THE TWO FARMS by Mary E. Pearce


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One well-loved staple in popular period-fiction is the redemption of the outcast and sickly to health and wealth; here one of the most knowledgeable and evocative boosters of rural life in 19th-century England celebrates the Lazarus-like renewal of a farm, and the three lives concerned in its rebirth. Two farms lie more or less side by side in Gloucestershire: prosperous Peele, owned by shrewd and successful John Sutton; and Godsakes, owned by hard-luck Morris Riddler, a disorganized, short-tempered sort with a towering pride. Riddler will eventually be over his head in debt (thanks to some clever but legal machinations by Sutton and Riddler's own impulsive mistakes); and after the deaths of his wife and son, Riddler and his daughter Kirrin (who hates him) live on the brink, amid thistle-choked fields, eating rancid bacon. It was in 1844 that a ragged boy was abandoned by his drover uncle at the Sutton farm, and Jim Lundy is raised as a companion to Sutton's son, spoiled Philip. Jim is educated by Sutton--but not above his station--and, loving farming (he has raised flock after flock of fine sheep), Jim is happy to be Sutton's bailiff. But when son Philip decides to wed the girl Jim loves, and Sutton suggests that Jim leave for Canada, Jim storms off with a proposition for neighbor Riddler, who has one of his own: true partnership at Godsakes must include marriage to Kirrin. Both sourly agree (Kirrin needs the security), and Jim sets out to reclaim Godsakes. You can guess the sterling rest--revivification byre by farrow, ewe by shoat. It's a spellbinder for armchair agriculturists. As for the two Riddlers and Jim Lundy of Godsakes farm, they bloom and mellow along with the acres and animals. A warmhearted, down-to-the-soil story of pluck and hearts-on-the-mend, all suffused with the country aromas of humming fields and animal heat.

Pub Date: Feb. 5th, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's