An Heir for Burracombe

Written by Lilian Harry
Review by Geoffrey Harfield

Lilian hits the jackpot again with her Coronation Street look-alike romp in Devon, starting the day after the 1953 Coronation. I have reviewed a number of her Burracombe novels for the HNS, all of which take the reader rapidly into English country life of a period I know well.

The start of the book says so much in just two pages, bringing tears with the line ‘I scarcely had time to be a wife before I became a widow…’

It is a real woman’s saga with many emotional and family questions posed. It nevertheless, with some strong male characters, has intense male interest. And some questions to be answered. Was the boy born to inherit, as a war baby? Family arguments develop over the possible heir, opposed by a son and daughter. And therein lies the key to the book, as their curmudgeonly father sees in the boy the future of his estate of tenant farms.

With scant attributions it is sometimes difficult to follow dialogue, but the excellent characterisation and Devonian speech are both subtle and endearing as Lilian brings a stranger to a tight-knit village. If there is anything missing for me, after the masterful landscape descriptions, it is the luscious cattle and fields of sheep inDevon. There are farmsteads, true, but with such a gorgeous county to enthuse over (I live just over the border inSomerset) why not tell it?

With endless cups of tea in farmhouse kitchens, the ending brings a sensitive falling in love of a brother-in-law with his brother’s widow and an exciting climax when the hoped‑for French grandson is trapped in a tin mine. But all ends happily with a wedding and at the same time a birth, making all right with the world of Burracombe.