Godwin's 1984 novel is about a 14-year-old girl who is infatuated with her 40-something neighbor, the sophisticated Ursula DeVane. Justine Stokes is bored and lonely, having moved to rural New York State with her recently widowed mother. She is instantly smitten with the eccentric Ursula, who encourages the attachment. We know from the beginning of the novel that things do not end well.
I loved this book for the same reason I loved Unfinished Desires (2010). Godwin writes about intelligent women, seeking self-knowledge and wisdom in relation with each other. Even self-consciously feminist novels - and this is not - too often depict women in relation to men or to their children, despite the fact our relationships with other women are a key part - maybe the most important part? of our inner lives. Godwin respects the complexities of women's relationships and does not romanticize them. I also admire how Godwin doesn't do our thinking for us and does not cast judgment on the characters she has created.