Books: A Lost Lady

ON A LONESOME PORCH (237 pp.)—Ovid Williams Pierce—Doubleday ($3.95).

The theme of this book is one of the great, enduring cliches of U.S. literature: the dowager of a North Carolina first family finds her old way of life in ruins after the Yankee barn burners go home. But the variation on the theme—how in shoring up the fragments she found a little of herself as well—is, in Novelist Pierce's skilled hands, made almost new.

For "Miss Ellen" Gray, the well-bred widow who is the wispy heroine of Pierce's story, self-discovery is not easy. She spent...

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