The novel follows three parallel stories of courtship and marriage and the decisions of three strong women: Alice Vavasor, her cousin Glencora Palliser, and her aunt Arabella Greenow. Early on, Alice asks the question: What should a woman do with her life? This theme repeats itself in the dilemmas faced by the other women in the novel. Lady Glencora and her husband Plantagenet Palliser recur in the remainder of the Palliser series.
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