The Tea Rose: A Novel

The Tea Rose: A Novel

by Jennifer Donnelly

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Overview

The Tea Rose is a towering old-fashioned story, imbued with a modern sensibility, of a family's destruction, of murder and revenge, of love lost and won again, and of one determined woman's quest to survive and triumph.

East London, 1888-a city apart. A place of shadow and light where thieves, whores, and dreamers mingle, where children play in the cobbled streets by day and a killer stalks at night, where bright hopes meet the darkest truths.

Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, a bright and defiant young woman dares to dream of a life beyond tumbledown wharves, gaslit alleys, and the grim and crumbling dwellings of the poor.

Fiona Finnegan, a worker in a tea factory, hopes to own a shop one day, together with her lifelong love, Joe Bristow, a costermonger's son. With nothing but their faith in each other to spur them on, Fiona and Joe struggle, save, and sacrifice to achieve their dreams.

But Fiona's dreams are shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man take from her nearly everything-and everyone-she holds dear. Fearing her own death at the dark man's hands, she is forced to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit-and the ghosts of her past-propel her rise from a modest west side shopfront to the top of Manhattan's tea trade.

Authentic and moving, Jennifer Donnelly's The Tea Rose is an unforgettable novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312378028
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 12/10/2007
Series: Tea Rose Series , #1
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 592
Sales rank: 86,680
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Jennifer Donnelly writes books for children and adults, including the novel The Tea Rose. She lives in Brooklyn and upstate New York, with her husband and two greyhounds. She has a passion for tea and roses.

Read an Excerpt

Prologue

Polly Nichols, a Whitechapel whore, was profoundly grateful to gin.

Gin helped her. It cured her. It took away her hunger and chased the chill from her joints. It stilled the aching in her rotten teeth and numbed the slicing pains she got every time she took a piss. It made her feel better than any man ever had. It calmed her. It soothed her.

Swaying drunkenly in the darkness of an alley, she raised a bottle to her lips and drained it. The alcohol burned like fire. She coughed, lost her grip on the bottle, and swore as it smashed.

In the distance, the clock at Christ Church struck two, its resonant chime muffled in the thickening fog. Polly dipped her hand into her coat pocket and felt for the coins there. Two hours ago, she’d been sitting in the kitchen of a doss-house on Thrawl Street, penniless. The landlord’s man had spotted her there, asked for his fourpence, and turned her out when she couldn’t supply it. She’d cursed and screamed at him, telling him to save her bed, he’d get his doss money, telling him she’d earned it and drunk it three times over that day.

“And I got it, too, you bastard,” she muttered. “Didn’t I say I would? Got yer poxy fourpence and a skinful to boot.”

She’d found her money and her gin in the trousers of a lone drunk wending his way down the Whitechapel Road. He’d needed a bit of coaxing. At forty-two, her face was no longer her fortune. She was missing two front teeth and her pug nose was thick and flattened across the bridge like a fighter’s, but her large bosom was still firm and a glimpse of it had decided him. She’d insisted on a swig of his gin first, knowing a mouthful would numb her throat, get up her nose, and block the beer and onions stink of him. As she drank, she’d unbuttoned her camisole, and while he was busy groping her, she’d slipped the bottle into her own pocket. He was clumsy and slow and she was glad when he finally pulled away and staggered off.

Christ, but there’s nothing like gin, she thought now, smiling at the memory of her good fortune. To feel the weight of a bottle in your hands, press your lips against the glass, and feel the blue ruin flowing down your throat, hot and harsh. Nothing like it at all. And close to full that bottle had been. No mean thru’penny swig. Her smile faded as she found herself craving more. She’d been drinking all day and knew the misery that awaited her when the booze wore off. The retching, the shaking, and, worst of all, the things she saw—black, scuttling things that gibbered and leered from the cracks in the walls of the doss-house.

Polly licked her right palm and smoothed her hair. Her hands went to her camisole; her fingers fumbled a knot into the dirty strings threaded through the top of it. She tugged her blouse together and buttoned it, then lurched out of the alley and down Bucks Row, singing to herself in a gravelly, gin-cracked voice:

“Oh, bad luck can’t be prevented,

Fortune, she smiles or she frowns,

’E’s best off that’s contented,

To mix, sir, the ups and the downs . . .”

