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As powerful and personal a tale as any Barbara Taylor Bradford has ever written, this is a wonderfully involving and sweeping novel of three remarkable women, each committing an act of will that will define their lives forever.
Today it was her birthday.
It was the third of June in the year 192 6 and she was nineteen years old.
Audra Kenton stood at the window of her room in the Fever Hospital in Ripon, in Yorkshire, where she worked as a nurse, gazing out at the back garden. Absently she watched the play of light and shadow on the lawn, as the sunlight filtered through the leafy domes of the two great oaks that grew near the old stone wall. There was a gentle breeze, and the leaves rustled and trembled under it, and shimmered with green brilliance as they caught the sun. It was radiant and balmy, a day that invited and beckoned.
Matron had given Audra the afternoon off for her birthday. The problem was that she had nowhere to go and no one to spend it with. She was entirely alone in this world.
Audra only had one friend, Gwen Thornton, another nurse at the hospital, but Gwen had been summoned home to Horsforth yesterday. Her mother had been taken ill and she was needed. Weeks ago, Gwen had arranged to exchange her day off with one of the other nurses, so that she could be with Audra, celebrate this important occasion with her, and the two of them had planned a very special day. Now their elaborate plans were laid to waste.
Leaning her head against the window frame, Audra sighed, thinking of the empty hours looming ahead. Unexpectedly her throat tightened and she felt the tears gathering behind her eyes as sadness mingled with bitter disappointment trickled through her. But after only a few seconds she blinked and cleared her throat, managed to take holdof herself. Resolutely she pushed aside the negative emotions momentarily invading her, refusing to feel sorry for herself. Audra despised self-pity in others, considered it to be a sign of weakness. She was strong. Her mother had always told her that she was, and her mother had rarely been wrong about anything.
Turning away from the window, she walked over to the chair and sat down heavily, wondering what to do with herself.
She could read, of course, or do a little embroidery, or even finish the sketch of the blouse she was designing, and which she intended to make — when she could afford to buy the fabric. On the other hand, none of these occupations had any real appeal for her. Not today. Not on her birthday.
She had been so looking forward to the outing with her friend, to enjoying a few carefree hours of pleasure for once in her life. Audra had little to celebrate these days, and festive occasions were a thing of the past, a rarity indeed. In fact, her life had changed so radically, so harshly, in the last few years, she hardly recognized it as her own.
It suddenly struck her that resorting to one of those mundane hobbies, normally used to pass the time when she was off duty, would be infinitely worse than just sitting in this chair, doing nothing. They're poor substitutes, all of them, for the plans Gwen and I made.
Audra had long since trained herself not to notice the room where she lived in the hospital. But now, seeing it so clearly illuminated in the bright sunshine, she became painfully aware of its ugliness and lack of comfort. Having been born into gentility, albeit somewhat impoverished, Audra was a young woman of breeding and refinement. She possessed taste in abundance, had strong artistic leanings, and the austerity of the Spartan furnishings and institutional color scheme suddenly stabbed at her discerning eyes. They offended her sensibilities.
Confronting her were walls painted a dismal porridge-beige which ran down to a floor covered with dreary gray linoleum. The iron bedstead, rickety night stand and chest of drawers were notable only for their shabbiness and utilitarian design. The room was chillingly bleak, intolerable at any time, but especially on this sunny afternoon. She knew she had to escape its oppressive boundaries for a short while, no matter where she went.
Her gaze fell on the dress lying on the bed, where she had placed it a short time before. It was new. She had saved up for a whole year, putting away a shilling every week, in order to buy herself a present for her birthday.
She and Gwen had gone to Harrogate two Saturdays ago with this in mind. They had wandered around for several hours, mostly window-shoppingand admiring the beautiful things they saw and which they knew they would never be able to afford. Audra filled with warm and affectionate feelings for Gwen as she thought of that day now.
Gwen was especially attracted to jeweler's shops, and Audra had found herself constantly cupping her hands and dutifully peering through glass at some bauble that had caught Gwen's attention. "Oh Audra! Just look at that!" Gwen kept crying, pointing to a brooch or a ring or a pendant. At one moment she had clutched Audra's arm fiercely and whispered in awed tones, "Have you ever seen anything like that gorgeous bangle, Audra! Why the stones could be real the way they sparkle like diamonds. It would suit you, Audra. Let's go in ... it doesn't cost anything just to look."
Audra had half smiled and shaken her head, not saying a word, and she had thought of her mother's jewelry, which had been much more beautiful than any of these tawdry imitations of the real thing.
Gwen's excited exclamations and urgent proddings; continued a bit too long for Audra that afternoon, and she had eventually grown exasperated, had silenced her friend with a stern look and a sharp admonition to be quiet. Immediately regretting her shortness, she had quickly apologized to Gwen.
Posted February 13, 2011
Another marvelous book by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Act of Will is a story of love for a child. The measures that a mother will go through to make sure that her child has everything in life, especially the chances that she herself did not have. This is a very moving story and a real page turner. I loved this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 2, 2006
It was a wonderful book that captured the lives of three women. All three women are grandmother, daughter, grandaughter. This story shows all three of there lives, and was a terrific romance novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 16, 2002
This story involves three generations of women who make agonizing choices to better themselves. But, their choices didn't seem that agonizing since the characters weren't emotionally engaging. The publisher categorized this as a work of fiction, but there are a couple of explicit sex scenes that make it a romance that's mildly historical.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 9, 2010
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