cover image In the Fire of Spring

In the Fire of Spring

Thomas Tryon. Alfred A. Knopf, $25 (609pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58588-8

Set, like its predecessor, in pre-Civil War New England, this sequel to The Wings of the Morning matches both the verbosity and the compulsive readability of the earlier novel, as Tryon continues to focus on the lives of the citizens of Pequot Landing. In the wake of the ill-fated romance between roguish sea captain Sinjin Grimes and well-bred Aurora Talcott, daughter of the Connecticut town's leading citizen, the bitter feud between the proslavery Grimes family and the fiercely abolitionist Talcotts still simmers. The catalyst of the action here is patriarch Bobby Talcott, who attempts to found a free school for Negro and Indian girls under the direction of Georgianna Ross, a Talcott protege. Her first pupil is Rose Mills, a fugitive slave who proves surprisingly truculent and devious. The small school faces immediate danger from town rowdies, and more permanent damage from a restrictive state law sponsored by the Grimes faction. Subplots abound, splintering into distracting miniplots, as an almost overwhelming number of archtypal figures (the indomitable Talcott matriarch; the hypocritical deacon Grimes; the doomed lovers) weave their way in and out of countless overwritten episodes. Despite Tryon's excesses, uncontrolled verbiage, fans of the genre will enjoy this literate romantic saga and will lament the fact that the author passed away before seeing to completion the third volume of the projected trilogy. BOMC alternate. (May)