At the corner of Bucks Row and Brady Street, she suddenly stopped. Her vision blurred. A buzzing noise, low and close like the wings of an insect, began in her head.

“I’ve the ’orrors of drink upon me,” she moaned. She held her hands up. They were trembling. She buttoned her coat up around her neck and began to walk faster, desperate for more gin. Her head lowered, she did not see the man standing a few feet ahead of her until she was nearly upon him. “Blimey!” she cried. “Where the ’ell did you come from?”

The man looked at her. “Will you?” he asked.

“No, guv’nor, I will not. I’m poorly just now. Good night.”

She started to move off, but he grabbed her arm. She turned on him, her free arm raised to strike him, when her eyes fell upon the shilling pinched between his thumb and forefinger.

“Well, that changes things, don’t it?” she said. His shilling plus the fourpence she already had would buy booze and a bed tonight, tomorrow, and the day after, too. As sick as she felt, she couldn’t turn it down.

Polly and her client walked back the way she’d come in silence, past tumble-down dwellings and tall brick warehouses. The man had a powerful stride and she found herself trotting to keep pace. Glancing at him, she saw he was expensively dressed. Probably had a nice watch on him. She’d certainly have a go at his pockets when the time was right. He stopped abruptly at the end of Bucks Row, by the entrance to a stable yard.

“Not ’ere,” she protested, wrinkling her nose. “By the metal works . . . a little ways down . . .”

“This’ll do,” he said, pushing her against two sheets of corrugated metal, secured by a chain and padlock, that served as the stable’s gate.

His face shone weirdly bright in the thickening darkness, its pallor broken by eyes that were cold and black. A wave of nausea gripped her as she looked into them. Oh, Jesus, she pleaded silently, don’t let me be sick. Not here. Not now. Not this close to a whole shilling. She forced herself to breathe deeply, willing the nausea to subside. As she did, she inhaled his scent—Macassar oil, sweat, and something else . . . what was it? Tea. Bloody tea, of all things.

“Let’s get on with it then,” she said. She lifted her skirts, fixing him with a look of weary expectation.

The man’s eyes were glittering darkly now, like shiny pools of black oil. “You filthy bitch,” he said.

“No dirty talk tonight, pet. I’m in a bit of an ’urry. Need some ’elp, do you?” She reached for him. He slapped her hand away.

“Did you really think you could hide from me?”

“Look ’ere, are you going to—” Polly began. She never finished. Without warning, the man grabbed her by the throat and slammed her into the gate.

“Leave off!” she cried, flailing at him. “Let me go!”

He tightened his grip. “You left us,” he said, his eyes bright with hatred. “Left us for the rats.”

“Please!” she rasped. “Please don’t ’urt me. I don’t know about any rats, I swear it . . . I . . .”

“Liar.”

Polly never saw the knife coming. She had no time to scream as it plunged into her belly, biting and twisting. A soft gasp escaped her as he pulled it out. She stared at the blade, uncomprehending, her eyes wide, her mouth a great, round O. Slowly, delicately, she touched her fingers to the wound. They came away crimson.

She lifted her eyes to his, her voice rising in a wild, terrified keen, and looked into the face of madness. He raised his knife; it bit into her throat. Her knees buckled and all around her darkness descended, enveloping her, dragging her into a thick and strangling fog, a fog deeper than the river Thames and blacker than the London night that swirled down on her soul.

Copyright © 2002 by Jennifer Donnelly. All rights reserved.

Reading Group Guide

East London, 1888-a city apart. A place of shadow and light where thieves, whores, and dreamers mingle, where children play in the cobbled streets by day and a killer stalks at night, where bright hopes meet the darkest truths. Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, a bright and defiant young woman dares to dream of a life beyond tumbledown wharves, gaslit alleys, and the grim and crumbling dwellings of the poor.

Fiona Finnegan, a worker in a tea factory, hopes to own a shop one day, together with her lifelong love, Joe Bristow, a costermonger's son. With nothing but their faith in each other to spur them on, Fiona and Joe struggle, save, and sacrifice to achieve their dreams. But Fiona's dreams are shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man take from her nearly everything-and everyone-she holds dear. Fearing her own death at the dark man's hands, she is forced to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit-and the ghosts of her past-propel her rise from a modest west side shopfront to the top of Manhattan's tea trade.

