No, this is not a book about the space shuttle's history (and, sadly, it IS history now). When the author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, was born (in 1849), it was still over a 100 years until the first man would cross the threshold of our planet's atmosphere and actually reach space. No, the title refers to a weaving shuttle, and it is used to describe how travelling across the ocean between England and the US brought the two countries closer to each other, on a cultural level, with American heiresses marrying English aristocrats.
The book was first published in 1907, at a time when an estimated more than five hundred American women had
married titled foreigners and some $220 million had gone with them to
Europe. That money was badly needed, and used to renovate many a great house. This makes for a realistic background of the story, which centers around Bettina Vanderpoel, the beautiful, kind and intelligent daughter of an American multi-millionaire.
Her sister Rosalie, several years her senior, married Sir Nigel Anstruthers when Bettina was but a child. Right after the marriage, Rosalie finds out that her husband was ever only after her money, and when law restricts his access to that money, his plan of making his wife succumb to his authority includes cutting her off almost entirely from all contact with her own family. Rosalie's life turns into a miserable existence; she is not strong and intelligent enough to confront Nigel, and her family hear nothing from her for a long time.
Twelve years later, Bettina is old enough to finally put her plan into action: she had been suspecting from the start that Nigel was not going to be good to her older sister, and that her silence meant something bad was going on. She decided back then that one day she would find Rosalie and rescue her, and that she does.
How she does it, how she manages to turn not only Rosalie's life around but also that of the entire village where the Anstruthers have been ruling for centuries, and in the process, her own life as well, is described in much detail. It is mostly credible; the psychological war between Bettina and her brother-in-law; all that managing a great house with its vast gardens and village entails; the way others react to the changes made there; how she comes very close to almost losing not only the love of her life but even her own life - all that and much more is in this book, which was a delightful read, full of suspense (especially towards the end), and written in an elegant, descriptive style I very much enjoyed.
If there is one negative thing to say about the story, it is that the characters are so black and white. There is not one good molecule in all of Nigel Anstruthers, and not one shadow of a less-than-perfectly good trace in Bettina's character. Real people are not like that, but this did not take away my pleasure of reading this book, since the story in itself was credible enough.
There is some more info about the author here in another review I wrote about one of her books; it seems that American-British relationships are a recurring theme with Mrs. Burnett, who herself travelled back and forth between the two countries more than 30 times.