THE LAST BALLAD by Helen Cannam


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 Love and class struggle, as oppressed miners in Victorian England rise up--or try to. If there's more than one might really care to know about lead mining here, still the love story--a girl torn between the fat-cat life with an upper-caste toff and hard times among her ever-hungry people--is an oldie but goodie. Jenny Emerson, still mourning the death of her husband-to-be, keeps house for her brothers Joe and young Tommy as her father slowly dies of miners' disease. Then one day up the road comes the new curate, Rev. Edward Selby. He's handsome, beautifully spoken and dressed, and (although Jenny is unaware of this) fastidiously appalled by the ``barbarians'' of the Emersons' village. But Jenny fascinates him as a pure ``child of nature,'' and he proposes marriage. Meanwhile, Rowland Peart, a Class A sinner who had previously skipped town with money stolen from his now-dead father and committed other despicable deeds, is back--reformed, contrite, and preaching. His sermons win over the village--all except Joe, whose girlfriend now won't make love outside of Christian marriage (which her father forbids). All this as labor troubles ignite over rampant injustice. There's a strike (always illegal) and tests of loyalty. Ultimately, stuffy Edward's idyllic vision of chaste Jenny falls apart, and our heroine finds true, honest love. An earnestly narrated account, heavy with authentica about 19th-century English life among the mining lowly--with a comfy, familiar, Girl-of-the-People love story.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1991
ISBN: 0-312-06388-1
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1991