by Mary Webb
First sentence: “It was at a love-spinning that I saw Kester first.”
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Prue Sarn was born “hare-shotten”, with a hairlip. Because of this, she has been told her whole life that she is cursed, that no one will want her, that her lot in life is to just support her family, which includes her older brother, Gideon, in his ambition to become wealthy, for he believes that only money can buy happiness.
However, money doesn’t buy happiness. Although Gideon skimps and makes Prue slave (granted, he works hard, too), and although he’s in love with and engaged to fair Jancis, grudges, ambition, and pettiness kept him from his happiness. Cursed Prue, however, with her kind-hearted nature, and willingness to help others helps her get her happy ending, in spite of her appearance.
It took me the longest time to get into reading the book. It’s in dialect, set in Shropshire, but I’m not sure that’s what it was. I think a lot of it is that it’s just a slow-starting book. However, I stuck with it, and halfway through, I figured out not only what was going on, but the story that Webb was trying to tell. And from there, the story picked up. It’s a both a heartbreaking and a hopeful one. There’s a message, yes, but it’s told in such a way that it isn’t heavy-handed. As a reader, you feel pain for Gideon, and see what the consequences of his stubbornness will lead him, and yet are powerless to stop the outcome. It’s a hard read, but one most definitely worth the time.