07/09/2003

The Hearth and the Eagle (by Anya Seton)

Anya Seton is fairly well known as a writer of very well researched historical fiction. She's probably best known for her novel 'Katherine' - but I don't think I've ever actually read anything by her until the past few days.

I picked up 'The Hearth and the Eagle' in a charity shop, attracted by the front cover. The story opens with Hesper, a young girl in about 1850, who is scared by a major thunderstorm raging around her mother's taproom in New England, in the USA.

Hesper comforts her almost senile grandmother, and sees her dreamy, literary father once again upsetting her hard-working mother.

Tragedy strikes the family, and as Hesper weeps, we get a flashback to 1630, and their ancestors Mark and Phebe, who first sailed out to America from the UK to start a new life.

After another chapter, the book moves forward again to see Hesper as a young woman, and the rest of the book features her growing up, falling in love, suffering loss, and eventually finding contentment.

I thought it made a good picture of the life of the times; it certainly felt believable, and the characters were sympathetically drawn. I could feel Hesper's mother's growing frustration with her father in particular, through Hesper's own growing awareness.

It didn't move me like some authors can, and was perhaps too dramatic and exciting for my tastes, but I thought it a good read overall.

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