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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Anita Shreve - Fortunes Rock

reviewed live on show by Babs Simspon 27th Sept This is the story of Olympia Biddeford, the 15-year-old daughter of respectable upper-middle class parents from Boston, and the momentous events that happen during six short weeks of the family's annual stay on the New Engand coast at Fortune's Rocks. Olympia is an only child, taught at home by her well educated and clever father; consequently she is used to the companyof adults and seems very mature for her 15 years. Her father invites a newcomer, John Haskell to dinner. He is a doctor, married with children, who has set up a clinic to help the dreadfully poor and deprived immigrant workers in the mills of Ely Falls, a few miles from Fortune's Rocks. Although Haskell is 40, he and Olympia are drawn instantly to each other and an extraordinary but doomed love affair ensues. When, inevitably, their liaison is exposed, John and Olympia are forced to part and she is sent away to be a teacher. She also discovers that she is expecting Haskell's child. The complications of what happens to her and her baby make up the remainder of the story and there are plenty of twists and turns along the way. I can't praise this highly enough. The contrasts between the privileged folks spending their summers in luxury on the cool coast and the squalor, heat and deprivation experieced by the French immigrant mill workers such a short distance away; the extraordinary and utterly believable bond between Olympia and John; the sweltering heqt of of a New England summer, the stifling life of the well-to-do in America at the turn of the 19th/20th Century and, above all, the helplessness of a young girl at that time - all are beautifully and convincingly described. Thank you, Anita Shreve, for a marvellous story!

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