The Darkness of Corn

Caroline Stickland, Author St. Martin's Press $16.95 (223p) ISBN 978-0-312-05844-9
Stickland ( The Standing Hills ) writes a slim, thoughtful historical novel set in a 19th-century Dorsetshire reminiscent of worlds evoked by Thomas Hardy. Beatrice Fayerdon feels trapped in her marriage to a thriving miller, who sought the union to become connected with her family, well-to-do corn merchants in the neighboring community. One day she secretly witnesses a shameful transaction: a young woman, a rope tied around her neck, is sold in marriage to a man, Matthew Garth, who later comes to work at her husband's mill. To her surprise, Beatrice discovers the marriage is a good one; she herself is prompted to seek solace with a lonely farmer, Boaz Holt. She becomes pregnant with his child, but when his estranged wife returns unexpectedly, she decides to conceal her baby's paternity, even from Boaz. Her infidelity, however, becomes fodder for the local gossips. Then the Garths are separated by the malicious intervention of Beatrice's husband. The two situations are solved rather too neatly and narrative tension is slack, but the background detail suggesting the effect of the industrial revolution adds interest. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1991
Release date: 05/01/1991
Hardcover - 448 pages - 978-0-7089-2738-0
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