Like the weaving of a shuttle, ships passing back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean used to weave friendships, partnerships and alliances between Britain and the United States at the turn of the 20th century. In Frances Hodgson Burnett's story, one can find the essence of just how these relations could develop, either for better or for worse, when impoverished British lords would seek help paying for their estates by marrying rich American heiresses.
Sir Nigel Anstruthers was one such character, and we are acquainted with his person at the very beginning of the book, when he meets the beautiful Rosalie Vanderpoel in New York. As the daughter of a millionaire, Rosalie is essentially just what Sir Nigel was looking for, and after marrying her, he takes her back to his estate in Britain, where he cuts her off from the rest of the world, submitting her to a life of sickness, suffering and submission,
The story takes a turn for the better, as Rosalie's younger sister, Bettina, decides to visit her remote sister, who now has a son named Ughtred. In Sir Nigel's absence, Bettina begins to exercise a positive influence on both her sibling and the locals, many of whom are quite happy to see some fresh new changes in the area.
Burnett's novel is quite complex, exploring both the outer workings of society through a thoroughly accurate depiction of what higher society was like at the beginning of the 20th century, and diving deep into the psychological implications associated with the falling from grace of people such as Sir Nigel and the difficulty and uncertainty that drove many wealthy young women, like Rosalie Vanderpoel, to seek marriages such as the one depicted in the book.
For anyone interested in a well-written, intriguing novel that captivates through an accurate historic portrayal of the times and a complex plot, The Shuttle is definitely one book you shouldn't miss.
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