ON A FAR WILD SHORE by Malcolm Macdonald


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Another plump, lazy Victorian soap-opera from veteran Macdonald (Tessa D'Arblay, For They Shall Inherit, The Dukes, etc.): this time out, a young widow fights her crusty old sister-in-law for control of a rundown Cornish estate. In 1890, Elizabeth Mitchell, a nurse, marries Bill Troy, an older professional soldier who is advised to retire because of his health; unfortunately, he does so permanently an hour after the wedding when he has a stroke on the way to the hotel. With barely any family of her own (just a flaky mother conveniently out of the way in Italy), the poor young widow heads for Cornwall and the Troy family manse, Pallas House. There she meets Bill's flinty older sister, Morwenna (""The Dragon Lady""), who is prepared to throw the young upstart out into one of the charming country lanes that abound in Cornwall when the will is read and lo and behold--Elizabeth is now the sole owner of Pallas, which consists of a lot of poor farm land and three tumbledown tin mines. Morwenna begins a complicated and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle to oust Elizabeth; the latter digs in her heels, tosses her head, and soon has the locals placing bets on the outcome. She revitalizes the mines, brings in new farming equipment, and generally opens the doors to the 20th century. But then she makes the mistake of marrying fervent evangelist David Troy (a poor cousin), who is so shocked by her nakedness on their wedding night that he pulls a Ruskin Retreat and devotes himself to politics, leaving Elizabeth to have an affair with local newspaper editor, Courtenay Rodda, who gives her a son. Disaster strikes when the mines are flooded and shortly afterwards Pallas House burns down incinerating Morwenna, but Elizabeth's fortunes are salvaged when another visiting cousin (energetic American Jimmy Troy) shows her how to bring tungsten up from the mines. The novel ends with the two of them having an affair, although only death will allow Elizabeth to escape her loveless second marriage. Routine, predictable and humdrum romance, with too much complicated 19th-century English legal maneuvering, and at least one too many charming Cornish peasants: ""You gwin put this up'gin are'ee?"" No.

Pub Date: July 28th, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's