Unlike the first two books, which began with their protagonists on a high point before falling, "Meridon" begins with its protagonist at her lowest point. Adopted by gypsies, Meridon struggles to earn a living with her feckless stepfather by breaking in wild ponies. Sold with her stepsister Dandy to a travelling show, life becomes more settled. Meridon's talent with horses - which readers of the previous books will recognise - enables her to escape from being a girl. She is most definitely a tomboy. Dandy, on the other hand, is growing up all too fast - which eventually leads to tragedy.
Meridon eventually finds her way to Wideacre, the mysterious "Wide" of her dreams - but of course, the reality is far different. Since it has been without a squire for fifteen years, the estate has become a commune. Meridon is both perplexed and annoyed with the changes, and continually torn between the appeal of the simple life on the land, represented by Will Tyacke, and Society, represented by Perry Havering and his mother. Eventually, under her new name of Sarah Lacey, she goes with them to London for the Season. However, she quickly finds that the rich can be just as deceiving and selfish as the poor, if not more so, and eventually realises that this cold selfish life is not for her.
This book has far more social commentary than the others - the idealism of Will Tyacke reminds the reader of Ralph, who is mysteriously absent. Perhaps this is meant to show that the past is gone, but I still felt that he should have made an appearance, however brief, because it would have been a link, and his absence after the first two books leaves a small hole. The miseries of high society are made crystal clear as Sarah feels bereft and alone. The commune of Wideacre is clearly detailed, although one has to wonder if such a thing really could have existed in the nineteenth century, because it's far more likely that Wideacre would just have been absorbed into the Havering lands, but there you go.
Meridon herself is a very complex and interesting character. Since the title is her name, the story is all about her identity. Physically, she resembles Beatrice - the red haired, green eyed granddaughter of which Beatrice dreamed in the first book - and her desire for Wideacre is also reminiscent of her grandmother. But she is looking for any kind of security - when she realises that she cannot completely possess Wideacre, she turns towards another way of making herself safe. She is not much like her mother, apart from the way she cares for animals and tries to take care of Perry. I was surprised that Gregory did not use something like Julia's journal (specifically mentioned in "The Favoured Child") to help Meridon, but that is the whole point of the book - she has to realise who she is for herself. Although Meridon keeps trying to be "Sarah Lacey", she cannot leave behind her roots, or the cold emptiness in her heart. In the end, having been stripped of the money she fought so hard to find, she rebels against her situation in a breathtaking flight with Will, one of the best scenes in the whole book.
The story has a satisfying ending, one that I doubt the reader could have predicted at the end of "Wideacre", or even at the end of "The Favoured Child". It could be read on its own, but certain echoes and hints would have more resonance after reading the first two books.