Dark Hester Lifts Curtain on Adult Growing Pains

Steam locomotive coming down the track
In-law troubles can make a woman want to run away or throw herself under a train.

Dark Hester is less dark than Anne Douglas Sedgwick’s earlier bestseller, Tante, but it, too, confronts the problem of growing older.

After burying her husband in India, Monica Wilmott returned with their infant son to England. By hard work and good management, she provided Clive with a happy childhood and an Oxford education.

She even selected a woman for him to marry.

When Clive married Hester Blakeston,  after the Great War, Monica couldn’t like her.

Everyone knew it, including Clive, but he hoped for the best.

‘We are all nothing more than children,’ thought Monica…And we discover, as we grow old, that we never grow up’

As the novel opens, a man about Monica’s age buys an adjacent farm. He makes clear he’s interested in Monica. Despite an instinct, supported by gossip, that he’s the wrong sort, Monica is attracted to Captain Ingpen.

Her daughter-in-law, however, is repelled by him.

Monica realizes the two have met before. By some sleuthing, she learns Ingpen and Hester were lovers.

That knowledge could break up Clive and Hester’s marriage.

It could also shatter the close mother-son relationship.

Monica and Hester are sufficiently well delineated that their parts are plausible, but Clive appears too bloodless to inspire the devotion of either woman.

Despite all that goes wrong, Sedgwick holds out the possibility that, given the right incentives, even adults can grow up.

Dark Hester
By Anne Douglas Sedgwick
Houghton Mifflin, 1929
300 pages
1929 bestseller #3
My Grade: B+

Photo credit: Puffing Billy by timobalk

 © 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni



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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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