The Forbidden Dreams of Betsy Elliot is Carolyn R. Parson’s debut novel for Newfoundland and Labrador’s Flanker Press, and she joins such authors as Ida Linehan Young and Gary Collins as storytellers of the first rank. It is set in 1933-34 in the outport community of Elliot’s Cove just after the Commission of Government took over control of Newfoundland’s governing at the start of the Great Depression.
Betsy Elliot is an archetypal outport Newfoundland woman in that she is strong, practical, thrifty, capable, fertile, can do just about anything a man can and does that well too. She is married to John, a man older than her who lost his first wife and children to sickness. John is a good man and loves Betsy. At the beginning of the book, while fetching water, Betsy meets Edmund Taylor, a man her age who is Newfoundland born, but Boston raised. He assists her in getting back to the house, where he meets John and is almost immediately invited to stay over the winter to finish his writings and assist John with repairs around the house. Betsy is not keen on the idea since it is another mouth to feed (they have two young children). Shortly thereafter, a man named Clyde Waugh is rescued off the ice and he too stays the winter since the community is isolated by winter. There is something about this Clyde Waugh Betsy doesn’t like. Edmund, on the other hand, represents what could have been to Betsy: education, Boston, fine clothing, schools, shops and more. Mutual feelings begin to develop.
Instead of telling you more about the story, and risk spoiling it, I have come up with some wordplay to feature the high points of the story:
- stranger – danger
- danger- lust
- lust – death
- death – complicity
- complicity – love
- love – forbidden
- forbidden – dreams
- dreams – mental illness
- mental illness – escape
- escape – choices
- choices – dreams
How’s that for a synopsis?
Hopefully, I have made The Forbidden Dreams of Betsy Elliot sound intriguing, for it is a better-than-average story that has benefited from some very solid writing and some fine editing. The result is a well-paced novel featuring as much romance as it does hardships, intrigue and suspense. A wonderful book from yet another exceptional Newfoundland writer.
The Forbidden Dreams of Betsy Elliot by Carolyn R. Parsons
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