The Barleyfield

Sue Sully, Author
Sue Sully, Author St. Martin's Press $19.95 (329p) ISBN 978-0-312-08140-9
Hardcover - 352 pages - 978-0-434-75180-8
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Childhood friends Elizabeth Thome and Edward Munro challenge Victorian conventions by consummating their love on a sultry summer afternoon in a Somerset barleyfield. But taboos die hard: Edward is repulsed by Elizabeth's passionate response, and she hates him for rejecting her. Tiring of London and the medical studies into which he has drifted, unable to forget Elizabeth, Edward returns to propose-but he is too late. She marries Arthur Pengelly, who made his fortune in Australia, but soon grows disenchanted and meets with Edward once more, before deciding they must part forever. Devastated by his loss, Edward flees again, this time to serve in the Crimean War, finding his life's purpose and some happiness with a French camp-follower who saves his life. When Arthur learns the child Elizabeth carries is Edward's, he decides to return to Australia. She goes with him, and they patch up their marriage while leading an independent life in the bush, far from stifling Victorian standards. But their final confrontation brings tragedy, tempered by the suggestion that Elizabeth and Edward may have another chance. Sully's wooden writing acquires some verve in the Australian and Crimean scenes, making the second half of this first novel a passable entertainment. (Oct.)
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