Set in pre-WWII Glasgow, this appealing coming-of-age novel centers around third-year medical student Alison Burnside as she struggles toward the realization that having it all is impossible. At the same time, all the characters, one way or another, illustrate just how naive the world was on the eve of Hitler's reign of terror. At the heart of Alison's dilemma is her long-standing engagement to Jim Abbott, a one-armed WWI veteran whose support has enabled her to obtain the education her working-class family could not afford. Her commitment to Jim is promptly tested by a fling with the handsome but penniless Irishman Declan Slater, by her friendship with rich and dashing Howard McGrath and finally by Jim himself, who, when he contracts tuberculosis, feels Alison is better off without him. In the meantime, Declan and Roberta Logie, another classmate, conduct a clandestine affair, while Howard valiantly pursues Alison. While Alison must decide whether her commitment to Jim outweighs her infatuation with Howard and the promising post she's been offered, Roberta's options disappear when she becomes pregnant by Declan. As in all of Stirling's novels (most recently, Shadows on the Shore, 1994), secondary characters and rich subplots abound. Exposing her characters to feminism, class conflict and the stormclouds of war, Stirling expertly guides them through the growing pains of the heart into genuine maturity. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1996 Release date: 07/01/1996 Genre: Fiction
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