Acquired via BookCrossing 10 May 2009 – RABCK from Millycat

An excellent read. In fact, so absorbing that, when I got to a particularly exciting bit yesterday morning, I nearly missed my bus to work!

A Hardyesque chronicle covering the early years of a girl, Jenny Wilden, born into poverty and hard physical work in the Black Country.  She is hived off to her grandfather who lives in an Edenic, pastoral, forest landscape in Shropshire.  Although more hard work and poverty is her due, she learns to love and identify with her rural landscape, and to see its older values in contrast to the urban environments of the industrial Black Country.  Her cousin David and his dad Jem in turn contrast Far Forest with the grimy excitements of North Bromwich (our Birmingham!) and the coal and smoke ridden valleys of South Wales.

Jenny and David have a hard few years of it, separately, as they learn about love and life, hardship and loss.  Connected by more than their family, they lose track of each other as they follow the paths available to people of their class and time.  The Boer War impacts but it’s mainly environment and family that affect their lives.

A little melodramatic and Mary Webb-like at times, but this is no problem – it’s an older and slower read with intricate descriptions of nature and town and the events fit in with the characters and their time.  As mentioned above, at times I couldn’t put it down.  If Jenny and David survive all the onslaughts on their characters and very survival, then surely they deserve some respite…?