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November 14 , 2008

Green Grow the Rushes


In the summer of 1900, a group of young people are brought together in the decaying splendour of the Quarro, a Scottish country house owned by the down-at-heel Lennox family. As their lives touch, new alliances are formed - some doomed to failure and bitter despair, others that will endure against the odds to bring lasting happiness.

Jessie Macpherson, newly appointed cook, daily dreams up sumptuous menus and dazzles the Lennoxes and their guests with her skill. But even at this time of triumph, Jessie realises there has to be more to life. Sholto Hamilton, a poor but ambitious lawyer and highly successful ladies' man, offers her a glimpse of other delights, and before long Jessie is trapped in the sensual web he has woven. But what future together can there be for a gentleman and a servant? Will Sholto wish to burden himself with a wife such as Jessie when he still has his way to make in the world?

The future seems far more assured for Celia Lennox, the daughter of the house, and Sholto's friend Ralph Erskine. Heir of an Edinburgh steel magnate, and a passionate admirer of Celia's wild, fey beauty, there could not be a more eligible candidate than Ralph for her hand. But, eligible or not, another man has caught Celia Lennox's eye - and perhaps her heart.

Meanwhile Ralph's sister Alix despairs of ever fitting the rigid mould of society wife and mother. Surely a woman's sphere of influence need not be confined purely to the drawing room and marital bed? Alix overcomes parental opposition and society's disapproval to win herself an education and against all expectations finds a man who shares her views, a match made in heaven - until a shocking stroke of fate robs her of happiness and turns all her passion and commitment on to the fearsome path of martyrdom for the cause of women's suffrage.

A sweeping, panoramic survey of turn-of-the-century Scottish society - from country house to industrial slums, bohemian free-thinking to High Tory Politics - Green Grow the Rushes is peopled with a cast of memorable and vividly realised characters.

"Smart's characters have a feel of authentic life and move in and out of a backdrop which cunningly incorporates political change, trade union rebellion, suffragette noise and good food" The Sunday Times

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