ELLEN BRAY by Jane Julian

ELLEN BRAY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A pleasant but unexceptional historical (Julian's first) about a poor but spunky Cornish girl who marries a handsome Scottish doctor. Cornwall, England, the 1870's: after their father and brother are killed in a mining accident, Ellen Bray and her little sister, Julia, go to live with their Granny Pascoe in the poor mining hamlet of Sunny Corner. Ellen is 17 and works as a ""bal maiden"" (a woman who ""cleans"" the ore after it's brought up from the ground) for a pittance; the men who actually dig out the tin and copper make very little more, and the entire area is sunk in depression, with families leaving every day for Australia and America. Ellen falls in love with a bitter young miner named James Bryant, who leads a disastrous insurrection against the rich mining lords who run Cornwall with a heavy hand; James is wounded, and, when finally captured, thrown into prison for five years. In the meantime, Ellen's attentions turn to Robert Buchan, a Scottish doctor who seems to care about the plight of the miners. But Robert is torn between Ellen and Veronica Langarth, daughter of a powerful mining lord--Veronica wants to arrange a marriage of convenience with Robert while he runs for Parliament. When Robert seems to accept Veronica's ambitions for him, Ellen turns to activism herself, leading a successful strike of the bal maidens, but getting fired. She leaves town when it turns out she's pregnant with Robert's daughter, but returns when James is released from prison. Sadly, James turns out to be a shell of his former self--and soon leaves for America, only to drown tragically when his ship is lost in a storm within sight of Sunny Corner. But Robert has by now thrown over the scheming Veronica in favor of Ellen--they will marry, raise their daughter, and care for the needs of the miners. All in all, a gentle romance, rather bland, but with a social conscience and a touch of The Citadel.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1986
Publisher: Morrow