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Leadoff novel in a new trilogy (Wilson's Morholm trilogy concluded with The Straw Tower, 1991): a romantic dynasty novel that again touches upon the virtues of a class-straddling English family, here from 1877 to the end of WW I. Hannah was eight when she met Isabel, a poor little rich girl from the Manor House--spoiled, mean, and grabby. Years pass, and Hannah, a farm laborer's daughter, must give up hopes of becoming a teacher--in short, she becomes a lady's maid for...guess who? Isabel is as insufferable as ever, but Hannah, during her free time, is courted charmingly by upper-caste Lawrence, who idealistically expects to marry Hannah. This nonsense, however, is squelched by family, and he's soon snared by Isabel. Turns out that Lawrence is a weak reed, indeed. Meanwhile, Hannah marries solid oak Frank, a stalwart yeoman on his way up in brickmaking, and gives her husband two children and loyalty but not true love...until nasty (and lethal) Isabel (who had calmly watched disappointing Lawrence expire) moves in. Skip, then, to the adult lives of Hannah's children--social-climbing Lewis and bright, nice Madeleine. Lewis marries for advantage and, through suffering, learns love and devotion too late; while Madeleine finds love in Adam, a tortured young pacifist who nonetheless joins up. Before the close, there are grim front-line and hospital moments, reconciliations, and sad demises. A companionable, stolid English period novel that sports all the old familiar places and cases: barriers of caste and gender; selfish privilege vs. plodding worth; war and home-front heroism. Old stuff, but always welcomed by the readers of quiet English dynasty tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: St. Martin's