This was not my first book by Charlotte Mary Yonge, a prolific writer who lived from 1823 to 1901 and was very popular in her time.
Therefore, I knew more or less what to expect: An emphasis of virtues such as being obedient, pious to the point of being fatalist, and of course always clean and proper. "Friarswood Post-Office" (first published in 1858 as a series in "The Magazine for the Young"), though, overdid it in places, and a few times I was close to putting it away in frustration. In the end, I did finish reading it, last but not least because it was not very long.
My main reason for sticking to this free ebook was that the book does give an interesting glimpse in times long gone, how home life was for people who were not quite that well off, how a village shop/post office was run and how orphans were provided for.
The King family live in an English village. The widowed mother runs the village shop and post office, with the help of her children. One of her sons is bed-ridden after an injury that never quite heals (what his sickness really is did not become entirely clear to me), and young Alfred takes his confinement very badly. He is ungrateful and sometimes downright nasty to his siblings, who do what they can to help.
When a homeless boy appears in the village, rumours abound that he has escaped from prison, and people blame him for anything that goes missing. Soon, however, the good heart and kind nature of the mysterious boy become apparent.
The village deacon plays a very important role in the story, as he probably would have done in real life in such a small rural community. The lives of the two boys could not be more different from each other, and yet they touch in an unforeseen way - to the benefit of both, and the entire family.
Several times, I expected events to take a different turn; I do like it when a story manages to surprise me. The final chapter sort of reconciled me with some of the developments I did not like. The book is not without a sense of humour, but it really is not for you if you can not (or do not want to) cope with too much moralising.
On this website of the Charlotte Mary Yonge Fellowship, I found out that both the orphan boy and Alfred were based on people the author knew in real life.