Since Windsor's first novel finds an assured voice only about halfway through, its title is ironically appropriate. The plot, set between the two world wars, concerns the struggles of a lonely, motherless English girl, daughter of an earl, to forge her own identity amid insular surroundings. In 1926, eight-year-old Amy Savernake is desperately hoping for some excitement at her family's solemn Dorset estate. Her wish is granted when Rudi, an arts promoter and acquaintance of her stepmother, Sonia, offers to stage a theater festival there. The festival brings thrilling outsiders into the girl's world and irrevocably changes it as, under Rudi's tutelage, Amy for the first time experiences a sense of belonging. Windsor's storytelling is marred by thin characterizations and stiff dialogue, but she captivates through her use of symbols-for example, evocatively melding Sonia's longings for a child of her own with the mythic powers of a giant fertility figure carved into a nearby hillside. Though the novel seems episodic and disjointed at times, it finally coheres around a moment when Amy grasps that fulfillment grows out of charting one's personal destiny: ``Life as it passes seems a muddle, all unconnected bits and pieces, but they come together when we get things right.'' Windsor seems likely to get things right with her next effort. (Nov.)
The earl of Osmington, father of five children, marries his secretary after the death of his wife, only to be crippled in a hunting accident (caused by his new bride). The story of this less-than-blissful marriage is told from the perspective of the earl's youngest daughter, Amy, actually Lady Amity Charlotte Augusta Savernake. Although Amy dislikes her stepmother, she has not declared open warfare like her sisters. Amy is even agreeable to the prospect of the first midsummer arts festival held at Gunville Place, the family's country home. She assists Rudi, the charming actor who arranges it all, and would even fall in love with him if she were not a mere nine years old. That happy ending will have to come much later, and does, after a wartime separation and various other family fallings-out. A romantic novel of unusual depth and humor.