aristocracy. So the rest of the book largely involves the sad repercussions of this missed connection between Faith and Nicholas: Faith marries nice Dr. Giles Ashburn on the rebound (who dies in a cholera epidemic); she and Nicholas, ever more self-centered, drift into a torrid affair; there's a threat of scandal; Faith does the right thing and (for all sorts of complex reasons) marries Nicholas' elegant brother Blaize. And there's more cruelty, feuding, and passion ahead--as the various aunts and sisters flurry to confer on the latest crises, fires, floods, Chartist activities, railways, elections, weddings, funerals, birthings, feasts, and balls. Plus, always: some smart sounding-off (better handled than in Verity) on class and sex prejudice. A full-figured (570 pp.) family-sage buffet altogether--from roast beef to petit fours.

Pub Date: Feb. 12th, 1981
Publisher: Doubleday