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Review: "Evelina" by Fanny Burney


Evelina: Or the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World was published in 1778. Evelina has been raised raised in rural seclusion until her eighteenth year. She then travels to London learns how to navigate the complex layers of 18th century society and earn the love of a distinguished nobleman. This sentimental novel of manners often satirizes the society in which it is set and is a significant precursor to later works by Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth. Continue reading .

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 Story of My Life" by Helen Keller


Helen was born in June of 1880 in a tiny town in northern Alabama. She was nineteen months old and had just begun to talk when she contracted an unnamed disease, described by her doctor only as “acute congestion of the stomach and brain.” The doctor’s prognosis was that Helen would not live. She pulled through, but not before the disease had robbed her of her sight and hearing. 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: "A Girl of the Limberlost" by Gene Stratton-Porter


First published in 1909, the story concerns Elnora Comstock who lives a reclusive life with her mother in the swamps of Indiana called the Limberlost. One day she discovers that a hobby she has cultivated all her life, collecting moth and other insect specimens from the swamps near her home, can actually finance the education she longs for. The first part is a family tale, where Elnora grapples with her mother’s moody ways while pursuing her educational goals. The second part is a romance. Continue reading .

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