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The Promise [Hardcover]

Ann Weisgarber
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
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Book Description

14 Mar 2013

Shortlisted for the prestigious Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.

1900. Young pianist Catherine Wainwright flees the fashionable town of Dayton, Ohio in the wake of a terrible scandal. Heartbroken and facing destitution, she finds herself striking up correspondence with a childhood admirer, the recently widowed Oscar Williams. In desperation she agrees to marry him.

But when Catherine travels to Oscar's farm on Galveston island, Texas - a thousand miles from home - she finds she is little prepared for the life that awaits her. The island is remote, the weather sweltering, and Oscar's little boy Andre is grieving hard for his lost mother. And though Oscar tries to please his new wife, the secrets of the past sit uncomfortably between them.

Meanwhile for Nan Ogden, Oscar's housekeeper, Catherine's sudden arrival has come as a great shock. For not only did she promise Oscar's first wife that she would be the one to take care of little Andre, but she has feelings for Oscar which she is struggling to suppress. And when the worst storm in a generation descends, the women will find themselves tested as never before . . .

From the author of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers and longlisted for the Orange Prize, The Promise is a heart-breaking story of love, loss and buried secrets, which confirms Weisgarber as one of the most compelling literary voices writing today.

The Promise was a finalist in the Western Writers of America Best Historical Fiction Awards.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Mantle (14 Mar 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230745652
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230745650
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 570,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ann is the author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel DuPree. She was nominated for England's 2009 Orange Prize and for the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers. In the United States, she won the Stephen Turner Award for New Fiction and the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction. She was shortlisted for the Ohioana Book Award and was a Barnes and Noble Discover New Writer.

The Promise takes place in Galveston, Texas, during the time of the historic 1900 Storm that killed thousands. Ann was inspired by an abandoned, dilapidated house on the rural end of Galveston and by an interview she conducted when writing an article for a local magazine. Her debut novel, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, takes place in the South Dakota Badlands during 1917. It was inspired by a photograph of an unknown woman sitting in front of a sod dugout.

Ann was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton. She graduated from Wright State University in Dayton with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and earned a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Houston. She has been a social worker in psychiatric and nursing home facilities, and taught sociology at Wharton County Junior College in Texas.

In addition to Ohio and Texas, Ann has lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Des Moines, Iowa. She now splits her time between Sugar Land, Texas, (home to Imperial Sugar Company), and Galveston, Texas. She and her husband, Rob, are fans of America's national parks and visit at least one park a year. Ann is currently working on her next novel that takes place in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, during the winter of 1888.

Visit Ann's website at

Product Description


'Outstanding . . . The Promise by Ann Weisgarber is set in Texas in 1900 and follows the story of a young pianist who arrives from the sophisticated east coast to make a hasty marriage to a widower. The story of their tentative relationship in the oppressive Texan heat is engrossing, and the final pages are profoundly moving. (Kirsty Wark, Sunday Express)

On Saturday 8 September 1900, Galveston, Texas, the island city in the Gulf of Mexico, then one of the largest ports in America, was devastated by a hurricane. It was the worst US natural disaster of the 20th century, with a death toll of 8,000 people. Present-day Galveston resident and Orange Prize longlistee Ann Weisgarber's novel comes to a head in the eye of this storm, the emotional battles between the members of one Galveston Island family played out against the backdrop of howling wind and rain, and the steady rush of flood water . . . The narration is split between Catherine and Nan, Weisgarber doing an admirable job in distinguishing between the two, the voice of each ringing out clearly. So, too, her description of the storm itself is wonderfully atmospheric, the fear of her protagonists mounting minute by minute, the tension as thick as the heavy Texan summer air. Combine this with heartbreaking historical details and you have the perfect ingredients for vintage historical fiction. (Independent)

‘A gripping, beautiful story of loyalties and hidden loves. Ann Weisgarber's pitch-perfect characters will break your heart and keep you guessing right to the very end’ Carol Rifka Brunt, New York Times bestselling author of Tell The Wolves I’m Home

‘Set against the worst natural disaster in twentieth century American history, The Promise is a riveting tale, told in lean luminous prose, of the power of love and the frailty of the human condition. Weisgarber knows storms, those that devastate the land and those that rage in the human heart. Her characters will live in your imagination long after you’ve turned the last deeply moving page’ Ellen Feldman, author of Next to Love and Scottsboro

‘This is a warm and beautiful read, but be warned – you might need to have a box of tissues handy!’ Essentials

