‘It was the beginning of a June afternoon. The springlike transparent sky shed a rain of silver sunshine on the roofs of the village, and on the pastures and larchwoods surrounding it.’
Seventeen year old Charity Royall lives with her adoptive father in the small town of North Dormer in New England. Born into a community of outlaws who live in the surrounding mountains, Lawyer Royall brought her down into the valley town when she was five years old and named her Charity ‘to keep alive in her a becoming sense of her dependence’. She knows she’s lucky but she feels stifled by the quietness of the town and increasingly disturbed by the behaviour of her guardian. So she takes a job in the library to save money for her escape, when suddenly one day the library door opens and Lucius Harney a young architect from New York arrives and sparks begin to fly.
Charity falls for Lucius hook, line and sinker and their romance is told with such vivid description that anyone who has been in love or seventeen will recognise her excitement immediately.
‘Harney tied the horse to a tree-stump, and they unpacked their basket under an aged walnut with a riven trunk out of which bumblebees darted. The sun had grown hot, and behind them was the noonday murmer of the forest. Summer insects danced on the air, and a flock of white butterflies fanned the mobile tips of the crimson fireweed. In the valley below not a house was visible; it seemed as if Charity Royall and young Harney were the only living beings in the great hollow of earth and sky.’
But not everything is seen through rose tinted glasses, the world in which the happy couple sit is a very real one. Charity is deeply ashamed of her roots in the mountain and when she eventually visits, has to come to terms with the savage misery of the mountain farmers and the thrifty, industrious poverty of the people in North Dormer. The hard drinking roughness of Lawyer Royall is a constant threat and local girl Julia Hawes provides the cautionary tale of an unmarried mother and prostitution.
First published in 1917 this was a collection of really well drawn characters, in a plot that never gave up told through the most beautiful lens. I loved it, a perfect read for the Ten Books of Summer challenge