Fiona's old ghosts do not rest quietly, however, and to silence them, she must venture back to the London of her childhood, where a deadly confrontation with her past becomes the key to her future. The Tea Rose is a towering old-fashioned story, imbued with a modern sensibility, of a family's destruction, of murder and revenge, of love lost and won again, and of one determined woman's quest to survive and triumph.

Authentic and moving, The Tea Rose is an unforgettable novel-one certain to take its place beside such enduring epics as A Woman of Substance, The Thornbirds, and The Shell Seekers.

1. In a novel, can a city be more than a setting? Can it influence a character? Or be a character itself? In what way does London shape Fiona?

2. Early in The Tea Rose, Paddy tells Fiona that he doesn't believe in God, he believes that three pounds of meat make a very good stew. Fiona, too, loses her faith in the aftermath of the losses she suffers. Is it more important to have faith in God, or in yourself? Are the two mutually exclusive?

3. Fiona is a person driven by the past. Is that a good or bad thing? Or both?

4. Is there such a thing as true love? A soul mate? What would have happened to Fiona and Joe if they had never been reunited? What sort of person would Fiona have become if she had married Will?

5. Kate's friend Lily defends the way Jack's prostitute victims make their living by saying that "Morality is for them who can afford it." Do you agree? Is a person's moral code something that's written in stone, or does it vary with her circumstances? Would your code of conduct change if you were poor and hungry?

6. Nick encounters brutality from his father because of his homosexuality. He feels he cannot be open about his identity in New York and eventually gets into a great deal of trouble for visiting a gay bar. How have attitudes toward gay people changed over the last century? Do you think a marriage between a gay man and straight woman is realistic? Could it work?

7. When Fiona returns to Whitechapel, she realizes that even with all the success and wealth she's achieved as an adult, she has never been happier than when she lived on Montague Street. Once you leave the place where you grew up, is it possible to go home again?

8. Both Fiona and Joe are fighters. What makes one person accept her circumstances and another fight to better them? Ambition? Damage? Loss? Fear? If Fiona and Joe had married as teenagers, would each have achieved all that they did?

9. Though The Tea Rose is set in the past, Fiona has a very modern sensibility and faces many problems that 21st century women face. Do you think that women today are different from their late 19th century counterparts? In what ways? In what ways are they the same?

