Nothing could be more dissimilar than the two sides of Boston's famous Beacon Hill. On the slope toward the Common from Mount Vernon, the cross streets are lined with fine old houses, possessed by fine old New England families; on teh slope from Mount Vernon toward Cambridge Street, dingy tenements, precariously occupied by people forever alien, are interspersed with delicatessen and other small shops, obscure offices, drab bureaus adn unpretentious eating places. And nowhere is this contrast mor marked than on Joy Street, where Roger Field and Emily Thayer chose one of the fine old houses for their bridal home -- unaware that, near enough to be classed as neighbors, dwelt an Italian family by the name of de Lucca, which, through two of its members -- the magnetic Pellegrino and the mysterious Simonetta -- was to change the course of their destiny.
Nevertheless, from the very beginning, Joy Street was a symbol for the appealing, high-minded and hopeful young couple. Both were "to the manner born." But Emily had wealth as well as position behind her and Roger had been forced, all his life, to struggle for a financial foothold in the sphere where he belonged by right of inheritance. For a long time, he hesitated to ask Emily to marry him, because he did not want to be a pensioner on her bounty. When he was finally offered a position, near the end of his last year at the Harvard Law School, it was not with a firm which Emily's conservative family viewed with respect; it was with one headed by "a bounder, a renengade and a dreamer" which was trying a startling experiment: that of including among its juniors not merely Harvard graduates who were representative of the "best" Boston families; but also promising young men who had gone to other colleges and who came from the dissimilar groups which had never been known to mingle socially on Beacon Hill - the "worthless Italians,", the "Castle Irish," and the "presumptious Jews."
This is the way in which Emily's family classifies her fiancÚ's associates. But she declined to accept the classification. She shared Roger's belief that in their home all these different elements would meet and merge harmoniously. This belief was -- almost literally -- the cornerstone of their house.
Joy Street is the story of what happened to that belief; how it was tried, how it failed -- and how it succeeded. Into Emily's hitherto restricted circle are suddenly catapulted not only Pellegrino and Simonetta, whom she has admired at a distance without identifying them, but David Salomont -- brilliant, suave and ambitious -- and Brian Collins -- hearty, headstrong and vigorous. Emily's grandmother, "Old Mrs. Forbes," a magnificent but formidable matriarch who is apt to overshadow everyone with whom she comes in contact, is the only one of Emily's relatives who recognizes the magnitude of the task the bride has undertaken. She makes mistakes, some of them serious, as she gropes her way into a world that is strange to her. She learns the full meaning of love in a hard school and, in the course of her progress, she meets with disillusionment and tragedy. But, as she continues to grow in stature, wisdom and loving-kindness, she conquers both.