This book immerses the reader in a rural England of yesteryear, where the town dwellers are constrained by gender, class, education and tradition. Every aspect of life is ruled by how others' will judge your actions and freedom of action is only afforded to men with money and status. Even if you are a moneyed man - it is almost impossible to act independently from the heavy fog of expectation and society's norms.
Constance, an ethereal intelligent woman who drifts into a 'suitable' marriage with Melford Turner, a prosperous grocer, is privileged in so many ways, but she wants happiness - a commodity in short supply when, as a woman, you have little control over your own life.
Bates writes sparingly and with heart-breaking poignancy through the eyes of both the men and women in this tale of many loves. The Midlands landscape is lovingly described throughout and the reader can feel the cold crispness of spring, the weighty oppression of fog and snow, the light warm breezes of summer afternoons, the lightly scented violets plucked from a field. With light touch Bates takes us to a conclusion that is never predictable, and yet perfectly constructed. Recommended.