Don’t bother unless you are really interested for some reason other than a good story, well written. The plot is okay but after that any literary value goes straight downhill. I think it’s because there is absolutely no rhythm to the narrative, the characters are strange and I think they’re supposed to be humorous but that falls rather flat.
What we have is the coming-of-age story of Cassie Morgeson, a high-spirited (troublesome) girl from a strict Congregational (Puritan) family in New England circa 1860. She hates school so gets herself kicked out. Cassie’s sister Veronica is semi-invalid, pale, strange. Their mother is very restricted in her words and deeds. Aunt Merce shows some spunk if she’s living with Cassie’s family, but none at all at Gran’thers (mother’s father) who is extremely religious and strict. Cassie and Merce live with Gran’ther for a year for the purposes of Cassie’s schooling.
She’s different in many ways, insisting on her individuality to the point of eccentricity. This bothers her family. So they now send her to the home of her newly discovered cousin Charles who lives near a girls’ finishing school in a town called Rosville. There she actually likes the teacher and school (although she is the oldest girl and likely one of the dullest) the community and seems to come alive again.
Charles has a bit of a rough background but is doing very well now, married to Alice with a son named Edward, and making lots of money – spending it, too, and crashing carriages. And then she meets Ben Sommers, a boy of her own age with bright red hair who has been in a spot of trouble in school. Cassie prefers Mr. Morgeson – Charles – and he apparently prefers her. Alas, he is killed and Cassie is sent (requests to go) home.
At home she finds that her mother has died and her father is next to bankrupt. She and Veronica are sent to Ben Somers’ house. Her main ambition is to get married to someone of her own choosing – but who? And she has to retain her independent spirit. Veronica and Ben get together
It’s pretty boring now and it wasn’t a hot seller when it was released. The critics have never particularly liked it – it was actually considered way to risqué – I mean – in love with a married man! Gadzooks!
A feminist reading might be quite interesting if one wanted to do it.
I didn’t hate it – no figurative tossing the iPad to the trash – but the few redeeming features (plot and the idea of marrying who you wanted to) were outweighed by the style.