This is the story of the Pentlands, a proud, old New England family that traces its ancestry back to the first settlers, but that is slowly dying out. The story takes place in the 1920s, but none of the glitz and glamour of that time period has reached Pentlands. The house and the family are hard, cold, and lifeless. Only Olivia and her daughter, Sybil, are truly alive. This is the story of their attempt to live despite the bonds that strangle them, and their struggle to escape, if possible.
This is a love story, of course, as most stories are. But it’s also about family, growing old, and the way that we sacrifice ourselves on the altar of duty. It reminds me of The Age of Innocence: both are about the struggle to live a life that has meaning and all the obstacles that stand in the way. Both are, really, about whether we can give up the things that society tells us matter in order to claim what we know in our hearts really does matter. And they are also, sadly, about what happens to our soul if we can’t do so.