Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Witches' Bridge (aka The Mystery Of The Witches' Bridge)
Barbee Oliver Carleton
1967, Holt, Rinehart And Winston

Out of the night, and the fog, and the marsh, these three, Doom shall come for thee.

Dan Pride is a 13-year-old orphan who's spent the three years since his parents' deaths as a lonely, largely unwanted resident of English boarding schools. Finally, his reclusive Uncle Julian has agreed to take him into the family house near Boston, a property set in salt marshes which has been in the family for generations. Dan is looking forward to being part of a real family again, but his hopes are crushed by Billy Ben, the jolly handyman who tells him of the family curse. Long ago, the town accused Samuel Pride and his wife of witchcraft; they were executed, but not before Samuel laid a curse on the town that even today lingers in the locals' minds. Now, Pride's Point is as isolated mentally as physically, subject to superstitions and suspicions that have embittered his uncle and explain why Dan's own father fled the place for Europe.

Dan, struggling with the loneliness and local hostility, learning who he can trust and what he will believe, finds that family history is both a burden and a link. Desperate to make his distant uncle like him, he determines he'll solve a long-festering mystery at Pride. Years earlier, the curse had struck again when Julian's father had died on a foggy night in the marshes, supposedly on his way back from making peace with their arch-enemies, the Bishop family. The Bishops said he'd never come; the money he'd been carrying was never found. The death had reinvigorated the legend, and turned Julian into an oddity.

He peered through the rain, eager for his first glimpse of the great salt marshes. "What's Pride's Point like?" he asked curiously.

"It's self-sufficient, like the old places, with its own orchard and gardens and such. And it stays the same while the world keeps changing.

The house and holdings of Pride's Point, usually simply called Pride, exert a powerful pull on the story, a sense of place reminiscent of Moorethwaite Manor or Green Knowe. Ancestral homes, the magic of long-standing occupation, the sense of a history shared through the roots of plants and set of stones. It's not a matter of who has the big ancestral house, though; Lamie, the hermit, expresses it most plainly:

My mother made such ointment as this, and her mother before her... They have not gone, you know, theose good people. You see them in the ditches dug in the marsh, and in the cellar holes below... and you see them in the white roses that grow wild now, on all our islands. They brought the roses with them when they came, three hundred years ago and half a world away... They are still here, our first people.

A very well-written book with interesting, believable characters and an engrossing plot.

Other Books
The Wonderful Cat Of Cobbie Bean (1957)
The Secret Of Saturday Cove (1961)
Chester Jones (1963)
Benny And The Bear

1 comment:

  1. Soon to be a major motion picture. We have a finished screenplay and the permission of the family. Stay tuned. . . .