THE SECRET YEARS by Judith Lennox


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 More literate and entertaining soap from the author of The Italian Garden (1993), etc., this time in a fifth novel set in the British fenlands east of Cambridge. When Lady Gwendoline Blythe returns home to her country estate in Drakesden, she discovers her teenaged children, Nicholas and his younger sister, Lally, consorting with Thomasine Thorne, the orphaned daughter of missionaries, and Daniel Gillory, the blacksmith's son. Furious, Lady Blythe sets off events that will alter all of their lives--and, of course, since it's the summer of 1914, that favored time for British romance writers, the war will make alterations of its own. Fifteen-year-old Daniel is denied an education, runs off to London, enlists, and is wounded; Nicholas mutilates himself after seeing the rest of his company slaughtered, then, shell-shocked, returns to England; Thomasine, the feisty redhaired heroine here, becomes a dancer; and Lally, who had further incensed her mother by stealing a family heirloom, is sent to boarding school, where she'll eventually contract TB. After the war, Thomasine, pregnant and abandoned, marries Nicholas in Paris. Daniel marries a woman named Fay and moves her to his small farm in Drakesden, and Lally sleeps around. Daniel warns Nicholas that the Drakesden dikes are in danger of breaking--a foreshadowing of the end--while it's also clear that after much teeth gnashing Daniel and Thomasine will get together, since they've married the worst possible people. Meanwhile, Nicholas won't make love to Thomasine and cuts himself with razor blades; Fay hates the fens; and after the flood, Daniel and Thomasine build a home on the high ground, and are ready to survive the rest of the 20th century. Loose ends are rushed to a resolution here, but, once again, Lennox animates accurate historical detail with an inventive imagination and a strong attention to place.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-13166-6
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995