THE STEPS OF THE SUN by Joanna Trollope


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The careful, thoughtful pace of Trollope's earlier historical romances is gracefully quickened--even lightened here and there with witty, attractive women--in this appealing, bittersweet Boer War tale about two English cousins and an incorrigible Boer/English rotter. Matthew Paget, the despair of his archbishop father, is politically liberal, restless, given to bouts of attenuated roistering. At Oxford he settles down a bit, falling for tutor's daughter Adelaide Munro. (She, however, finds that her feelings for Matthew provide ""about as much pleasure as a steady toothache."") Also at Oxford Matthew meets South Africa-born Hendon Bashford, a half-Boer who's determined to be ""English"" like his father; Hendon and sister Daisy despise their simple farm-woman Boer mother. And the third key player is Matthew's cousin/friend Will Marriot, a decent, idealistic Army career-man who believes that England's imperialist spread is simply an ""influence for the good."" Will falls for Matthew's bluestocking, cheerfully outspoken sister Frances; sent down in disgrace from Oxford, Matthew is spirited off to South Africa. Then, when war comes, both Matthew and Will see action; Will is wounded, to be tended by nurse Adelaide in Cape Town; Daisy Bashford, as part of one of Hendon's nefarious schemes, shows up to flirt; Matthew, sent on a cruel farm-burning raid, spares the farm of Hendon's uncle and meets Alicia, a spunky Boer. So, at the close, Matthew at last finds love for a woman and a land--while Will, honor tarnished by a court martial, leaves the army: the battle ""was over before I could grasp it."" With meticulous battle/scenery detail and compassionate treatment for the characters (even unscrupulous Hendon): a sturdy, occasionally bright and sharp dramatization of waning Empire and the gentleman-soldier's last stand.

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's