Cherry Tree Lane
Mattie Willitt hates the idea of marriage to her father’s friend Stan, especially when money will change hands between the two men on the wedding day. Bart is an aggressive bully who expects his two younger daughters to remain at home and look after him in his old age once Mattie has married Stan.
Set in Wiltshire in 1910, the story tells how Mattie and her sisters make up their minds to escape before it is too late. There is little time to plan, and not much money, but the younger girls have a boyfriend who is willing to help them vanish. Mattie, fighting a heavy cold, opts to go alone and, when her money runs out, sets off to walk to Bristol. Within hours, she is near death in a rainstorm, and though a small boy returning home from school finds her and brings his father, Mattie’s life hangs in the balance for many days.
This is where the story really begins. The spare, clear writing style moves the story along at just the right pace, and the reader gains a clear picture of the characters through their actions and dialogue. I found myself reading on much longer than I intended because I enjoyed meeting the lovely young widower Jacob and his children, and the sharp-tongued, decisive Miss Newington. With Bart and Stan tracking Mattie in order to take her back home, and bullies who try to cheat their way into inheriting Miss Newington’s big house, the story does not flag at all, and I recommend it as a jolly good read.