The times they are a-changing in fin-de-si cle Scotland, as Stirling wraps up her saga of the fortunes and misfortunes of the aging Campbell sisters, Innis and Biddy, in the concluding volume of her popular Isle of Mull trilogy (after Island Wife and The Wind from the Hills). It is 1908, and shepherds are going out of fashion, the young are leaving the island for greater opportunity and even the tinkers are staying away. Into these uncertain circumstances comes Fay Ludlow, the wife of Innis's violent son, Gavin, who hasn't been seen on Mull in years. Fay, beaten by Gavin and pregnant with his child, seeks refuge among his family, who reluctantly accept her into the fold. Keeping the pregnancy a secret for as long as possible, she soon proves to be an optimist and a talented gardener, setting herself the task of growing strawberries in an unforgiving climate. Meanwhile, the future of the Campbell sisters' land is threatened when Patrick Rattenbury arrives on Mull. A representative of potential purchasers, he is a rogue who pays assiduous court to the island womenfolk, causing many a jealous conflict. Family secrets, revenge, prodigal returns, comeuppances and final confrontations round out the plot. Stirling's loving chronicle of the hopes and fears of a close-knit island community ranges wide, encompassing even the local gossips, who function as a Scottish version of a Greek chorus. True, while Innis may have ""no difficulty in keeping track of the Campbells, Baverstocks and Quigleys,"" readers new to the series might initially. Still, for faithful fans and patient newcomers, Stirling provides a pleasing vacation into the past. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/04/2000 Release date: 12/01/2000 Genre: Fiction
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