Sarah Harrison, Author . St. Martin's/Dunne $26.95 (599p) ISBN 978-0-312-29086-3

The latest doorstop from Harrison (The Flowers of the Field) is a triptych, the individual stories linked to a millennia-old chalk horse outlined on a grassy hill on an English country estate. First in the trio of protagonists is cavalry officer Harry Latimer, who falls in love with his brother's wife before heading off to war in the Crimea in the 1850s. Then we have Spencer McColl, an American from Wyoming, whose service during WWII takes him to England, where he meets a woman he never forgets, causing him to return decades later. Finally, in the 1990s, there's Stella Carlyle, a singer struggling with both her career and her long-running relationship with a married man. Usually a crowd-pleaser, Harrison wallows in some extreme sentimentality here, her story replete with questionable platitudes ("Never wish for freedom.... You might get it") and garden-variety wisdom delivered in self-important tones ("love's such a hard taskmaster"). There's also a lot of narrative space devoted to horses in general and the mythic horse in particular. Because the three stories are linked solely by the conceit of the horse, readers may wonder if these are really just three separate tales that couldn't stand on their own, cobbled together to make one seemingly complete and overlong effort. Those who pick this up believing it is a family saga will be gravely disappointed; Harrison's faithful fans may be more forgiving and hope for greener pastures next time out. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 07/22/2002
Release date: 08/01/2002
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