Rose is a wonderfully rich and intricate novel set in nineteenth-century Wigan, a town located in the coal country of Lancashire. Its protagonist, Jonathan Blair, is a mining engineer who has been chased out of Africa for “stealing” from the missionaries’ Bible Fund in order to pay off the porter of his expedition into the interior of the Gold Coast; he is now down and out in London.
Blair’s employer, Bishop Hannay, promises to send him back to Africa if he can find John Maypole, the curate who was engaged to his daughter, Charlotte Hannay, when he disappeared three months previously without explanation. Charlotte herself is an ill-tempered young woman who takes an instant dislike to Blair when he tries to investigate her fiancé’s disappearance. Other characters include assorted townspeople, miners at the Hannay family mine, and Rose Molyneux, a “pit girl” with whom Blair falls in love.
Exceeding even the high expectations of Smith’s readers, Rose is richly detailed and compelling–his most accomplished and fascinating novel to date.
For Jonathon Blair, a mining engineer and explorer, the color and rigors of the Dark Continent are far more suitable than the foggy drizzle of his home in Wigan, Lancashire. When he returns from Africa’s Gold Coast in 1872, he finds England utterly depressing and turns to drink to ease his melancholy. His patron, a Bishop and mine owner, agrees to send him back if he can clear up the mysterious disappearance of a local curate engaged to marry his daughter. As he sleuths around the cultured homes of Wigan, through ill-cobbled alleys and into the depths of the mines, he meets the alluring Rose Malyneaux. Used to relying on himself, Blair finds that Rose’s instincts provide more answers than he could have hoped for.
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