MISTS OF HEAVEN by Yvonne Kalman


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A quiet but compelling historical novel, rich with details of life in mid-19th-century New Zealand, from the author of Greenstone (1982). Unhappily married Mary Rennie has a brief affair with Rhys Morgan, handsome younger brother of a neighbor--but then, to escape Mary's demands, Rhys departs for the goldfields; and Mary dies in childbirth, deserted but for her 9-year-old daughter, Lisabeth, from whom she elicits a deathbed promise to tell Rhys about the baby. But Lisabeth is too attached to little Andrew, whom she treats as a son, and too angry at Rhys for shaming her mother to keep that promise. She and Andrew are taken in by the Staffords--kindhearted Gwynne (Rhys' sister) and embittered Charles, a man who wears ""his roughness like a badge of honour, taking perverse pride in his inability to get on in the world."" Later, Rhys reappears at an opportune moment and convinces them all to move to the South Island by offering Charles a plot of free land on the acreage he's bought beneath the shadow of the mountains, called the ""Mists of Heaven"" by the Maori. Meanwhile, Lisabeth's hostility and guilt toward Rhys prevent her from seeing the obvious--she's adored him since they first met. Instead she marries a dry stick of a schoolteacher with a domineering and stingy mother. And while she's regretting her choice, Rhys marries a beautiful but spoilt heiress fresh from England. There are plenty of complications to untangle, and so the dance of approach and avoidance continues to the very last page. The setting is so effectively interwoven with the story that the historical moment seems as real as the present. The characters, though sometimes close to caricatures, are convincing, and the dialogue often deliciously double-edged.

Pub Date: May 2nd, 1988
Publisher: St. Martin's