From the author of The Rope Walk, the story of a woman's life in its twilight, as she looks back on both a harrowing childhood and the unaccountable love and happiness that emerged from it.
Ruth has always stood firmly beside her upstanding, brilliant husband, Peter, the legendary chief of the Derry School for boys. The childless couple has a unique, passionate bond which grew out of Ruth's arrival on his family doorstep as a young girl orphaned by tragedy. And though sometimes frustrated by her role as lifelong helpmeet, Ruth is awed by her good fortune in Peter. As the novel opens we see the Derry School in all its glorious New England fall colors and witness the loosening of the aging Peter's grasp--he will soon have to retire, and Ruth is wondering what they will do in their old age, separated from the school into which they have poured everything, including their savings. As the novel unfurls, it takes us back through their days and years, revealing the explosive spark and joy of their love--undiminished now in their seventies--and giving us a deeply felt portrait of a woman from the generation that quietly put individual dreams aside for the good of a partnership, twinned with the revelation of the surprising gift of the right man's love, which keeps giving to the end.
This ebook edition includes a Reading Group Guide.
Glancing at a paragraph or a page of Brown's (The Rope Walk) torpid novel might give an impression of glinting pathos and well-rendered nostalgia, but, though well-written on a sentence-by-sentence level, it falls short as a whole. Ruth, preparing for the last first day of her husband's tenure as headmaster at a New England boarding school, looks back on their life together; their early marriage, their fights, her struggle to fit into her role as headmaster's wife. She reflects on their gradual aging and her resentment over their imminent ouster from the school. In between these reminiscences, the plot crawls forward: it take Ruth 50 pages to progress from dressing herself and readying the house for a party, to leaving the house, another 50 pages to get through the dinner and speech that will precede the party. When hints of tragedy and drama are introduced, they are too late or too overwhelmed to be anything but odd distractions. A later section in the book in which Ruth relates her terrible childhood and her youthful encounters with Peter is much more sequential and successful, but it is not enough to save this novel from the weight of its insistent poignancy.