A common feature of Wilson’s novels is the strong, self-reliant heroine. Ellen is privileged and sheltered as a child, coming from a prosperous family, educated at a private school, and living in a house near Stanley Park and the sea in Vancouver. She is ill-prepared for the tragedy of her mother’s death and tends to withdraw into herself and patronize other people, particularly her conventional sister Nora and Nora’s stuffy husband, the Member of Parliament. As further difficulties beset her—the remarriage of her father, the breakup of her love affair with Huw Peake, and the loss of her job through the death of the old financier—she changes and matures, but it is not until the almost fatal accident with her nephew that she becomes fully aware of her tendency toward disdain and superiority. She took little Johnny out in the dinghy as part of a process designed to toughen him, for she believed that Nora was bringing him up a sissy. “With all her ways of the superior onlooker,” Wilson writes, “she had nearly drowned him, that’s all. She had better mind her own business. Everyone had better mind their own business. A gap had closed.” She can now be reconciled with her family and freely give her love to George.
Ellen’s father, Frank, was not particularly helpful in her development, since he was away during much of her childhood and finds it difficult to communicate when he is with her. His marriage to the woman whom he meets on the ship...
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