In the High Valley (by Susan Coolidge)

One of the things I particularly like about my Kindle is the ability to download free editions of books that are now out of copyright. While the best-known classics are usually still in print, or easily available online, there are other books by classic authors which were pretty much forgotten until ebooks became popular. Susan Coolidge is an author whose work I liked since I was about six; she is well-known for her 'Katy' trilogy, which I read and re-read as a child and teenager. However I had no idea until recently that there were two other books in this series, featuring other members of the family.

I read and enjoyed 'Clover', the fourth book, in December, and have just finished the final one, 'In the High Valley'. I suppose they were less popular originally as they do not feature Katy; she appears only briefly in each. This book is set some years after 'Clover', and takes place mostly in Colorado, where both Clover and Elsie are now married, their families amicably sharing a home in the High Valley.

However it begins in England, where we meet Lionel and Imogen, a brother and sister who are preparing to move out to High Valley. Lionel has already been there and has fallen in love with the place; Imogen is going to be his housekeeper and companion, but she is not really looking forward to it. She has a lot of negative preconceptions about Americans, and stereotypical ideas about what she is to find: having been through similar feelings myself, almost a century later, I very much appreciated this part of the book, sympathising greatly with Imogen - and also with Lionel who has to put up with her complaints!

The plot involves Imogen's gradual cultural adjustment and eventual acceptance of her new life; we hear very little about the two husbands' work on their ranches, which from my perspective is just fine. Since the book was written as contemporary fiction over 100 years ago (this one was first published in 1890) it's inevitably a bit old fashioned in style, but some of the personality clashes and opinions are quite appropriate for modern young women.

There is, perhaps inevitably, a rather too tidy double romance and a delightful happy-ever-after (or at least for the next year) conclusion, but it was nicely done and it made a fitting end to this series. When I used to read the first three books I always wished that there were more, so I'm very glad to have discovered them. Definitely recommended to anyone who has fond memories of the 'Katy' series.

I'm pleased to learn that this has now been reprinted in paperback form; the Amazon links are to modern editions. However this can still be found free for the Kindle, either at Amazon or Project Gutenberg.

Review by Sue F copyright 2014 Sue's Book Reviews

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