Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review: The Outcast, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Pages: 594

Original date of publication: 1998

My edition: 2007 (Sphere)

Why I decided to read: I’m trying to read through the Morland Dynasty series

How I acquired my copy: book Depository, April 2010

#21: 1857-1865; covers the American Civil War

This installment of the Morland series takes the family from England to South Carolina—just as war is about to tear apart the United States. A foundling shows up at Benedict Morland’s door, and he takes the child to South Carolina, where his daughter Mary is a wife and mother on a large plantation. Back in England, Charlotte’s marriage to Oliver Fleetwood slowly crumbles over her friendship with a doctor, even as she becomes involved in the divorce reform bill.

This book takes a break from England, and I thought it was a welcome change from the usual. As the books in this series usually are, the events described are well-researched and give the reader a glimpse into what life was like in the 1850s and ‘60s. Mary’s marriage to Fenwick isn’t exactly a bed of roses, and it’s interesting to watch her friendship with Martial develop (though you can pretty much predict where it’s going to go!).

Mary is your typical Morland family woman (uncannily ahead of her time with regards to her education and opinions on the issue of slavery), but I enjoyed the interplay she has with Martial. I also enjoyed meeting members of the American branch of the Morlands, although they’re almost an exact copy of the English branch and the similarities are a bit too much at times. I would have also liked to have seen more of Charlotte in this story, and I was a little frustrated by how quickly her relationship with her husband deteriorated. After all, they had a seemingly happy marriage beforehand! I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to the family in the next book in the series as the series returns to England.

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