The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough

I forgot to write about this when I read it right on the heels of The Blue Castle. As soon as I started the book it all sort of came back to me and I enjoyed it just as much as the first time I read it. And this time, having just read Blue Castle, I can indeed see what all the hubbub was about (and I have to think that if those books were published today, with all the social media, they just wouldn’t have even published Missalonghi, instead pointing out how it is a copycat story.)  Missalonghi is almost exactly the same story as Blue Castle. Some things, of course, are different. But it’s hard to believe that it’s a coincidence. But here’s what I have to admit–I like McCullough’s version better! Shorter and with much more wit.
In a nutshell, impoverished and homely Missy lives with her mother and aunt. They are at the mercy, as are all the single women in the family, of the unkind patriarchy that presides over their town. Poor Missy is doomed to continue her miserable life. They live at the edge of a wilderness and one day a stranger comes to town, having just bought that parcel of land. I loved the description of just how long it took to hack one’s way into the bush to get to his camp. The townspeople assume he’s up to no good and spin wild stories about him, but Missy is captivated.
A very short and quick read, clever and with plenty of comeuppance.  One thing I had forgotten was what a rather forbidding note the book ends on.
I think you can recommend this charming book to almost anyone.

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2 thoughts on “The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough

  1. **** SPOILERS FOR BOTH BOOKS BELOW ****

    So having just read both recently, can you tell me if I remember correctly? I remember “Blue Castle” as no ghosts, and the heroine actually believes she has the heart condition until her shoe gets stuck in the tracks and she’s almost killed by a train. And I remember in “Ladies”, the ghost of the man’s former wife helps the heroine, and at the end advises her never to confess that she knew she didn’t have a heart condition, because he wouldn’t forgive her for the deception.

    How close am I?

    I think my ideal version would be the second one (ghost, knows she doesn’t have the condition, BUT she confesses and all is forgiven).

    Oh, I also think “Ladies” is the one where she tells her relative who’s getting married that she’ll be completely washed out in her wedding gown if she dresses the “pretty” relatives in gradiated pastels.

  2. Amy, you are correct! Blue Castle believes it, Missy makes it up (well actually takes the letter meant for someone else.) One of the things I’d forgotten was that at the end Una (the lovely bookseller who encourages Missy in all things romantic and gives her the scarlet dress) says “never tell him! never tell him!” in such an ominous way. The part about Missy telling her horrid cousin that the ombre effect of the bridesmaids will make her washed out is the one thing that has stood out in my mind, crystal clear since the day I read it. For some reason I loved that comment and its effect.
    I’m totally with you on the ideal version.

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