‘In September 1900, a devastating hurricane hit the island city of Galveston in Texas . . . Against this dramatic backdrop, acclaimed author Ann Weisgarber has woven a beautiful and breathtaking story of love and loss, new beginnings and old secrets, resentment and reconciliation. The Promise is Weisgarber’s first book since The Personal History of Rachel Dupree was nominated for the Orange Prize and it’s as haunting as it is exciting. Richly descriptive and exceptionally powerful, the novel is a triumph of intelligent storytelling and understated emotion, and confirms the author as one of the most compelling contemporary literary voices around. At the exquisitely crafted heart of the story is a young woman fleeing social disgrace in sophisticated Dayton, Ohio to marry a man she hasn’t seen for 12 years in the vaporising, backwoods heat of Texas . . . Weisgarber’s masterful evocation of time and place and her portrayal of the simmering tensions created both by the gathering storm and the subtle interplay of the central relationships are the defining elements of this absorbing novel . . . The Promise is a challenging, gripping and intensely moving story’ Lancashire Evening Post

In this superb novel, Ann Weisgarber has created voices so convincing it is as if the dead themselves have arisen to tell their story. The Promise is a novel that, once started, few readers will be able to put down. (Ron Rash)

Weisgarber's tale is a deeply moving story about the heart and worth of obscure lives, and becomes a universal tale despite its tiny Texan-boondocks canvas. (Waterstones Blog)

The One You Won't Want To Put Down . . . One good book. That's all you need this summer - just one book that you can put down if you need to but that you won't want to. And that describes The Promise. With a real historical event as her background, author Ann Weisgarber spins a story of two women who are more alike than they'd ever admit and the reasons they eventually learn of that truth. That's cause enough to become totally captivated by this novel, but what struck me most was the way in which this story is told: Weisgarber deftly turns the clock back 115 years, immersing readers in social mores, turn-of-the-last-century life and tiny details of day-to-day survival. That, plus wonderful characters, makes this book a winner. Just be prepared with a tissue, that's all I'm going to say. Bring a box of them, in fact, because this book proves that The Promise isn't all that can be broken. (Times Record)

About the Author

Ann Weisgarber was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio. She has lived in Boston, Massachusetts, and Des Moines, Iowa, but now splits her time between Sugar Land, Texas, and Galveston, Texas. Her first novel The Personal History of Rachel Dupree was longlisted for the Orange Prize and shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers. The Promise was a finalist in the Western Writers of America Best Historical Fiction Awards.

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Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, character-driven historical fiction. 12 Mar 2013
Set in 1900, this moving novel tells of a talented young pianist, Catherine Wainwright, who leaves Dayton, Ohio having been involved in a scandalous affair and subsequently found herself ostracized by the community. In desperation she starts writing once more to the man she once corresponded with years before and who admired her back then, Oscar Williams. They agree to marry, and Catherine travels hundreds of miles to Galveston in Texas, where Oscar has now made a life for himself. He is recently widowed, with a young son named Andre, and his housekeeper Nan who promised Oscar's late wife Bernadette that she would care for Andre.

Everything about her new environment is a shock to Catherine; meeting Oscar and getting to know him again after all the time that has passed, learning to deal with a young child who misses his mother as well as the housekeeper who has a firmly established place in the household, getting used to the remote, unfamiliar place that is now her home, coming to terms with having left everything she has known hundreds of miles away. So much change, so much upheaval for Catherine.

Then there is Nan, who has her promise to take care of Andre, but who is distrustful and suspicious of Catherine when she arrives, and wonders at the different behaviour and ways she brings with her. For Nan, Catherine's arrival also means that the romantic feelings for Oscar that she has tried to hide will now never be reciprocated. Whilst they are all dealing with these new relationships and struggles, the biggest test of their lives comes from nature in the form of the worst storm in US history.

This is a very absorbing and well-crafted historical novel, with a firm sense of place and time that I felt totally transported to.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to read all night 4 Feb 2013
By Deborah Swift VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I loved Ann Weisgarber's other novel, so couldn't wait to grab this when it came up on Vine. Lovers of literary or historical fiction will find this a fascinating account of the Galveston disaster - a hurricane and tidal wave that swept the shores of Texas at the turn of the 20th century.

The two women telling the story have very distinct voices and I felt myself alternately rooting for first one and then the other.From different backgrounds, the two women are forced into each others company by their relationships with the same man, Oscar, and the child,Andre,left behind after the death of his first wife.

