Where do I start with this wonderful novel? With the sense of place and time, I guess, because it was so brilliant and what drew me in. It’s set in rural Missouri in the 1870s and reminded me greatly of the childhood books I adored by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Except she actually lived in the American Mid West at the time, and Imogen Martin lives in twenty-first century Wales.
The story opens when, much to her older sister Ginny’s horror, teenager Mary-Lou brings home an injured drifter who has fallen from his horse. The sisters decide to pretend their father is still alive, just sick upstairs, to keep themselves safe while Lex heals, but it is clear running the farm is a struggle for them in financial terms, although they cope on every practical level.
Then Lex leaves, and it isn’t giving too much away to say that a sweeping love story ensues. Beautifully done, but not overdone, embedded in both the social mores of the time and the freedoms of homestead life. The characterisation – and I mean all the characterisation, right done to the couple Ginny meets on a train – is wonderful and I genuinely struggled to put this book down, in the end giving up completely and staying exactly where I was until I’d finished it.
A strong contender for one of my books of the year and I recommend it without reservation.