I became a Dorothy Gilman fan as a reader of her standalone stories. From her `young adult' fantasy to "An Uncertain Voyage" being written about today; I'm sampling all but the "Mrs. Pollifax" volumes from which she derived fame! If her series is superior to the less-known work I treasure so much, I'm in for a treat indeed. This story about a divorcée forcing herself on a European trip, garnered less than five stars because it is heavily introspective but superbly written nonetheless.
`Melissa' married at sixteen and overlooked self-discovery but dug herself out of a complacent life. We meet her after she has finished with a psychiatrist and is trying out her sea legs... and voice. Her apprehension about proving she can be assertive, independent, and find real joy is interspersed with a political chase. This saves the novel from the mundane philosophical approach of Anne Enright's "The Gathering" and the too-long soliloquies of Beth Powning's "The Hatbox Letters". There is mystery and danger to ponder all along, injected early but mounting slowly and culminating in extreme circumstances. The author didn't make it easy on the heroine and I admire such hard-hitting in 1967.
I would like to see inside the export company but the outcomes of both threads are clear; even if not played out in full view to satisfy readers. Regular contemplation is the only weight on this adventure, otherwise buoyantly traversing three countries. If an underage marriage causes undeveloped perception of life then Melissa mulling commonplace victories is plausible; like feeling triumphant that she possesses and exercises opinions. Scenes are in constant motion, you want the heroine to succeed, and she acts intelligently when convinced the ordeal is real. Most remarkable is Dorothy kept dreaming up plots and characters that resemble no work she created before.