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A strong, subtle, intelligent novel, oddly bracketed by a daydream--imagined at the start in idealizing prose, about to be fulfilled at the end. Living in a shabby small-town hotel around the time of World War I, sharing a bed with her mother who manages the hotel, Cath longs for the mountains of Vermont where she once visited her grandmother. At home there are visits to better-off relatives and the sympathetic company of black hotel employees Grant and Swan and Grant's wife Tiss, but Cath hates her room, hates her father who pops in irregularly to take her place in bed and take off with her mother's money, and is increasingly aware of the economic distance and growing differences in values between herself and her friend Chattie. Her eventual escape is occasioned by a tragedy: when her mother gives capable, ambitious Grant some law books, she not only opens herself to gossip but also drives Tiss, alienated by Grant's constant studying, into the arms of a lover and, on her return from a tryst, into the path of an onrushing train. The sharp particularity of Cameron's black and white characters and the relationships between them is rare in a children's book, and so is the intensity and bitterness of the confrontations Cath witnesses between adults--her parents, Grant and Tiss, a shopkeeper couple wrapped in mutual hatred, a domineering, repressive Aunt whose brother finally lights into her--and between an albino boy Cath befriends and his emotionally grotesque mother. All the more disappointing then when Cath and her mother depart, buoyed by a letter of welcome all about flowers and fresh linen, and Cath ""is filled suddenly, in spite of everything, with a moment of the old ecstasy at the thought of seeing Grandmother and the green mountains at last,"" distressed only that ""we have no right to be happy"" but assured by her mother that ""we will be. That's what's treacherous."" Only at the mechanical level of the plot does this wish fulfillment follow from the disturbing events Cath has lived through--but she won't forget them, nor will you.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1975
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Dutton