(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Ellen ldquo;Gypsy” Cuppy is devastated by the death of her loving mother, on whom she has greatly depended. Her older sister, Nora, is married, and her father is mostly away from home, traveling in connection with an oil business. To console Ellen, her father takes her on a long freighter voyage, down the West Coast, through the Panama Canal, and to London.

The voyage is momentous, first, because the sea, usually so calm and charming in Vancouver, becomes a raging monster in a storm; a boy member of the crew is swept overboard and lost, and several members of the crew and a few passengers are injured. Second, Ellen’s father meets a sympathetic woman on the ship whom he later marries. This further isolates Ellen. She, of necessity, becomes independent and somewhat selfish. At the outbreak of World War II, she joins the Canadian navy as a Wren.

Ethel Wilson passes rapidly over the war period. The novel takes up again with Ellen back in Vancouver, where she takes an office job and begins to date and then becomes engaged to Huw Peake, the stepbrother of Nora’s husband, Morgan, who has been a prisoner of war for three years. She soon realizes that Huw can be bad-tempered and morose. After a particularly unpleasant car trip into the interior of British Columbia in pouring rain, she breaks off the engagement, to the dismay of her family. To get away from them, she takes a job in Saskatoon as secretary to an elderly, rich, and miserly financier....

(The entire section is 496 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

McMullen, Lorraine, ed. The Ethel Wilson Symposium, 1982.

Pacey, Desmond. Ethel Wilson, 1967.