A sheltered life is shattered.
Seven-year-old Annabella Lagrange overhears enough of the servants’ whispered conversation to know that her parents are unhappily married. Her own life is tranquil enough, limited by strict supervision and inflexible routines, and she knows nothing of the world outside the iron gates of Redford Hall—until the starving children of striking mineworkers raid the estate garden. Her horrified nursemaid, a smug girl who has never known hunger or want, drags her charge away, saying only that the children are shiftless. It’s then that Annabella begins to understand what hypocrisy is. Redford Hall runs on it: her father, Edmund, is a handsome libertine, financially dependent on his pious wife who must beg her rich relations for money to keep up appearances. Edmund lives apart from his wife and only child in a nearby house in order to indulge his carnal appetites. When Annabella wanders over there, she’s a hidden witness to a debauched scene of seduction. Who is the naked lady and why is Papa feeding her strawberries? The little girl vomits and faints. When she recovers, Edmund explains that it is all a bad dream. But his wife, Rosina, can’t be so easily put off, and her simmering resentment explodes some years later. It seems that she was forced to adopt Annabella, the daughter of another of Edmund’s mistresses, tolerating the child more from Christian forbearance than love.
Stay tuned, though, for even more shocking revelations: Vintage Cookson, in fine form.