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Review: "The Female Quixote" by Charlotte Lennox


The Female Quixote is the story of Arabella who has lived in seclusion all her life. With only her recluse father and a mountain of old romances as companions, Arabella grows up thinking that the world of her books is the world that she lives in. All is fine and good in her quiet abode until her uncle and cousins arrive and she is thrown into society. You can hardly imagine the trouble she gets into. Any man riding a horse is a probable ravisher. Any gardener with a literate accent is a man in disguise intending to carry her away. A small argument between two young men will no doubt turn into a bloody duel over the affections of a lady. Continue reading .

Review: "The Last Man" by Mary Shelley


As in Frankenstein Mary Shelley shows herself as a sci-fi pioneer and visionary with enough political savvy to know that the strife between Christian and Muslim would not be resolved even two hundred years into the future. Mary Shelley’s gifted use of the English language was perhaps better in this work than in Frankenstein. Also to her credit, Shelley, perhaps because of her many tragic experiences, quite accurately captures and expresses the angst of mourning. The Last Man is not Frankenstein, but if you have the patience to read it, you will find its mysterious makeup rather interesting. Continue reading .

Review: "Belinda" by Maria Edgeworth


Belinda, first published in 1801, is the story of a young woman who comes of age amid the distractions and dangers of London society. From her stays at both the extravagant, aristocratic Delacours and the sober, rational Percivals, she molds her views on love and marriage and much more. Belinda learns from the mistakes of others (and many does she witness) rather than rashfully committing the mistakes herself. From her tutelage by Lady Delacour and the Percivals, we see Belinda grow from a confused little girl into a confident young lady that is admired and eventually depended upon by all. In love, her suitors find they must grow and prove their worth to her, rather than the reverse. Continue reading .

Review: "Olive" by Dinah Maria Craik


First published in 1850, Olive is a variant on the story of Jane Eyre. The titular character is not an orphan, but she suffers from a physical deformity that acts as a similar social impediment. Olive grows up sheltered, thinking nothing is wrong with her. However when her overprotective nursemaid dies, it is a great shock to her to know that she is not attractive to men and will probably never marry. Even though Olive is determined to support herself and be happy in spite of her hardships, she eventually does find love in a very unlikely person. Continue reading .

Review: "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" by Anne Brontë


Readers looking for more Brontë after consuming Emily’s and Charlotte’s work often turn to the less famous sister, Anne. One common theme among these readers is surprise that Anne is as good or even better than her sisters. Agnes Grey, Anne’s first novel, is sweet and impeccably constructed. However The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is her stronger novel. While also impeccably written, much of this novel is not sweet. Its strong points lie in the gutsy portrayal of taboo and uncomfortable subjects such as alcoholism and marital strife. Continue reading .

Review: "To Have and To Hold" by Mary Johnston


To Have and To Hold was the bestselling book in the United States in 1900. The story is set in the early years of the Virginia colony and follows the fortunes of Captain Ralph Percy. Percy, somewhat unwillingly, takes part in a bride arrangement and ends up married to a young woman who is clearly more than she professes herself to be. Some weeks later Lord Carnal, the King’s favorite, arrives to reveal that she is Lady Jocelyn Leigh, a ward of the King who wanted her to marry Lord Carnal himself. Pirates, sword fights, and adventures ensue. Continue reading .

Review: "A Voyage in the Sunbeam" by Annie Brassey


First published in 1878, A Voyage in the Sunbeam is a journal detailing the Brassey family’s voyage around the world. Annie Brassey delights in the mild Tahitian and Hawaiian breezes, shivers in the Japanese cold, and swelters in the Arabian heat. She struggles to keep down her breakfast sailing through the Straits of Magellan, and boldly marches her children up to the caldera of an active Hawaiian volcano. She suffers many hardships, but Brassey is undaunted, retaining a childlike wonder in the sights she sees. Continue reading .

Review: "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett


First published in 1909, The Secret Garden is one of Burnett’s most popular novels and is considered a classic of children’s literature. It tells the story of Mary Lennox, a sickly, orphan girl, who is sent to isolated Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire, England. There she befriends a boy named Dickon with whom she investigates a secret garden on the Manor grounds. Here the garden becomes a metaphor for Mary’s transformative effect upon her cousin and uncle. Continue reading .

Review: "The Pastor's Wife" by Elizabeth von Arnim


First published in 1914, The Pastor’s Wife is the story of Ingeborg who grows up being pushed around by her father, the Bishop. In the first moment she is ever alone and left to her own devices, she decides to take a trip to Switzerland. She is alone for only a few hours, however, and then the next overpowering man comes into her life, a German pastor. Through no effort or even desire of her own she somehow becomes his wife and begins yet another journey in pursuit of control of her life. Continue reading .

Review: "Consequences" by E.M. Delafield


Consequences is the story of Alex Clare who we meet as a young girl learning to play a game of the same name. Alex learns to play the game quickly and wants to show her siblings her way of playing. While we see that she quickly gets the childhood game, she remains perplexed about the life of grown-ups and what she later sees as a mockery of personal closeness for which she desires. The inability or refusal to play this game of navigating through society is of course inexcusable (particularly for women) during this time and since there are limited options for women, leads her to her ultimate consequence. Continue reading .

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