Synopsis from Goodreads:
1900. Young pianist
Catherine Wainwright flees the fashionable town of Dayton, Ohio in the
wake of a terrible scandal. Heartbroken and facing destitution, she
finds herself striking up correspondence with a childhood admirer, the
recently widowed Oscar Williams. In desperation she agrees to marry him.
when Catherine travels to Oscar’s farm on Galveston island, Texas – a
thousand miles from home – she finds she is little prepared for the life
that awaits her. The island is remote, the weather sweltering, and
Oscar’s little boy Andre is grieving hard for his lost mother. And
though Oscar tries to please his new wife, the secrets of the past sit
uncomfortably between them.
Meanwhile for Nan Ogden, Oscar’s
housekeeper, Catherine’s sudden arrival has come as a great shock. For
not only did she promise Oscar’s first wife that she would be the one to
take care of little Andre, but she has feelings for Oscar which she is
struggling to suppress. And when the worst storm in a generation
descends, the women will find themselves tested as never before…
The story is narrated
by two women, both from different worlds but with very strong voices and
beliefs. It is 1900. Nan Ogden is a
young women living in Galveston and a neighbour of Oscar Williams and a great
friend to his late wife Bernadette. Nan promised Oscar’s dying wife that she
would look after Andre, their young son.
Secretly, she has feelings for Oscar and hopes that one day they might
a talented pianist, is around the same age and living in Ohio. As a result of a scandal involving a married
man, she is ostracised by her community and penniless. After trying to find
someone who will help her, she comes across the name of Oscar Williams, an old
school friend who at the time had a crush on her. However Oscar, being the son of a coal
merchant was not considered good enough for Catherine – but that was then. Oscar has now done well for himself in the
intervening years and has his own smallholding in Galveston.
This was a compelling
read, told by two women – one in love with a man and another who made a
marriage of convenience. Both women are
constrained by the rules of society which dictates how they should dress and
behave. Nan is illiterate but knows how
to keep a house whereas Catherine is educated but cannot cook a basic meal.
Nan’s jealousy of
Catherine comes to the fore and she feels usurped by Catherine’s presence as
Oscar’s new wife and it is clear that the two women are too different to be
friends. However when a great storm
arrives, both women must do whatever they can to survive.
I adored this book and
found it a compelling read. It is mainly
set over a relatively short time period of just over a week but so much happens
in that timeframe. The characters are so
well written and events are described with such detail that the reader feels
like a bystander and by the end of the story I was near to tears. There is a wonderful sense of place – you
can feel the stifling Texan heat and get a real sense of the remote and vast
landscape where your nearest neighbour is over a mile away. The story is based on a true event from 1900
when Galveston was torn to shreds and over 6,000 people lost their lives. I knew nothing of this tragedy before reading
the book and was interested enough to find out more.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough and will be keen to read more by this author.
Author website: http://annweisgarber.com