Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Review: Wild Romance, by Chloe Schama
Pages (with notes and index): 249
Original date of publication: 2010My edition: 2010 (Walker & Company)
Why I decided to read: Heard about it through LTER
How I acquired my copy: review copy from the publisher, February 2010
Wild Romance is the true story of the life of Theresa Longworth, a woman who, in 1852, met William Yelverton aboard a steamship. Their romance was a mostly one-sided affair, which concluded with two secret marriages. When Yelverton later abandoned Theresa for marriage to another woman, Theresa instigated the first of several court cases to determine that her marriage to him was valid.
On the whole, this story of this book is stretched a bit thin. Only half of this 250-page book is devoted to the “romance” and trial; the rest to Theresa’s travels throughout America and Asia. I was expecting something meatier, something that would explain why Yelverton led Theresa on to the extent that he did. It’s quite possible that all he was after was sex; but in that case, why would he go so far as to have two weddings to her? The rhetoric of the court suggested that Yelverton was seduced by Theresa, and was led astray by his desires, but I tend to think that things were much more complicated than that. I guess the largest problem I had was that Yelverton as a person never really came across. In fact, he’s hardly mentioned in the second half of the book as Theresa went abroad. I’d love to have known, too, what his wife, Emily Forbes, thought of the whole affair. After all, if Yelverton had been forced to take responsibility for his actions, he would basically have been committing bigamy, and his children with his second wife illegitimate.
Although the reader was privy to Theresa’s thoughts and actions, I never really empathized with her. I’m not sure that I agree with the author’s assessment of her; in fact, I’m not sure that she wasn’t simply out for her fifteen minutes of fame, frequently making an exhibition of herself, making her look flighty at best and stupid at worst. In the end, I realized that both parties in the Yelverton case were simply subjects of their own stupidity and bad decisions.
Although I thought the book was well-researched, and the author is a competent writer, I thought the photographs in the book needed improvement. For example, there’s only one picture in the entire book of Yelverton—a grainy, blurred miniature at the beginning. The rest of the photographs are vague, indistinct photographs and paintings (some anachronistic) of the places Theresa and Yelverton visited. I’m not one for judging a book solely on the pictures reproduced inside, but these definitely weren't of great quality. In all, this is a decent work of nonfiction.