Day 995: The Promise

Cover for The PromiseSeveral years ago, I read Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm, a nonfiction account of the terrible Galveston hurricane and flood of 1900. So, when one of the books on my Walter Scott Prize list turned out to be set in that time and place, I really wanted to read it. It did not disappoint.

Catherine Wainwright has behaved badly, and the result is a scandal that has resulted in her ostracism from her home town of Dayton, Ohio, and cost her livelihood as a performing pianist. In desperation, she writes to an old friend, Oscar Williams, who is a dairy farmer on Galveston Island. Although she has always considered herself his social superior, years ago he proposed to her. She did not accept him, but he is now a widower with a young son. He proposes again and she accepts. She has barely enough money to get to Galveston.

Nan Ogden is a much less sophisticated woman. She was the best friend of Bernadette, Oscar’s wife, and promised her she would take care of Andre, Oscar and Bernadette’s son. Truth be told, she has her own feelings for Oscar. Until Catherine appears, she has hopes that some day she might be Oscar’s wife. Instead, she finds herself a housekeeper for a woman who can barely boil an egg.

We don’t like Catherine at first, but she quickly grows on us as she develops more empathy for other people. As Catherine, Oscar, Andre, and Nan try to sort out their various feelings and relationships, the tension in the novel builds toward the storm. Then the novel becomes truly riveting.

The Promise is especially strong in its sense of place. I’ve been to Galveston when it was so hot I wondered how anyone could live there before air conditioning, let alone wearing corsets and tight clothes. Weisgarber really makes you feel the heat and stickiness.

Related Posts

The Tilted World

The Son

The Johnstown Flood

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4 thoughts on “Day 995: The Promise

  1. Naomi November 14, 2016 / 1:01 pm

    I love a good storm! This one’s going on the list. Great review, Kay!

  2. whatmeread November 14, 2016 / 1:32 pm

    Thanks, Naomi! This one was a doozy.

  3. Helen November 14, 2016 / 2:36 pm

    I’m looking forward to reading this one, so I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’ve added your link to my Walter Scott page. This is the only book I still need to read from the 2014 list.

  4. whatmeread November 14, 2016 / 4:14 pm

    I have one more that I have read bu not yet reviewed. This year had some good ones.

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