MARGARET'S STORY by Eugenia Price

MARGARET'S STORY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This last and most successful novel in a decorous trilogy is a fictional account of events in the lives of a factual family that settled by the St. John River in Florida--and it encompasses the years 1832 to just after the Civil War. Queenpin of the Fleming family now is Margaret, nÉe Seton, who wed widower Lewis Fleming after his adored first wife died, leaving him with young George, L.I., and Tina. Fleming, a veteran of campaigns against the Seminole Indians, has been shaken by the decimation of his plantation, Hibernia--but eventually Lewis and new wife Margaret will return to reclaim Hibernia, and, during the peaceful years before the Civil War, they'll build a home and hotel. Seven children are born to the Flemings and for a time their concerns are mainly familial: George's unhappy wavering between choosing medicine or the church; son William's mental retardation; the puzzling aloofness of Margaret's mother; birthdays, weddings, funerals. But hostility between North and South is building (the Flemings think Uncle Torn's Cabin a pack of lies--their freed and nicely-treated slaves want to stay), and predictably the war brings hardship and tragedy. Lewis dies of natural causes, but their eldest son is killed; William joins guerrillas firing on Yankee gunboats; two other sons are away, and Margaret is forced to trek with three young daughters 55 miles to safety. (Hibernia is spared from flames by an officer who turns out to be a Yankee cousin, but it's used to stable horses.) Finally, after the war, the hotel is restored and operating again--but Margaret (who dies in 1878) never recovers from the yellow-fever death of her favorite daughter, for which she feels responsible. Although the characters do not cut deep (and the blacks are adoring blanks), Price's pace here is so slow, wide, and peaceful that the reader has all the soothing time in the world to absorb names, occupations, and next of kin. So, with regional detail that's properly convincing, it's all mannerly and pleasantly matronly--sturdy work from a popular producer.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Lippincott & Crowell