Fourteen-year-old Catherine Cabot Hall, a bright and sensitive girl with blue eyes and straight hair, is the main character of A Gathering of Days. Her journal entries show complex interests: quotations from ancient philosophers such as Dionysius stand next to a recipe for mincemeat; she also writes poetry and likes to draw. She misses her mother, who died of a fever when Catherine was eight, and takes the mother's role in the family, tending to the cooking and the care of her younger sister, Matty.
Catherine loves her father, desires his approval, and enjoys his company. Warm and nurturing, Charles Hall is a farmer, skilled carpenter, and excellent storyteller. He good-naturedly allows his daughters to play pranks on him and takes pride in the family's self-sufficiency. "We're doing fine just as we are," he insists when neighbors suggest he needs a wife. His bachelor brother Jack is one of Catherine's favorite people. Uncle Jack visits often to talk politics with Charles, and his nieces enjoy his gifts and sense of humor.
Catherine's life undergoes a great change when her father does remarry, bringing Ann Higham and her son Daniel to become part of the family. The self-conscious and shy Ann tries to be kind to Catherine, handling with patience her step-daughter's anger and distrust. But she also has her own opinions and stands firmly by them. Dissatisfied with the quality of medical care and schooling that she finds in her new...
(The entire section is 479 words.)