In the first book in what is known as her Plantation Trilogy, Deep Summer, Bristow began the story of Phillip Larne as he brings his new bride to carve a new life out of the steaming jungles of Louisiana. Handsome Road carries the Larne and Sheramy families through the Civil War and emphasizes the struggles of the upper class and their efforts to hold onto their way of life through the carpet bagger era. Which brings us to the last book in this trilogy –
This Side of Glory begins in 1912, as Eleanor Upjohn works as secretary for her father Fred, who despite a poorer birth has made a successful career as a builder of river levees. She meets plantation owner Kester Larne and its love at first site – but can they overcome the huge gaps in their two social classes and build a successful marriage? Eleanor is shocked at the run down condition of the Larne family plantation as well as the huge debts Kester’s neglect has incurred. Eleanor cracks the whip and begins to put things to right, until a shot rings out in Sarajevo and as war breaks out it brings the price of cotton drops down to dangerous levels and threatens to destroy them all…..
And that is all I’m going to tell you. This is not one of those action-packed page-turning novels, but more one based on Kester and Eleanor’s relationship as they try to grow and adapt to the death of one society and emergence of the new. Despite a bit too trite of an ending, I enjoyed this a lot and I can’t remember the last time I stopped so many times to note a page I wanted to go back to and quote for the review. So without further ado,
“She began to understand what people might be like when they had lived for generations in this quiet grandeur, their instincts curbed by the standards of their culture till they had no uncertainties, their characters polished by their knowledge in all circumstances of what was expected of them.”
Kester’s definition of `white trash’, “people who have no fineness, no delicacy, no knowledge that some things are Caesar’s and some things are God’s.”
“We fell in love because we were so different. Then all we did was twist and pull at each other, trying to make changes that couldn’t be made.”
“New people are generally those who have moved into the neighborhood since the Civil War. They all say ‘since the war’ as if it had happened last Tuesday.”
“They had rushed into a marriage across a barrier that intolerant generations had been building for a hundred and fifty years; they had laughed when warned of its existence and then blamed each other when they had found that laughter did not blow it down.”
Don’t let those used prices scare you on some of those editions in the Trilogy – they can be found in libraries in the US and if yours participates in the ILL program you should be able to get them. Or there’s always the challenge of scrounging your favorite used book stores until you find a copy. Four stars.