Meg Rosoff, “The Bride’s Farewell”

Every now and then Amazon’s recommendation system really gets it right and tosses me something like The Bride’s Farewell, a quirky and wonderful historical novel. We meet Pell Ridley on the dawn of her marriage to blacksmith Birdie Finch, as she sneaks out of her house taking little with her but a white horse, an apron, and her youngest brother, Bean. It’s panic that has set Pell off — Birdie is kind and steady but she feels her horizons closing in, and she bolts. It’s August 12, 1850– something. And that very combination of precision and opacity sets the tone for Meg Rosoff’s story-telling. We’re in deeply rural England, near the New Forest, and most of the scenes could have taken place just as easily in 1650 or 1750. Pell, as a girl on her own off to seek her fortune, is suspect. Her skills — blacksmithing and horse-coping — are men’s skills. She is, right from the start, plucky and resourceful and generous, so we root for her. But the path she’s taken is fraught is difficulty, so drama results. And right from the start, you’re sucked into the story.

Ancient white-chalk carving of a horse; did you know they're all over England? Pell sees one in her wanderings.

Pell heads for Salisbury, hoping to get work, but before long she’s lost both the horse and the brother. Her drive to find them is the motor for the rest of the book, which takes a circuitous route to find a conditional kind of closure. Along the way Pell meets a family of Gypsies, a sexy poacher we know only as “Dogman,” and many horses. I love horse books so that part was very satisfying: Rosoff makes the animals as interesting as the humans.

The unusual timeless quality of the book points to its most remarkable feature, though, which is that it’s almost a fairy tale. It seems to take place in an illustration rather than in the actual world. Rosoff doesn’t engage in the showy detail so important to some historical novels. The Bride’s Farewell almost seems Jungian; there’s some strange doubling (Pell’s family, the gypsy family; the dark, handsome, rakish poacher, her dark handsome, rakish father) and a dreamy tone throughout.

Incessantly, it seemed, life plagued her with responsibilities, made her fall in love, ripped away any consolation she might find. Sisters and parents, brothers and horses, Dicken and John Kirby, Birdie and Dogman. Even Pa’s awful house with the tilting floor. All staked their claim on her, each conspiring to weigh down her soul. As soon as she accepted one set of circumstances, another leaped up to mock her. Nothing stayed the same. Every day brought unwanted connections, losses and complications that broke her heart.

Well, yes. For most of us, that’s the way life works, though on a lesser scale. And we’d all do well to imitate Pell, taking a deep breath and simply making the best of it.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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15 Responses to Meg Rosoff, “The Bride’s Farewell”

  1. Diane Capri says:

    Hi, Carol,

    I read about your blog in today’s Guideposts. Looking forward to exploring your take on the book world.

  2. chrisaflute says:

    Carol– same for me as what Diane Capri wrote. How on Earth do you find time to read all these books? Will be visiting again!

    • carolwallace says:

      Chris — or is it Chrisa? — I read pretty fast. And I work at home, and my children are mostly grown & gone. Also, nobody can spend 8 hours a day writing fiction. So it all adds up to more time with a book or a Kindle on my lap!

  3. Valinda says:

    I too read about your blog in today’s Guideposts! My husband and I are always looking for a good book to read. I look forward to reading through your past reviews and have subscribed to follow new posts.

    • carolwallace says:

      Thanks, Valinda! There’s a lot there and I’m struggling right now to figure out how to make the various posts more accessible, so let me know if you come up with clever ideas, OK?

  4. I read about your blog in Guidepost. I am quickly becoming an avid reader so always looking for good reads!! The Bride’s Farewell sounds right up my alley! I will keep coming back to your blog in the future to see what other recommendations you have! Thanks!! ; )
    P.S. Kudos to your husband for wanting to be involved in your life even if its just sharing a book story or two.. Go Rick!🙂

    • carolwallace says:

      Oh, yes, Rick is honestly a wonderful husband. I always think there would be more happy marriages in the world if there were more men like him. Do try “The Bride’s Farewell” — it’s short but completely satisfying! Thanks for stopping by, Michelle!

  5. Cathy says:

    Carol – another Guideposts reader here. Have enjoyed Rick’s devos for years and I look forward to exploring your reviews more. This one is lovely and I’m always open for guidance to good books. I love my Kindle(s) too!

  6. Pingback: Reading and the “Gift Economy” « Book Group of One

  7. Angela Hank says:

    Please give Rick Hamlin a big hug for mentioning this blog in Guideposts!!!!

  8. Pat O'Farrell Loughlin says:

    Something tells me Rick’s mention in Guideposts is going to expand your Book Group of One….and I am so grateful. Over the years I’ve enjoyed his devotionals about his life with you and your boys….and now it feels like we get a chance to hear from you! In addition, I have a sister who’s a brilliant English professor in Texas and I’m always asking her for “good reads to feed my brain”….and now, thanks to you and your AMAZING list of reads, I can
    share some with her. Looking forward to reading more. Pat

    • carolwallace says:

      Oh, Pat, you’ve just made my day. Thanks so much for your kind words! I did get quite a little bump in readership from Rick’s devotional, and I’m pretty grateful for that! I hope you’ll find some fun reads here.

  9. Pingback: Follow my book blog, “Book Group of One” | | Carol Wallace BooksCarol Wallace Books

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