Customer Reviews

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The Tea Rose 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 341 reviews.
JamieFan More than 1 year ago
I've been looking for another 'historical romance' series since finishing the 'Outlander' saga of Jamie and Claire Fraser--which is, in my humble opinion, the best romance saga of all time! But I digress--This wonderful book was recommended to me by a fellow 'Outlander lover' as almost as good as the 'O' series; and she was RIGHT! I loved the characters, the pathos, the descriptive language, the rich development of characters, and the nail-biting murder mystery of the victims of Jack the Ripper. All in all, I'd recommend this book to anyone ruined as I was for any other books except those written by the fabulous Diana Gabaldon. Jennifer Donnelly's writing is almost as wonderful as Herself's prose. I'm just starting 'The Winter Rose'--and can't wait for 'The Wild Rose' which is supposed to be coming out sometime in the next year. If you like historical romance that doesn't devolve into a 'bodice ripper' but has a wonderful love story woven throughout, you will love this book!
TeeNY More than 1 year ago
I loved reading The Tea Rose. I could not put it down. The author keeps it exciting and fast paced. It has a little of everything in it. It was romantic,sensual, thrilling, intense and truimphet. I just finished the book and now I am reading The Winter Rose.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jennifer Donnelly has the ability to pull the reader in as she spins her story. You feel the hope, despair, loneliness, happiness and love as the characters unfold. Don't let the size of this book stop you from reading the wonderful words Donnelly has written-you won't be sorry!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't even know where to begin, I have two chapters left till I finish the book. I am 17 years old and I just can't come to my senses on how amazing this book is. I couldn't put it down and not wonder what would come next. It brought me to tears too many times happy ones, sad ones, angry ones etc. I found my self laughing a lot and I would read as I walked home! Fiona, a wonderful, strong, beautiful, honest girl who suffers a lot and yet keeps her life going. Amazing love story. Tastefully done. Justice served, this book has it all! Marvelous! I can't wait to read everything else Ms. Donnelly has written. PLEASE PLEASE DON'T HESITATE IN READING THIS BOOK. I ASSURE YOU, YOU WONT REGRET IT!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author takes us back in history inviting us to walk the streets of London in the "not to good times" and take a strong character such as Fiona and allow her to blossom from a young girl to a woman with fiery drive and compassion to those that she loved and lost; this is a time in the new world when it was totally unheard of for women to be successful in the world of business. I couldn't put this book down and what a book for television or movies!!!!!!!!!! Jennifer Donnelly.....what a great job and all of your hard work is worth it! Keep 'em coming! This book is #1 on MY list!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Must read. This book has all the drama of real life. A very clean and decent read on how one bad decision will impact the rest of your life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely LOVE books by Catherine Cookson. But, since she is virtually impossible to find, it is WONDERFUL to find someone who writes similarly to her. I love stories about the servant classes of Victorian England but I LOATHE the "bodice ripper" type of book. So, it is very hard for me to find a book that I like as well as I like this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story, the best of the series. Unsicomoro
grad_jessy More than 1 year ago
It is rare for me to get into a book so much where I begin to wonder of the characters and plot twists when I have to pry myself away from the story. Jennifer Donnelly's writing entranced me from the very beginning and kept my constant attention throughout. I find that I am often bored in books and it can be a struggle to get through a story, but this book was a constant page turner. A very rare book indeed packed with memorable characters filled with hardship and courage to get themselves back up on their feet.
butterflyES More than 1 year ago
This book lets you know jusy how easy it is for your entire life to change in a fraction of a second! It shows you should never take advantage of what is good in your life you should always savor every waking moment! This book made me laugh, cry, gasp, hold my breath, everything you cam think of it did. Its a heartwrenching story that will stay with me for a long time to come! Great, expressive, amazing read!
Bostoncharm More than 1 year ago
This book is exciting, heartfelt, smart, witty and the author doesn't let you down. (I couldn't read this book fast enough) You will fall in love with the characters and this wonderful writer brings them to life! If your a fan of Materpiece Theater type books.. you will love this!! The next book in the series is even better.
an-avid-readerPK More than 1 year ago
I had read "A Northern Light" and had to read another one of Jennifer Donnelly's book, bought "The Tea Rose", could not put it down, I stayed up untill 3am last night to finish it. This will definitely go on one of my favorites list. If you love romance, murder, suspence, and the bad guy getting what he deserves then you will really enjoy this book. Don't miss out GET IT. And just incase in happens I did not put + or % signs in this, I hope B&N get that fixed very soon. Oh will be buying "The Winter Rose".
BabaJoe More than 1 year ago
