Yet, it was with some trepidation that I picked up this one. I last read Anita Shreve about 5 years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed all her books, but I recalled some friends making scathing comments about anything other than The Pilot's Wife. But for R30 ($2), this seemed worthwhile.
It started off well enough - a love story between an older married man and a young girl, months before her sixteenth birthday. A little creepy, but hey, this was 1899 - everything was different, wasn't it? Then in parts two and three of the world, the book changed direction completely, and tackled some amazing subjects, like women's rights, education, poverty and so on. I'm deliberately not mentioning anything that could possibly be a spoiler. You realise that the more things change, the more they stay the same. This gives the story a timelessness that probably wasn't intentional on the author's part, but is hugely enjoyable.
I thought it was brilliant - great character development, awesome setting. But I realized, as I relayed it to my husband - he at first annoyed that I took so long to explain, and then shocked at how good it was - the best part of this book is the amazing plot. Shreve undertook some very detailed research, and then used it extensively to breathtaking effect. Which makes this book part historical fiction.
If you find this book, grab a copy and clear a weekend. You won't regret it.