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But still he sought her out, he knew he did, catching sight of her and her wild hair like a freakish white crown and waiting to see what she would do next.

While entering into the deteriorating caravan, Henry’s Aunt loses her footing; “but Henry’s hands had already flown up, ready to catch her,” (pg. 181). Henry is already established as a sort of guardian or “protector,” in the first few sentences, but I truthfully didn’t catch this until a second read. There is something incredibly subtle about the entire story — in craft, in description, and in the development of the relationship between Henry and Nicola. The language used appears to be consistently hinting at a sadness, even in the description of the food on the table. From the “sunken tomatoes,” to the “butter dish with its ruined lump,” and the “quarter inch of cold tea,” (pg. 187), everything appears to be somewhat melancholy. Nostalgia is another element that is present in the story from the opening — a feeling of something lost or missing. There are a wide variety of phrases that hint at memories of the past and of better times. Feeding off of this sadness are the superficial relationships between a majority of the characters; Henry and the girl boarders, Henry’s aunt and uncle, and the girl boarders in relation to each other. There is a certain distance between each of the characters with no true affection, until we see the developing relationship between Henry and Nicola. I became vividly aware that a love story does not have to openly express the words “I love you,” or even exhibit the sentiments of love. The reader truly only needs the perspective and thoughts of one character. But I wasn’t initially sure if this love would be that of a brother-sister relationship, or more of a budding romance. Brown makes this distinction ambiguous and leaves the reader to make his or her own assumptions. Henry isn’t particularly fond of the girls to begin with, steering me away from the belief that he might come to like one of them. In fact, I was sort of afraid something would happen involving the uncle. “He seemed to have grown unkempt or seedy, as though he harbored a terrible secret about himself…” (pg. 187). But Henry begins to fall for Nicola, her silvery hair, and her tearful personality. He experiences this failed heroism, the weather and the spooked horse out of his control, and realizes what he could have lost. The hazy nature of the story made the ending somewhat surprising. I wouldn’t have expected Henry to muck up the courage and I also wasn’t prepared for my heart to begin to melt as the two kissed with such an innocence that I have taken for granted. So genuine and so true, and such a sweet ending to an otherwise heavy-hearted story.

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