In the High Valley by Susan Coolidge: John C Adams Reviews

Book name: In the High Valley

Author: Susan Coolidge

Publisher: Roberts Brothers

Format: ebook, print, audiobook

Genre: Vintage children’s fiction

Publication Date: 1891

Star Rating: 5/5


Although In the High Valley was published more than one hundred and thirty years ago, I’ve never been able to find a vintage copy.


My cherished version is a reprint from the fabulous publishing house Girls Gone By. I was delighted to have found it at last in 2005 and watched the post eagerly every day until it arrived.


When we left Katy Carr at the end of What Katy Did Next we had a clear vision of the future happiness that lay ahead for her with Ned.


However, the precise details of her wedding were left to our imagination; we were also left to construct our own future for the younger Carr siblings.


When I got hold of Clover and In the High Valley from Girls Gone By, I was thrilled to read Susan Coolidge’s definitive answers to how their future lives unfolded. I read both books through in an all-night sitting.


When In the High Valley opens, Katy and Clover are both married. We know all about Ned and Geoff, of course, but we are surprised with the news that Clarence (who made such an impression in What Katy Did At School and Clover is now married to Elsie).


We don’t see their courtship, but instead are privileged to glimpse the happiness of the two young couples, who are both living in the same cabin out in Colorado.


The men are partners in a cattle ranch in the mountains, and Clover and Elsie look after the house and raise the two children, who are more like siblings than cousins.


But this is anticipating, as Susan Coolidge herself would say. First, we meet Imogen, who lives in the same part of Devon, England where Geoff grew up, before he emigrated to America to become a rancher.


Imogen is close to Geoff’s sister, but she is very jealous of her friend’s attention and fears that Clover is preferred. Imogen’s brother Lionel is going out to join the ranch partners and she is going with him to look after him.


Imogen is a highly inflexible person and not immediately likeable, though we hold out strong hopes that America will help her to change and grow as a person until she is finally happy.


It was really hard to read In the High Valley without yearning to know more of Katy. Her life as the wife of a naval officer keeps her far away from the mountains where her two older sisters live.


However, I soon became deeply engrossed in Imogen’s experience and also that of Johnny, the remaining Carr sister, who visits with her brother Dorrie. The absence of Katy gave plenty of space for the future lives of the Carrs to be described in a satisfying way.


Susan Coolidge puts a great deal of energy into making Imogen as unlikeable as possible before deftly developing her character until she finds love, grows as a person and fits in with the other young women at the ranch.


I can only imagine that some superior but misguided English woman came across Susan Coolidge’s path in real life because there seems to be a genuine pain beneath her writing.


In the High Valley from Girls Gone By provides a thorough description of the publishing history of this volume as well as a more general introduction.


Perhaps because of the remote setting it has proved to be enduringly popular in Sweden and Finland. This extra perspective added to my enjoyment of the story, which I found satisfying and unexpectedly moving when I realised that this was the last time that we would hear about the Carr family.


Thank you for reading my review.


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If you’ve enjoyed this review, you might be interested reading in my review of Clover by Susan Coolidge.


Or you might like to take a look at my review of What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge.


If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly.



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