Thistles in the Corn

Anne Armstrong

Publisher: AuthorHouse Pages: 420 Price: (paperback) $24.34 ISBN: 9781468503364 Reviewed: August, 2012 Author Website: Visit »

In 1835 England, ten-year-old orphan Will Smythe is taken from the Poor House and sent to work at Stower Farm. As he grows into young adulthood, he is all but adopted by the elderly farmer and his wife. Years pass and Will unexpectedly fails to inherit the farm. Thrown out to survive, he and his young wife Betsy struggle to raise a family and encounter the harsh realities of no family connections, grinding poverty, too many pregnancies, the continual absence of available work and very few opportunities to better their situation.

This well-written novel brings the reader directly into the stark environment of impoverished, 19th century, rural England. The characters are wonderfully crafted and the colloquial dialogue is unobtrusive and enriching. The story is well told, filled with poignant, completely believable passages: “Betsy was sitting beside a dying fire, unpicking an old jersey so the wool could be re-used. Their eyes met across the dimly lit room. Will smiled at her and knew she could read the message in his eyes. The trip had been a failure.”

While evocative and engrossing, this story sometimes moves a bit too slowly and may have benefitted from editing to tighten the pace. While readers will connect easily with the characters, cheering them on and hoping for the best, the unrelenting barrenness of Will and Betsy’s existence combined with their ignorance, poor choices and bad luck keeps the characters in stasis. This can be unsatisfying for those readers who want to see the family overcome their obstacles and have a better life.

Thistles in The Corn is a well-crafted, absorbing, realistic novel of struggle, loss and endurance but one that leaves the reader wishing for a better outcome.

Author's Current Residence
Great Britain
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