SILVER LININGS by Shirley Davies--Owens


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This run-of-the-millstream first novel, in which a Victorian child and her gallant mother struggle on from bad times to good, carries some heavy baggage, dealing as it does with the heroine's growing-up and adulthood struggles to overcome memories of her father's sexual abuse. In 1877, when Emma, only child of Beth and George Cadman, was 10, her adoration of her father turned to fear and horror, as Papa--hitherto fun-loving and a bearer of presents--begins to pay his daughter some confusing and painful attention. Then one night the drunken George dies from a fall down the stairs. In the years that follow, Emma's secret night-mare is tamped down by the real challenges of getting on. Beth and Emma, left penniless, must leave their comfortable home for the Midlands and move in with Beth's grim sister Kate, her pallid husband and whiny daughter. Ladylike Emma's schooling (in a ramshackle one-room building) is ended early, and she is sent to work in the local soap factory. Still, there are friends (including another victim of a dangerous father) and the love of Beth. The break comes, though, when Beth is offered a job as laundress at a cottage on the estate of a kind and elderly Earl. Happy days follow, with peace and relative plenty and even a beau--earnest theological student Thomas. But then Emma's old nightmares resurface, mixed with disturbing, lascivious dreams, when gypsy-like and huge Ewan McKenzie appears at the cottage door. There'll be setbacks and good news before Emma's past drives off one man, brings another close. And before there's a new understanding of self--and Papa. A slick skim of the complex psychological effects of child abuse, but the Victorian female-survival saga is a comfortably familiar frame here.

Pub Date: March 5th, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's