The Daisy Chain, and The Trial
By Charlotte M. Yonge
Set in 19th century England, The Daisy Chain is the story of a country doctor’s large family. The characters in this story are many and varied: from the quiet and gentle Richard, to impulsive and awkward Ethel; self-possessed Flora and emotional and brilliant Norman. There are eleven children, and each has his or her own character. The Doctor himself is much like Ethel; impulsive, warm hearted, intelligent, and kind. He is far from perfect, however, and sometimes his hasty words and actions startle his children, or cause misunderstandings in the town.
At the beginning of the story, tragedy strikes, leaving the family motherless, and the father injured. Margaret, the eldest daughter, is rendered an invalid; Norman’s mind suffers a severe shock, causing great concern to his father; Flora takes upon herself the running of the family; Richard, the eldest son, comes home from Cambridge to assist; Ethel finds herself as assistant to Flora, but making more trouble than she helps. As time goes on though, they face their grief bravely and patiently, and slowly, the family learns how to function without Mother. Life continues, and even grows joyful as the years pass. The story follows the various family members through these years, showing the decisions they make, and struggles they face, especially in sending off Norman to Cambridge and Harry to sea. Love and marriage soon become events to be met and dealt with in a Christian way; and they learn to trust God in all circumstances, both good and bad.
It is hard to pick a main character, but perhaps the story follows Ethel more than any of the others. The plain and visionary daughter of the family, she is impulsive and warm-hearted. At the beginning of the story she takes up the project of providing a church and school for a run-down, neglected village. First though, she has to conquer her own bad habits, and learn steadiness. As time goes on, she becomes her father’s greatest helper, and her character is developed through trial and perseverance.
The Trial; or More Links in the Daisy Chain
The Trial continues the story of the May family, but with some different characters. Many of those foremost in The Daisy Chain are almost or entirely dropped, and instead much of the focus is on the Wards, the family of the Stoneborough apothecary. When both parents die, Henry becomes the head of the family. He feels competent to take excellent care of his brother and three sisters, but soon discovers that managing a family is much harder than he thought. Dr. May helps him all he can in is practice, and his children form strong friendships with Averil and Leonard, the two siblings next to him in age. But trouble is brewing at home, as they disagree with him on many points, and his stubbornness added to their pride causes friction.
Finally a climax in domestic trouble seems to be reached, and Leonard goes to work for his uncle. Peace returns, and life seems to be flowing along smoothly- but suddenly, disaster and disgrace strike without the least warning, threatening Leonard with death, and bringing reproach on the whole family.
Dr. May and his children work desperately, but are powerless to help circumstances. They can only encourage and pray for the Wards, and hope that innocence will triumph, and crime will meet with its reward.
I think that this is one of Charlotte Yonge’s best books. It was also one of her most popular works. Of course, since I come from a large family, I am delighted to find a book that focuses on a large family, and portrays the daily life and struggles accurately. The characters are fresh and realistic, and have real problems and real victories. I especially like Dr. May’s character- he is neither an unrealistic representation of an ideal, nor is he a barely sketched character, nor an overbearing tyrant. Yonge shows enough of his faults to make him a realistic character, but for this reason it makes his virtues seem more attainable and realistic.
Charlotte Yonge’s books are well written, interesting, engaging stories, which show real character struggles in a realistic way that is instructive. The characters are not examples of impeccable virtue, but learn to conquer the root problem, through the grace of God.I highly recommend The Daisy Chain, and most of Yonge’s other books.
Gutenberg: The Daisy Chain
Google Books: The Daisy Chain Vol. 1
The Daisy Chain Vol. 2
Gutenberg: The Trial
Google Books: The Trial