The relationship between the women is naturally uncomfortable, but this is subtly drawn, and never vocalised. The two main characters, Catherine and Nan, each tell it how it was for them, their view of the other, and great tension arises fromn this. The settings are so real you think you have been there. When the hurricane strikes the drama is all in the characters - in a way they make an impression far bigger than the hurricane, though that too is beautifully descibed. Poignant and moving, I was gripped and stayed up late to finish it - highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A simply wonderful read 6 April 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm slightly ashamed to say that Ann Weisgarber's debut novel, The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, has sat on my bookshelves unread since I bought it in 2009, having been attracted by its longlisting for the Orange Prize. If it's half as good as this one, it won't be sitting on my shelves for much longer. The Promise was a simply wonderful read.

Set in 1900, Catherine Wainwright - a pianist -embarks on an ill-fated affair with a married man and finds herself ostracised by the community in Dayton, Ohio. She takes up the offer of marriage to Oscar Williams, a former admirer who was beneath her notice while delivering coal in his youth. He is now a widowed dairy farmer, living a thousand miles away (and in a very different world) in Galveston Island in Texas, and Catherine travels there to start her new life. She fares badly at first - not used to running a home and getting her hands dirty, she struggles to fit in. Her home is run by the other "voice" of the story, Nan Ogden, the daughter of a neighbouring ranch, a former friend of Oscar's late wife, who made the promise to care for Oscar's young son Andre and had perhaps thought that she would step into her shoes and take her place in Oscar's life. Caroline also faces a challenge in engaging with Andre, a well drawn young character who is still grieving for his mother and fails to be won over by his father's new wife, who can't cook and corrects his speech at every opportunity.

The descriptions of the island are vivid, but so is the atmosphere - you can feel the sense of suffocation of a household still struggling to come to terms with their grief and loss.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Willa Cather did not live in vain 4 May 2013
The prologue of THE PROMISE describes the funeral of Bernadette, pregnant wife of Oscar and mother to Andre. It takes place in Galveston, Texas - the extremity of Cajun country - in 1899. Bernadette has perished of complications associated with malaria. In Dayton, Ohio, piano teacher Catherine has established a somewhat scarlet reputation for herself via a relationship with Edward, husband to an invalid wife. At a time of particular ostracism Catherine seeks out Oscar, an old school friend, and travels with him to Galveston to be his wife, but finds his home already under the charge of the redoubtable Nan Ogden. Something of a snob, Catherine lives in dread of news from Ohio which will expose her as debtor and adulteress. Somewhat usurped by the arrival of Catherine, Nan turns out to be a formidable fiddle player, and who soon elects to leave the household, just as Catherine begins to establish herself. On Nan's last day, a hurricane approaches, to which the locals are well accustomed and Catherine completely alien.

THE PROMISE consists of two separate first person narratives by Nan and Catherine. The two are only differentiated stylistically, but there is no mistaking one for the other, though the differences between the two are often quite subtle. Both are told in the faultless vernacular voices of the characters and are wholly convincing. This is very accomplished writing as expressed through the voices of the two first person protagonists. The novel is set in 1900 and the voices are both women of similar age, one educated and northern, the other rural Texan. No trickery is used to differentiate the two but they are nonetheless clearly differentiated by the overall personalities of the two and by markers early in each passage which clearly indicate who is speaking.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Tear Jerking Book
I would be surprised if this wasn't made into a film at some stage, it has that quality to it. Even though, in the latter stages, you know what is going to happen, it still grips... Read more
Published 16 days ago by sarenj kadir
5.0 out of 5 stars the promise
a lovely read very much enjoyed by our book club
Published 27 days ago by dot
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
book was different from what i read but enjoyed it
Published 1 month ago by caz
5.0 out of 5 stars Have loved both of Weisgarber's books and can't wait for the ...
The detail in this novel makes the story come alive. You are unaware of the author - instead you live and breathe with the characters. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Travelo
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and thoughtful...
A beautifully written book. Descriptions make the time, place and characters so believable. I loved it. Highly recommended to Book Groups
Published 1 month ago by Jacqui
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving story of love, honour and redemption
I knew nothing of the tragic natural disaster which is at the heart of this story - truly a tragedy of epic proportions. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Annoyed
4.0 out of 5 stars A breathless read
Set mainly in Texas, and based around an historical event, this story tells of a close community of small farmers by the coast. Read more
Published 3 months ago by old joanna
4.0 out of 5 stars Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
I read Ann Weisgarber's debut novel, The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, in 2011 and was immediately captured by her storytelling. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Luanne Ollivier
4.0 out of 5 stars An Intense Exploration of Love and Loyalty
I haven't read Ann Weisgarber's prize-nominated first novel, and picked this up secondhand out of curiosity. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kate Hopkins
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful piece of work
This is an easy book to recommend. It's an utterly absorbing story rooted loosely in a backdrop of historical fact, and with a cast of masterfully crafted characters given plenty... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Thomas Pots
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