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Review: "Emily Fox-Seton" by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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First published in 1901 as The Making of a Marchioness followed by its sequel The Methods of Lady Walderhurst, the two novels were combined into Emily Fox-Seton who is the two works' primary character.

The Making of a Marchioness follows thirty-something Emily who lives alone, humbly and happily, in a tiny apartment and on a meager income. She is the one that everyone counts on but no one goes out of their way to accommodate. It is a quaint romance, and while both the hero and heroine could be a little more interesting, it seems the point is that they aren't interesting at all. Emily borders on being annoying for her stupidity and letting everyone trample all over her, but she's so sweet one can't completely dislike her. Lord Walderhurst, our hero, is  an utterly logical fellow looking for a gal--and not just a pretty face, which is admirable.

The second half, The Methods of Lady Walderhurst, chronicles Emily's adaptation to her new life and the dangers that arise from those who stand to lose most from her new circumstances. Here the story evolves into a mystery with elements verging on the supernatural. This part, in which a maid from India conjures her "native magic" for evil purposes, has been called racist in recent times. However if one takes it as the fiction that it is as well as a portrait of the attitudes toward Indians at the time, there's no offense taken (at least not for me). I don't believe Burnett was trying to make a moral statement, but undoubtedly she had some interesting views on India and it's people. The India motif also makes a short appearance in The Secret Garden. Where did she get this? I don't see anywhere in her biography ever living in or visiting the place.

Despite the controversy, I actually enjoyed the second half more than the first. The ending was rather strange but not unsatisfying. It makes you think, and least, but I'm not all that sure I've discovered her meaning.

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