Barbara is half-sister to two younger brothers; she is desperately unhappy at home and finds solace and comfort in her unquestioning mare, Silver, and her long-time friend, John. Her acceptance of his offer of marriage just before he goes off to train for combat is typical of her caring and loving nature; she couldn’t possibly send the young man off to war unhappy. The dramatic events of one particular evening lead her to seek out her dead father’s relatives with whom, after a tentative start, she settles. It is also where she meets Alex, who throws her emotions into a whirl, and Simon, who isn’t quite what he seems.
Barbara is very definitely the driver of this story and her development from a gentle, dominated, but well-liked young girl in her late teens, to a more mature, assertive, and attractive one is solid and well conceived. Fenella is adept at evoking the apprehension of the wartime atrocities to come, of portraying the emotions of a somewhat dysfunctional family and at climaxing the story with an unexpected turn of events. Her characters leap out of the page: I could see them all, from Barbara’s young innocent and impressionable brothers, her starchy grandmother, her cold and unfeeling stepfather and the young, brave and eager John, ready and willing to fight for his country, to the jaunty young Alex, and Simon’s somewhat shady father. A good author doesn’t make her reader struggle to image her characters and Fenella does this expertly.