Prue, however, who tells her story herself, sees amazing things around her and can describe them in words. The visible world of her village, fields and lake are laid out for the reader to imagine, and animals, birds and dragonflies fill this world with sounds. This, as well as the fact that Prue tells the story with the insights she has into it, makes the book a delight. Prue wonders whether the blessedness she feels comes as a result of being cursed. Without the disfiguring harelip, she thinks, “I should never have known the glory that comes from the other side of silence.”
Prue lives with her brother Gideon and mother on an isolated farm in Shropshire. After their father died, Gideon took on the mastery of the farm as a consequence of being the ‘sin-eater’ at his father’s wake. He has ambitious plans to become a personage in town. He wants to have a big house, servants and silver plate. In the meantime, he drives his sister and his mother to work very hard. He puts most of the land into wheat, because it is fetching good prices.
Prue goes along with all of this. She works hard, takes care of her mother as best as she can, and tries to get Gideon to take pleasure in the girl whom he loves, the blonde and beautiful Jancis. Prue’s been told by everyone that no one will have her. Gideon wants her to learn to read and write and figure, however. Prue finds in their attic a haven where she can write things down and cultivate her spirit, among the colorful stored apples and pears.
When the weaver, Kester Woodseaves, comes to make into cloth the yarns the women have spun for Jancis’ coming wedding, Prue recognizes him as the man she would most like to have for her own. He is a diffident man, living alone. When he tries to stop a bull-baiting and takes on the dogs himself, Prue saves him from a particularly terrifying bulldog. But she hides from him. When her mother calls him to their own house, Prue finds her work in the far fields, though she imagines him working in her attic.
Gideon keeps putting off his wedding, making an enemy of Jancis father. When it finally comes near, after a bountiful harvest in which the whole community helps, Jancis comes riding in like a golden queen on the ricks piled high with wheat. Gideon and Jancis begin to act as if they already married, but two days later, her father sets fire to the ricks and the harvest is lost. Gideon denies Jancis, her father is taken to jail, and she and her mother are run out of the neighborhood.
Sad days follow. Prue and Gideon’s mother is doing poorly. He is worried she will always be a drain and never well. He makes her believe she would rather be dead than alive, and gives her some foxglove tea, which kills her. Jancis returns with the baby born to her and Gideon, but Gideon will have none of it. She walks into the lake and begins haunting Gideon, as does his mother. Thus haunted, he too drowns himself in the lake.
Left by herself, Prue decides to leave the farm. The weaver, Kester, has gone to London to learn more complicated weaving, and writes her a suggestive letter. But when she hears from him no more, she takes all of her animals to market to be auctioned off. Her enemies gang up on her, however, suggesting that the deaths on her farm are due to her. They put her in a ducking stool to be tried for a witch. Prue is terrified. But when she comes up for air, there is Kester Woodseaves looking down from his horse. He wrestles with the men and carries Prue away. She tells him he should have a beautiful woman, but he leans down and kisses her on the mouth.
The highlights of this story do not do justice to it. I suggest you go straight to your public library and get a copy.