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Book Review: Souvenir of Cold Springs - Kitty Burns Florey

Counterpoint, 2001, $25/C$37.95 (£15.62), 256pp, hb, ISBN 1-58243-153-1

by Pat Maynard
-originally published in The Historical Novels Review Magazine of the Historical Novel Society (HNS)

The old saying "The more things change, the more they stay the same" often came to mind while reading this compelling and poignant multigenerational tale about the lives of the women in an extended family.

Beginning in 1987 with Margaret's narrative about having to drop out of Harvard because of an unplanned pregnancy, this novel continues on back through the years via narratives of the women in her family. The reader gets intimate insights into each woman's experience, culminating with that of Margaret's great Aunt Peggy in 1938. Her own life dovetails Margaret's in spite of the disparity of years between the two, the only difference being that today's women have more choices.

Souvenir of Cold Springs is filled with finely drawn characters, such as Margaret's Aunt Nell, a quiet rebel of her own times, who, along with her friend and lover, Thea, hosts the family's yearly Thanksgiving dinners. Although the switching back and forth of narrators can be a bit confusing, it's well worth the concentration necessary to fit together the scattered pieces that comprise the puzzle of this large, loving and highly dysfunctional family.

This fine author's insights into the complexity of family life were impressive. They evoked a myriad of emotions in me, including a strange sense of déjà vu at times where my own extended family is concerned.


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