The Crystal Cup

Holy moly, consumed this book by Gertrude Atherton in a few hours, alternately racing through the pages and cursing the choices that the heroine was being steered into making. Recommended by the inimitable Neglected Books, this gem from 1925 was startlingly fresh 90 years after publication date. We meet Gita Carteret, aged 22, at her grandmother’s dying bedside, about to inherit a sizable mansion and independent living after years of poverty and horror at men’s hands that turned her vehemently anti-male. Her pseudo-aristocratic father gambled away his inheritance and capital, dying in Europe but not before Gita witnessed terrible scenes between him and her mother. Mother & daughter venture back to California to live on an aunt’s money, near where the mother “snagged” the Eastern nobleman when in town for polo on the peninsula. “In San Francisco Gita was almost happy for two years. She enjoyed her school, the cool electric climate, the magnificent views, the drifting fogs, the long walks over the hills, and the Chinese cook’s admirable confections.”
By the time her mother is dying, Gita has shorn her hair and attempts to pass as a boy, all things her grandmother asks her to give up once she inherits the manor. Gita’s anti-male virulence is a strong character point that you root for, until she decides that it’s easier to marry her pal (who in reality wants to seduce her). Lady friends get her to become more feminine, but she marries Eustace rubbing her hands in glee at a sexless marriage. Meanwhile she truly falls for the brother of one of her pals. There’s drama in the form of a mistaken shooting, wooing on the salt marshes, and love triangles galore.