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Review: Lady's Maid, by Margaret Forster


In 1844, Lily Wilson becomes lady’s maid to Elizabeth Barrett, invalid daughter of a wealthy, overbearing London merchant. Elizabeth became a recluse, corresponding and eventually meeting the poet Robert Browning. Because her father disapproved of his children marrying, Elizabeth eloped with Robert to Italy.

The story is half about Elizabeth Barrett Browning and half about Lily. I found the details of EBB’s life to be much more interesting than that of Wilson’s, and I wish there was more about her in this novel. I got the feeling that Wilson never really had a life of her own—everything she did was connected in some way with her mistress. However, I’d like to think that this was characteristic of the period—good servants didn’t really have lives of their own. Nonetheless, Wilson seemed to get herself into a lot of romantic entanglements that made me wonder what the point of it was. The writing style of the book is very dense, and it took me a long time to get through—much longer than it normally takes me to read a 550-page book. I also thought that about 200 pages could have been cut from the novel—it just seemed to drag on a bit.

Nevertheless, there were a couple of things I enjoyed about this book, not the least of which was the setting—Victorian England and Italy never fail to interest me. I also liked the author’s message about choice—Wilson could have learned a thing or two from her mistress.

Comments

Nicole said…
Its funny how much an opinion of a book can change by it just being a wee bit shorter. I've been running into that a lot lately.
Teddy Rose said…
I sounds interesting to me despite the drawbascks. Thanks for your review.

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2015 Reading

January
1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

February
1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

March
1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…