THE FLOWERS OF THE FOREST by Ruth Doan MacDougall

THE FLOWERS OF THE FOREST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Again MacDougall brings to her rural New Hampshire setting (this time at the turn of the century) a sweep and solidity which is never quite matched by her stolid, suffering characters. The oppressed heroine here is farm-woman Anne MacLorne, daughter of a victim of the Scottish Clearances, one of several penniless, displaced crofters who settle in a New England milltown. Anne will marry dogged, ambitious Duncan, who's determined to raise sheep (in what seems to Anne ""fearsome scenery""), and in the years following, her energies will be absorbed by six children, the imperious seasons and rhythms of animal husbandry, the needs of work-strained Duncan. Anne monitors the various fits and flights of her children: daughter Sarah weighs suitors, works in the mill, participates in a strike; the two boys wander west. She stanches Duncan's agony when the sheep are destroyed by a wild dog pack and he must ""lease"" another herd. She watches helplessly (tradition forbids her to do otherwise) when daughter Janet is abused by her husband and a vicious mother-in-law, whose madness will almost cause Janet's death in childbirth. But then Anne is suddenly and inexplicably in love with their summer boarder, Boston teacher Matthew Chandler--and when they become lovers, the joy seems as natural, free of guilt, and as foolish as that of gamboling spring lambs. So Anne attempts to break away, accompanying her mother Elspeth on a trip back to the old country--where she hears of the Clearances horror, understands the family legacy of exile, and decides to start a new life. Finally, however, back at home, Duncan's suicide exposes happiness as only ""make believe."" With essentially bland characters rather overshadowed by the vivid, cold-climate backgrounds--an occasionally effective attempt to demonstrate the dilemma of a woman pinioned between a severe reality and the softening play of passions and affections.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1981
Publisher: Atheneum