The Longest Road

Written by Pamela Oldfield
Review by Geoffrey Harfield

This is a well-constructed novel with plenty going on as the excellently drawn characters interact in a Kent village and in London.

The title alludes to the heroine’s hesitant road to romance, having lost her fiancé in WW1. It is now May 1920. Clare Wishart (a good name for a romantic heroine) is back in her big house, after its army requisition as a hospital during the war. The mansion needs renovation but Clare is broke and hampered by a lazy cousin in residence. She must sell her home. In the meantime her working horse is put down, her gardener (who has a soft spot for her) dies and her kitchen maid is seduced by her ne’er-do-well cousin. A shotgun wedding follows, and the cousin changes into a useful husband and a promising father, at last doing a day’s work. All good stuff.

Clare is a writer of short stories for The Ladies Own Journal. Her editor suggests she write a novel and puts her in touch with an eligible fiction editor. After a few doubts, a gentle courtship ensues, leading to the prospect of marriage and her hope for children.

The Longest Road has excellent introspection and lots of cups of tea in country kitchens. When Clare finds a buyer, strangely, ghosts are portrayed as emanating from death and being evil. My experience is otherwise.
Introducing new characters late in the book, without initially setting them in a scene, is disconcerting. Naming servants and giving details of meal preparations that are remote to the main thrust of the story divert the reader’s attention. Nevertheless, The Longest Road is one of the ‘nicest’ easy page turners I have reviewed for the HNS.