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Following Apple Tree Lean Down (1976) and The Land Endures (1981): another cool, tidy scrutiny of lives in rural 20th-century England--as the focus returns to well-remembered Linn Mercybright, now 30-ish, who is devoted to her young illegitimate son Robert but is ""grasping at happiness while she could."" After years of want, worry, and malicious gossip, Linn has finally got herself settled in a good cottage with Robert, father Jack (a farm laborer), and an agreeable bartending job for herself. And when kind motor-mechanic Charlie Truscott begins his gentle courtship, Linn feels 19 again; their honeymoon is a happiness she has never known. (""Would the world always look like this now that the rest of her life was in his hands?"") But then Robert is crippled in a severe road accident--and Linn, lost in anguish, relinquishes her stillborn child without regret. Still, the loving patience of Charlie brings Robert back to health; Linn receives an unexpected legacy and is able to buy a small farm; Jack is delighted to work her land--though Robert, wriggling out of his mother's habitual control, hires out on a neighboring farm. . . while Charlie, leaving auto-repairs for farm-work, turns their marriage into a stalemate of ""carping disapproval and baffled withdrawal."" And finally: Jack dies sacrificially to prevent a train wreck; Robert leaves for WW II service; and Linn, worn by terror for Robert's safety and sourly noting Charlie's attentions to a lonely neighbor, accepts with little enthusiasm the arrival of nine-year-old Philip, a sullen evacuee from bomb-strafed London whom she will (unwittingly) send to his death. Country-solid atmosphere, lots of ever-popular hard times--and, though the supporting cast is often sketchy and distant, Pearce's portrait of Linn and her doomed quest for unattainable ""safety"" is deft and convincing.

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 1982
Publisher: St. Martin's