Anne Goodwin Winslow, not to be confused with other obscure woman writer, Thyra Samter Winslow, wrote this gem of a book in 1949. From Neglected Books, I learned that she was a late bloomer, 68 years old when she published her first book, The Dwelling Place, in 1943. With the narrative focus of my current writing class echoing in my head as I absorbed every line, I thoroughly enjoyed devouring this in a few hours.
The story starts with a woman in an Italian garden overlooking the Mediterranean, talking to her 15-year-old nephew. This is Alice, and soon we’re scuttling back decades into the past to learn about her teenage years when a hotel was built up near her house to take advantage of some natural springs in the area. This development brought several new people into her life, and Alice laughingly enjoyed each experience that came along. A few men were engaged when they arrived and then rather reluctantly married other women than Alice. Mr. Mason, an upper-class but now down on his luck Charlestonite is twice her age but has the closest relationship with her. He does not press her for marriage because he cannot provide for her, although at the end it’s hinted that he now can do so but finds her engaged to the Brit, Brian Howard. The community is rocked by the murder of a local boy, Alonzo Hill, who gets entangled in a relationship with a married woman from New Orleans when she stays at the hotel with her four children; the husband catches them in flagrante delicto and shoots him at the springs. Mr. Mason survives the attentions of a beautiful and rich woman who can’t snag him because of his love for Alice. The ending isn’t clear, but Mason comes back after nursing his sick mother and it is hinted that he could afford new clothes but doesn’t, so perhaps he’s made his fortune somehow. He sees Alice stash her engagement ring away and calls her out on it. They have a serious discussion, Mason sees that she really cares for him, but he won’t let her throw away Brian. It’s all very confusing, but the past scene ends with the two of them walking away holding hands. Then we’re back in Italy and she’s still referring to him as Mr. Mason, so I think they don’t end up together. It’s a sweet book with a tinge of bitter, you don’t get the happily ever after but you get depth and emotion.