A troubled beauty

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Manmade beauty within natural beauty -- but not refuges from reality. That's what William Morgan has described in his new book,  with gorgeous photos by Trevor Trento:  "A Simpler Way of Life: Old Farmhouses of New York & New England'', published by Norfleet Press and selling for $49.59. This book itself can be a heirloom.

Mr. Morgan, a distinguished architectural historian, has written a text that does not sugarcoat the tough  and uncertain lives led by many farmers, especially when most of these farmhouses were built, in inland, upland New England and New York State, in the late 18th Century and well into the 19th.

The farmers were constantly at the mercy of the weather, far-away market forces and other factors over which they had no control. The book is informed by a deep understanding  of the  architectural, social and economic history, and  life today, of  the rural part of our corner of North America.

Messrs.  Morgan and Mr. Trento implicitly make the argument that the old country house can be as beautiful as any mansion, while evoking more humanity. There's a poignancy about these old houses.

But, my God, they sure can be hard to heat and maintain!