DAUGHTERS OF THE NEW WORLD by Susan Richards Shreve


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A multigenerational saga with all the trappings--plague, Indians, murder, fame, and love--but graced here with some subtlety and surprise by Shreve, whose seven earlier novels (A Country of Strangers, 1989, etc.) were fine and quirky enough to avoid easy genre tags. In 1890, Welsh-born beauty Anna Jermyn arrives on the shores of America. She's come for a job, as a servant, in a Washington, D.C., household. And though the action veers to other locations--Wisconsin, New York, and Philadelphia--Washington remains the center of this family story just as Anna's daughter, Amanda, born on the first day of the new century, becomes its heart. From her earliest days, Amanda is destined to be different. Her best friend, Flat Mouth, is a Chippewa boy. Flat Mouth calls her ""A Man,"" and the name proves prophetic when, later, Amanda chops off her hair and assumes a masculine disguise in order to be sent overseas as a photographer in WW I. After the war, pregnant Amanda marries, settles restlessly in Washington, and continues to take photographs. Her daughter Sara, more conventional than mama, in turn gives birth to a wildly independent daughter, Eleanor, who grows up to have two daughters of her own, Lily and Kat. Through their stories we chart the course of the times from WW II through the McCarthy hearings, into the freewheeling, unsettling 60's and early 70's and, finally, on through the inwardlooking 80's. In places, the bulk of all this material seems to overwhelm Shreve--certain portents lead nowhere while real turning points are sometimes sketchy, almost outlines. But along the way; Shreve keeps a clear eye on the values and intelligence of her characters, and they carry it off--they're eminently likable if not entirely reliable. Rooted in formula, but blooming quixotically--something more than the garden-variety family saga.

Pub Date: Feb. 17th, 1992
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Doubleday