The Challenge to Sirius

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Kaye-Smith, Sheila. The Challenge to Sirius. London: Nisbet, 1917. Out of print.

Frank Rainger is the son of a gentleman from the Kent-Sussex border; he loves his childhood friend Maggie Coalbran, the daughter of a farmer. After a disastrous affair with a London novelist, Frank returns to the country to find Maggie married to an abusive farmer, and unable to leave that marriage. Frank ships for the Confederacy and sees action from Shiloh to the end of the war; he's wounded and taken prisoner, among other adventures. Returning via Mexico in an odyssey-like way, he finds Maggie widowed and eager to begin a new life with him.

An unusual mix of local-color English fiction and exotic North American episodes. Kaye-Smith's grasp of the history of the War is fairly rudimentary (at one point, she seems to think that rebels are held prisoner at Andersonville).

"Throughout a vagabond career that began in happiness on a farm and finished, thankfully, amongst the fields, Frank Rainger followed always the pathway of the broader experience. Followed it so stoutly and was such good company on the long road that whether it was high holiday at Cranbrook Circus with Maggie Coalbran, or a fight for the hopeless cause of the Southern States in shell-torn Vicksburg, or only the keeping of eternal lazy summer with the peons of Yucatan, I was altogether content to go humbly forward with him, convinced that, as it was written, so and no otherwise should it be." --Punch, 12 December 1917.


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