In this beautifully written tour de force of a novel, Beth Gutcheon takes readers back to the coastal village of Dundee, Maine. There, in a Victorian summer house called Leeway Cottage, we witness the scenes of a long twentieth-century marriage.
In April 1940, as the Nazis march into Denmark, a rich girl of the Dundee summer colony named Sydney Brant marries a gifted Danish pianist, Laurus Moss. They believe they are well matched, as young lovers do, but almost at once, their views of the world and their marriage begin to diverge. Laurus's beloved family is in Copenhagen, hostage to what the fortunes of Hitler's war will bring, especially as his mother is Jewish.
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May 09, 2006
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Excerpt from Leeway Cottage by Beth Gutcheon
The funeral is over. The ashes, in matching urns, are on the mantelpiece. There is no way to know whose last will or testament is in force, so they have decided to close the house as always, and leave it for the winter. Next summer, when the flood tides of memories and mourning currently swamping them have receded, they will be better able to cope.
They have decided that each of them will take home one thing from Leeway for the winter, for comfort. They are going through the house somberly, saying their goodbyes in their different ways, each looking for one object that will keep the dead alive and close a little longer.
In the back of a closet in the upstairs hall, Eleanor opens an ancient garment bag and finds a shapeless and tarnished handful of ribbons and tulle. She gives a shriek.
Monica and Jimmy emerge from back bedrooms. "What is that?"
"It's The Dress!"
"She kept it all these years?"
The three of them stare at it, the debutante dress of legend. It is more of a rag than the couture dream they had imagined. Eleanor puts it back on the hanger and zips it back up in its bag, where it will wait, ready to be called as evidence in a yet-to-be-settled case of outrage in which all the principal parties are now dead.
Although none of them has said so, what each of them most wants to take home is the houseguest book.
Monica finds it.
"I've decided," she calls from the dining room.