HOLD ON TO LOVE by Mollie Hunter


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As you might guess from the flouncy title, this is a less gritty, somewhat disappointing sequel to Hunter's splendid The Sound of Chariots (1972)--which etched in the tense Edinburgh childhood (circa 1930) of fiercely independent Bridle McShane, devastated by the death of her father. Now 15, Bridie's living with her strict, well-to-do Armstrong grandparents (impoverished widow Mum stays out in the suburbs); by day she works in the Armstrong flower-shop; by night she goes to English classes, nourishing her dreams of a writing career (poetry above all). And, in the strong opening chapters, Bridie's night-school career is interrupted by acute appendicitis and a hospital-stay--during which her writer's eye is opened to such fascinating types as a queenly scrubwoman (who turns her gynecological woes into high drama) and an untameable, doomed tinker-woman. Once back at the shop and school, however, Bridie's coming-of-age becomes awfully conventional. She sneaks out to her first dance, receives her first passionate kiss (from smelly delivery-boy Hughie). When a shopgirl chum falls, via pregnancy, into a dead-end marriage, Bridie vows: ""She would keep her life in her hands."" So, when soulmate/beau Peter McKinley jealously orders Bridle not to go out with a rival suitor (a cad, as it happens), she stands up for her selfhood rights--bringing on a long, angry separation. And it will take the arrival of WW II (Peter enlists), plus a deathbed cry from Granny (""Hold on to love!""), to put the sweethearts back together for a wartime-wedding fadeout. Reliable veteran Hunter provides crisp background-details from 1930s Edinburgh--including riots involving followers of British fascist Mosley. Bridie's writing aspirations are plausibly sketched, ending up with her accepting a future as a modest storyteller. But, muted by too many feminist/romantic clichÉs, this is solid and pleasant rather than distinctive--as Bridie loses much of the fire she showed in Sound of Chariots.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Harper & Row