I got this book on a whim. I had a gift card, and was trying to fill it up. I stumbled on this because one the staff recommended it. It was one of the best book I have ever bought. So far, I have recommended it to four people and they loved it as well. The characters are so real that you feel you know them and care for them as the story progresses. At times, I felt like I was in the story. It struck so many emotions in me, I felt for the characters. It has everything a good book needs, romance, murder, mystery, comedy. It is just a spectacular read. I could not put it down and that is a test of a truly, good book: When you try and put it down chapter after chapter but you keep reading. 5 stars, 2 thumbs up. Amazing book.
caiseemontgomery More than 1 year ago
I am pretty picky when it comes to books and this one was fantastic! I enjoyed everything about it, the characters were great and the love story was wonderful... I enjoyed it immensely! I'm onto to The Winter Rose now~ It was a very well written book and fast paced! I didn't get bored once. Definitely read it, it's a book I think any woman would love!
indygo88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This one's quite lengthy at 756 pages, and yes, I think it could definitely have been trimmed down. But I liked it. I could complain a little: it's rather unrealistic in parts, portions are predictable or cliche', and it gets almost soap opera-ish at times. But I did -- I liked it. There are a lot of elements wrapped up in this monster of a book, & despite the predictability of the major plotline, it did manage to take me completely by surprise near the end (which now justifies to me the "sequel", of sorts). And so now that I've finished this whopper, I'm going to delve right into Donnelly's "The Winter Rose".
KAzevedo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was overly long, formulaic, and totally predictable.
BellaFoxx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a very fascinating book. The author makes you feel like you are right there and the characters are real people, people who could be your friends, or your enemies. You feel their joy and their pain.
slpenney07 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Summary: A pair of poor lovers appear to be star-crossed through circumstances and their own stubbornness until a final set of events close the loop and bring them together again.The Take Away: The story was good. A nice historical spanning two continents. The author slipped into telling a bit too frequently, but given that the novel topped 500 pages, it doesn't surprise me. It did jar me out of the story a few times.Setting the events against the real life actions of Jack the Ripper was an easy convention to pull the reader in. Providing a solution within the context of the novel kept it from being cheesy.The quality was good enough to keep the series in my to-be-read list.
jonesli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first book in a trilogy which includes The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose.This hefty novel tells the beautiful story of Fiona Finnegan, and the struggles of her family in 19th Centry East London. There are so many tragic things that happen to Fiona in such a short time, that one would think she just couldn't endure any more, but she does. She is a fighter and is determined not to stay "in a woman's place' as she overcomes her impoverished life to become an owner of several successful tea shops. This book reminds me so much of the successful Emma Harte series written by Barbara Taylor Bradford, beginning with [A Woman of Substance], one of my favorite books ever. I thought that this book was a very well written piece of historical fiction and I am looking forward to reading the other two books in the series.
runaway84 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There are many words to describe this book: Marvelous. Spectacular. Epic. To name just a few.When I first started this book, I didn't think I'd end up loving it by the end. The pacing in the book was well done. It started up slow, but picked up by the end of part one and didn't let up.The book had many flaws: Historical liberties, the unrealistic careers of both Fiona and Joe. There were also times when I was very frustrated. A few times I thought, "If Fiona and Joe miss each other by a second one more time...!" But none of these reasons warranted me to like it any less.My favorite character was Nick, by far. I instantly loved him. He was clever, witty, full of life and - in my head - adorable.It's been a long while since a book has brought tears to my eyes and this book has done it twice. In one instance I had to put down the book to compose myself before continuing.The Tea Rose is an book of epic proportions, in every sense of the word. Taking place in the late 19th century in Whitechapel and New York, it has a host of unforgettable characters. With Donnelly's writing you can practically hear the characters talking in your head, accent and all.Whether I had to put the book down to clap, curse, or cry, this book made me feel. And I can't remember the last time a book did that.
marianne_victoria on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't think it would be possible, but I love this book even more than I loved Winter Rose, which I happened to read first. If you love historical fiction, romance, and a really good plot, then give Tea Rose a try!
bottleninja on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this was really good!!wasn't expecting that good of a story.pleasantly surprised!!
