Nov 28, 2009: This novel is filled with foolish choices, betrayed trust, selfishness, and failed confidences; all set in a well-written historical epoch.
The pivotal episode (warning spoiler) is a case of old-fashioned serial date rape. Not old fashioned in the sense of ‘used a lot’ but old-fashioned in the sense of ‘how they used to do it’. The obvious results follow, and the book proceeds from there.
Except for the details, this book could be written today. Oh, the baby might have been aborted instead of adopted, the boyfriend might abscond for different reasons, various other minor details might be different, but the essential human elements are ever the same.
Most particularly poignant are the words, repeated in fact or in situation, over and over in the book, ‘you never told me’. At several points a timely but difficult word might have made an impossible situation into merely a difficult one.
I do question one or two details, about which the author may well know more than me. I question, for example, whether a sixteen year old girl would, in that day and age, have been considered ‘well below age’ for marriage. I went so far as to look up whether Chloroform was used as an anesthesia during the period mentioned (it was. Altho I might still question as to how prevalent it’s use was, and I would definitely disagree as to the failure to use it as leading to more ‘weakness’ afterwards.) I question whether the housing in that era of New Zealand was as spacious as is suggested. Early American pioneer homes were ten by twelve feet with no rooms at all, yet her characters seem to have several different bedrooms in their houses.
I also find the characters a bit one-dimensional, reminiscent of Dickens. Characters which are unpleasant seem to have a hard time doing anything except be unpleasant, and characters which are weak are similarly lopsided.
But, still, a well written book and well worth reading . . . if for no other reason than to avoid the mistakes of judgement and communication the author relates.
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