Lucy Moore is devoted to her husband and sees nothing wrong in gently controlling his life since not only is he apt to be tardy, she yearns to improve him. But when her husband’s glamorous cousin, Anna, arrives to stay, Lucy’s actions result in a tragic end for Frank. Lucy is left to bring up their son alone since she shuns all help from family, believing them to be frivolous and mocking of her high ideals. She devotes herself then to educating Peter, taking a job and a flat in the Glasgow slums and suffering in abject poverty to enable her son to study to be a doctor, believing his eventual success will save them both. Peter doesn’t disappoint in his chosen career, but he matures and falls in love with a young woman from a rich family, and before too long he’s married and running his own practice in London. Lucy’s plans for them both fall apart. Disappointed in both marriage and motherly love, she takes vows to enter a Belgian monastery to serve and love God, but the physical demands and the seemingly pointless discipline are too much for her, and broken Lucy is sent back to London.
A character study of a proud, obsessive woman who despite her blinkered views can only be admired for sheer determination and will power to remain independent and stay true to herself. However this steely determination is eventually her downfall and since Cronin is the master of hardship, she pays dearly for her convictions. I always enjoy Cronin’s work, although on this occasion I did skim through much of the section in the monastery and I thought the ending was brutal! Overall it could be construed a rather depressing read, but one full of character and harsh lessons about the laws of love.