3.5 really, I have quite mixed opinions. Sarah Burton is an interesting and very strong character, especially given when this is set and was written. I enjoyed reading about her a lot.There were some stunning bits of writing with great character insight, into Sarah and some of the vignettes featuring more minor characters. I'm thinking about the episode with poor Miss Sigglesthwaite as an example.On the other hand, I always struggle with the view of mental illness in some books from this timeframe. Carne's wife follows the typical pattern: high strung, risky behaviour, promiscuous sex (or maybe just any sex), breakdown ... then is suddenly unable to recognise people, flies into rages, or just stares at the wall. It never seems real - what would cause this? - or more than a convenient plot contrivance and forced parallel to Jane Eyre. I also find it hard to remain in sympathy with Carne, whom I believe I'm supposed to find noble and good, when at one point he admits to raping his mentally unstable wife.As a result, I was never entirely convinced some storylines eg Sarah's sudden descent into mad and seemingly unrequited love for him . Similarly, I liked the Hollys a lot, but there was only a half-hearted attempt to explain why Mrs Brimsley would decide to marry and support Mr Holly and his too many kids. Very well-written, an interesting look at the tensions in pre-WWII small town England, some great characters, but not without flaws.