14.9.13

A PRIVATE HOTEL FOR GENTLE LADIES, by Ellen Cooney

Charlotte Heath, who until she contracted polio had been active, particularly enjoying long fast gallops astride her horse (frowned upon in 1900 Massachusetts), has recovered use of her legs. She goes for a sleigh ride, delighting in the speed and the beautiful snowy day. Then she sees her husband, Hays, embracing another woman. Without thought, she flees to Boston, fetching up at The Berkshire, where the Heath family's former cook rules the kitchen. Numb with cold, Charlotte is put into a warm bed and the next day discovers she's in her husband's aunt's private room. What is Aunt Lily, a respected doctor and married woman, doing here? And why do so many handsome young men act as porters? The story meanders through Charlotte's struggles with her decision to leave Hays, the side alleys of thought and memory colorful and entertaining, the characters quirky and full of life. This is not a fast-paced book of betrayal and anger, it's a leisurely reflection of how life was probably lived a century ago: slow-paced, refined, gracious, with plenty of time to smell the roses...and get to know a porter. When you finally come to the end, it may surprise you. It's a 4.
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