Ballinrath House in Ireland, set against a backdrop of purple bogs and slate-coloured mountains, is the setting for this rollicking novel of Irish cousins. No sooner has Allan arrived than he falls in love with Cousin Ann… but Cousin Ann appears to only have eyes for Captain Dennys St Lawrence.
Peppered with dogs, horses, and coming of age romantic interests this ripping tale is a delightful read and a wonderful insight into Irish upper class life.
Molly Keane was just seventeen when she wrote this book. Not withstanding that this book has been a perennial favourite with all ages. The storyline will draw you in quickly and is a straight through read for the voracious reader. The world which Keane wrote about is now long gone but you will feel right there while reading this work.
For the youth in this story, being young, having a good time enjoying life, the horses, dogs and friendships were what mattered. They did not yet know the difficulties of life and what it can bring.
Keane’s story is simply this: Allan Hillingdon has come to Ireland from India, travelling through England. Although his relatives in England liked him he isn’t quite rich enough and they feared one of the young ladies of the family would fall for him. Much better to send him off to his Irish relation. He arrives at Bungarvin to visit with his cousin Major Hillingdon who has two beautiful daughters and a few younger sons.
But it is the daughters Allan is drawn to. Ann Hillingdon, beautiful yet practical, is a good judge of horses and an excellent horsewoman. Allan instantly falls for her when she meets him at the station. However it is Captain Dennys Saint Lawrence who owns Ann’s heart. Dennys is the Master of Hounds and he and Ann have been good friends for some time. Unfortunately Ann’s father doesn’t approve and isn’t likely to agree to a marriage between Ann and someone of a slightly lower station in life. Dennys may be respected for his savvy with horses and dogs but his father is an unscrupulous horse dealer who manages to throw doubt on Dennys’ integrity. Because of questionable doings Ann finds herself in turmoil, uncertain how she should feel about what she’s heard about Dennys.
To complicate matters Ann’s younger sister Sybil is instantly as smitten with Allan as Allan is with Ann. Ann may be beautiful in a classical manner but Sybil’s beauty is something more. She exudes charm. It’s obvious from Allan’s demeanor how he feels about Ann but that doesn’t stop Sybil from using her wiles to attract him. Events will conspire against the lovers from pairing up properly. The story is about how the relationships are worked out and it’s all set against a backdrop of the late 1920s Irish country high society.
Along with the sportier scenes there are also tennis parties, dances and life in general in a grand old country house.
This story is quite the frolic and now a classic in the Molly Keane “must read” list.