The Promise

Ann Weisgarber

2014 Nominee

Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction

24 April 2014
320 pages


Shortlisted for the prestigious Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.

1900. Young pianist Catherine Wainwright flees the fashionable town of Dayton, Ohio in the wake of a terrible scandal. Heartbroken and facing destitution, she finds herself striking up correspondence with a childhood admirer, the recently widowed Oscar Williams. In desperation she agrees to marry him.

But when Catherine travels to Oscar's farm on Galveston island, Texas - a thousand miles from home - she finds she is little prepared for the life that awaits her. The island is remote, the weather sweltering, and Oscar's little boy Andre is grieving hard for his lost mother. And though Oscar tries to please his new wife, the secrets of the past sit uncomfortably between them.

Meanwhile for Nan Ogden, Oscar's housekeeper, Catherine's sudden arrival has come as a great shock. For not only did she promise Oscar's first wife that she would be the one to take care of little Andre, but she has feelings for Oscar which she is struggling to suppress. And when the worst storm in a generation descends, the women will find themselves tested as never before . . .

From the author of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers and longlisted for the Orange Prize, The Promise is a heart-breaking story of love, loss and buried secrets, which confirms Weisgarber as one of the most compelling literary voices writing today.

The Promise was a finalist in the Western Writers of America Best Historical Fiction Awards.

'Outstanding . . . The Promise by Ann Weisgarber is set in Texas in 1900 and follows the story of a young pianist who arrives from the sophisticated east coast to make a hasty marriage to a widower. The story of their tentative relationship in the oppressive Texan heat is engrossing, and the final pages are profoundly moving.
On Saturday 8 September 1900, Galveston, Texas, the island city in the Gulf of Mexico, then one of the largest ports in America, was devastated by a hurricane. It was the worst US natural disaster of the 20th century, with a death toll of 8,000 people. Present-day Galveston resident and Orange Prize longlistee Ann Weisgarber's novel comes to a head in the eye of this storm, the emotional battles between the members of one Galveston Island family played out against the backdrop of howling wind and rain, and the steady rush of flood water . . . The narration is split between Catherine and Nan, Weisgarber doing an admirable job in distinguishing between the two, the voice of each ringing out clearly. So, too, her description of the storm itself is wonderfully atmospheric, the fear of her protagonists mounting minute by minute, the tension as thick as the heavy Texan summer air. Combine this with heartbreaking historical details and you have the perfect ingredients for vintage historical fiction.
‘A gripping, beautiful story of loyalties and hidden loves. Ann Weisgarber's pitch-perfect characters will break your heart and keep you guessing right to the very end’ Carol Rifka Brunt, New York Times bestselling author of Tell The Wolves I’m Home