My fourth review for the 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge:
Reading this book was like drinking a mug of cocoa in the depths of winter — warm, cosy, and satisfying. Elm Tree Road is the second book in the series which started with Cherry Tree Lane. It’s the kind of English historical saga I used to devour as a teenager. ETR is the story of Nell, the second of three sisters who are forced to run away from home because of their brutal father. Nell is pregnant by her lover, Cliff, and they plan to run away up north and get married. Renie, Nell’s younger sister, is going with them, but Mattie, the eldest sister, must somehow fend for herself.
So Nell finds herself moving far away from her hometown to Lancashire and married to a man who becomes less lover-like with each passing day. Alone, isolated, and impoverished because of her husband’s niggardliness, Nell endures her hardships, hoping better times will come for her and her family. Set in the 1910s, this story reminds us of the limitations upon women’s lives even at a time when technology was increasingly changing society. Nell is a product of her times. Even though she’s experienced the sharp end of women’s lack of autonomy, Nell herself says of running a house — “That’s a woman’s main job.” But when forced to she’s also capable of defending herself, showing her determination not to be cowed by any man after the harsh treatment of her father.
Nell endures hardships and tragedies with stoic endurance. When she does something illegal (but perfectly understandable) at the midpoint of the story, I kept waiting for some kind of punishment to fall on her, but it never does (or maybe it will in a later book).
I read this book very quickly because of its indefinable page-turning quality. This is an engrossing, heart-warming story which I’m sure will please Ms Jacobs’ legions of fans.
Note: It isn’t necessary to read Cherry Tree Lane first. I didn’t, and still enjoyed Elm Tree Road.