Novimarra on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Tea Rose, Jennifer Donnelly. Her first novel, you would never know it the way she can write a scene. Certain paragraphs are so emotionally-charged, there'll be tears. Some lines are funny as hell, and they'll have the lady next to you on the train rolling her eyes at your insane giggling. Cockney dialect aplenty, reminding me of Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, but without all the fecks. This is a story, like many others of the historical fic genre, of love, loss, and finding love again in East London, circa 1888. But what I actually liked most about this book was the various platonic relationships that the protagonist Fiona has with family members and friends. For instance, she marries a gay man Nick, who happens to be my favorite character, and they have the most interesting relationship: at times, hilarious - he tends to call her "old shoe" in conversation as if it were her name, which makes me like him; at other times, he becomes Fiona's conscience, screaming exactly what she's afraid to tell herself. Considering Fiona's father doesn't figure into much of the book, he still becomes a real, sympathetic character as Fiona's flashbacks of her childhood torture her and at the same time drive her on into an uncertain future. All in all, the major heartbreak of the novel doesn't hold my interest as much as many other elements do - the book has some hilarious characters, a great story with plenty of twists, period detail of the slums of East London and Jack the Ripper.My mother-in-law read the front cover blurb from Frank McCourt and said "heartwarming novel of pain?!" Obviously she hasn't read much of the genre called "melodrama". And it's only recently that I realized I do in fact read plenty of melodrama. I semi-recently read the second installment of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series (must-read material for any fantasy/his-fic reader) Dragonfly in Amber - forget my description, just get 'em. I also devoured Paullina Simons' The Bronze Horseman earlier this year, a totally involving and exciting drama of the coming-of-age of Tatiana during the Siege of Leningrad. Her relationship with Alexander, a soldier in the Red Army, is naturally star-crossed and painful as any in the genre, and this one, perhaps unlike Fiona and Joe's, is worth the price of the book.emilysanecdots.blogspot.com
HaroldR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the well-researched novel. Some secualintimacies written in but didn't overpower. Good plot. Donnelly says she spent 8 years on it. Well done!
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an epic tale in the tradition of Thorn Birds or Gone With the Wind: the kind that makes you cry every five chapters or so. But this book far surpasses the others mentioned by its sophistication, its glorious period detail, and the extent to which it refuses to place salient socioeconomic factors in the background or place their importance secondary to romance. We follow ten or so years in the life of Fiona Finnegan, starting when she is seventeen in 1888, a time when the gap between the haves and have-nots seemed like an unbridgeable chasm, and when Jack the Ripper terrorized the populace. Fiona lives in Whitechapel - a poor section of London - and shares dreams for the future with her boyfriend from forever, Joe Bristow. The two hope to save money and open a shop one day, but they have their families to help support, and backbreaking jobs with long hours that don¿t pay much. The time they can steal away to be together is sweet and sustaining for both of them.Fiona¿s father, Paddy, works on the docks, and his dreams depend on the chance for unionization, and what it could mean to all the men:"He looked around at the faces of the men who worked the docks, faces like anvils, hardened by the constant hammering life had given them. Usually it was porter or stout that erased the cares from those faces. Pint after pint. Washing away the bellowing foreman, the sad-eyed wife, the underfed children, the constant, aching knowledge that no matter how hard you worked, you¿d only ever be a docker and there¿d never be enough ¿ enough coal in the bin, enough meat on the table.¿But when it came to Paddy¿s eldest and favorite, Fiona, he encouraged her pursuit of something better:"The day you let someone take your dreams from you, you may as well head straight to the undertaker¿s. You¿re just as good as dead.¿Fiona worked at the local tea factory under the exploitative and cruel owner, Willliam Burton. Joe was a costermonger (in Britain, one who sells fruit, vegetables, fish, or other goods from a cart, barrow, or stand in the streets). And Joe was great at it; no one could sell like he could and he was full of ideas about how to expand the business. His father wouldn¿t pay attention to him, but the affluent entrepreneur Tommy Peterson, egged on by his daughter Millie, saw something in Joe, and hired him on. Millie wanted Joe for her own, and set out a plan to entrap him. Joe was seduced as much by his own ambition and need for validation and respect as by Millie. The Peterson family had money, comfort, and seemingly no worries. It was a far cry from the life he had back in Whitechapel.When Joe leaves to work for Peterson, and Fiona's dad takes over the local union organizing, tragedy begins to strike Fiona from all directions. She, taking her five-year-old brother Seamus with her, flees to America. She seems to have lost everything except the memory of her father¿s advice, and so she pursues the dreams she once had so long ago. But this time, she wants them with a vengeance.Discussion: Fiona is an outstandingly strong, independent woman, only occasionally tempted to take the easy way out by hiding behind the role of a wife. The men in her life are some of the best characters I¿ve ¿met¿ in a long time, and we learn a great deal about Fiona¿s character just from her reactions to them. I love the fact that, rather than a narrator telling us who Fiona is, we get to learn it ourselves from observing her interactions with others and how she copes with the Job-like trials that plague her.The period detail is masterful, and the swings of passion, weariness, tumult, cruelty, longing, tenderness and moments of sheer joy demonstrate once again Donnelly¿s narrative craftsmanship, not to mention the depth and breadth of her interests and knowledge.Donnelly is perhaps also here showing her interest in Dante¿s hell that she takes up in her book Revolution. To a great extent,