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Blog category: British Literature

Review: "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley


Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was published in 1818 and is considered by many to be the first science fiction novel. Started by Mary Shelley at the age of 18, the story tells of obsessed university student Victor Frankenstein who finds the secret to animating dead flesh. His creation is intended to be a beautiful, super-human being, however when brought to life it is a disgusting, frightening creature. Continue reading .

Review: "Middlemarch" by George Eliot


First published in 1871, the story is set in the 1830s in a fictional English town of Middlemarch. It interweaves the stories of several major and minor characters, focusing centrally on Dorothea Brooke–an idealistic and ardently religious young woman. Many describe Middlemarch as Eliot’s finest work and a masterpiece of Victorian era literature. Continue reading .

Review: "The Doctor's Dilemma" by Hesba Stretton


First published in 1872, the story is that of Olivia who, as the curtain opens, has been locked in a room, threatened, and is frantic to escape. She sees her chance, and her escape takes her to the smallest of the Channel Islands named Sark. There she and lives peacefully, under an assumed identity, until she has an accident and is in need of a doctor. Dr Martin Dobree comes from the neighboring island to help and is instantly taken with her. Thus unfolds various circumstances that delve into Olivia’s past and what will become of her future. Continue reading .

Review: "North and South" by Elizabeth Gaskell


North and South tells a tale of contrast between the way of life in the industrial north of England and the wealthier south. First published in 1854, the story centers around young Margaret Hale from the South who moves with her parents to a fictional industrial town in the North. The move brings about many changes, as her experiences with the poor and the industrial ruling classes make her rethink her preconceived ideas on class, gender, and romance. Continue reading .

Review: "In the Mountains" by Elizabeth von Arnim


First published in 1920, the story is written in first person as a journal. Our narrator is a tired English woman who, after WWI, escapes ambiguous personal troubles in London and seeks refuge at her chalet among the Swiss Alps. As she starts to gain strength, two English women, also of ambiguous personal circumstances, show up literally on her doorstep. The hostess takes them in, and they embark on a strange and endearing path to helping each other. Continue reading .

Review: "The Doctor's Wife" by Mary Elizabeth Braddon


First published in 1864, The Doctor’s Wife uses the concept of the serialized sensation novel to create stories within stories within stories. A reworking of Madame Bovary, the heroine is Isabel Sleaford who is married to an adoring, if boring, physician. He does not share Isabel’s taste for literature, but she is content until she meets her intellectual equal in the author of her favorite book of verse. As Isabel’s life begins to take on complications worthy of her literary heroes, she begins to find what it is like to grow into a mature woman. Continue reading .

Review: "Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther" by Elizabeth von Arnim


First published in 1907, this epistolary novel contains the letters from Fraulein (Rose-Marie) Schmidt to Mr (Roger) Anstruther. It is set in the college town of Jena, Germany where Roger, an Englishman, has just spent a year learning German. During his last hour before returning to England, the two confess their feelings and become secretly engaged. Rose-Marie’s letters, filled with effusions of life and nature, also chronicle the relationship of these two characters through the year following their engagement. Continue reading .

Review: "The Incomplete Amorist" by E. Nesbit


First published in 1906, this novel centers upon four main characters and their romantic interactions. Betty Desmond is a pretty, naive girl ready to get into all sorts of trouble and cause her step-father and aunt endless worry. Then there’s Eustace Vernon, the amorist himself, who means no harm but goes to great lengths to win the ladies just to appease his vanity. Nesbit mixes things up with Lady St. Craye, one of the amorist’s many jilted lovers. And lastly Mr. Temple, who makes a clumsy first impression and is not very interesting or threatening…or is he? Continue reading .

Review: "Vera" by Elizabeth von Arnim


While the subject matter is dark and grows darker as we read, Vera is not, surprisingly, depressing. It is engrossing and will permeate your thoughts during and after reading, but it is more thought-provoking than mood changing. If you can appreciate Wuthering Heights and even find satisfaction and humor in its pages, you will most certainly love Vera. Continue reading .

Review: "The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rügen" by Elizabeth von Arnim


First published in 1904, The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rügen is a travel journal written in the same style as the author’s other autobiographical works Elizabeth and Her German Garden and The Solitary Summer. Elizabeth’s a goal is to ride her coach around Rügen, Germany’s largest island and a popular tourist destination. Von Arnim records her journey with enlightening and always witty observations. Continue reading .

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