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Review: "The Shuttle" by Frances Hodgson Burnet

The Shuttle may be downloaded for free from our ebook catalog. The following review was originally published on Frisbee: A Book Journal.

Burnett's style is vigorous and confident, and the theme is the tragic reduction of Rosy Vanderpoel from confident golden girl to battered woman, and the attempts of her sister, Bettina, to rescue her. Rosy, a blossoming, lovely heiress in New York, marries Sir Nigel, who despises Americans but has entrapped her for her money. Back on his mouldering estate in England, he abuses her psychologically and physically until she turns over most of her money to him (which he squanders on frivolous trips). He also cuts off Rosy's communications with her family (though he himself writes occasional letters to placate them) and reduces her to a nervous wreck. When the Vanderpoels visit Europe, he tells them Rosy is away. She is utterly isolated and shattered.

But the heroine is her younger sister, Betty, a beautiful, brilliant young woman who, 12 years after the marriage, when she is grown up, sets out to rescue Rosy. She does not believe her sister dropped them, and her father, a businessman, also suspects she may be Sir Nigel's victim. There's something of the fairy tale about this, with one princess rescuing another. Burnett's description of Betty's impressions of Sir Nigel's estate is enchanting: it's a kind of Sleeping Beauty's castle in need of repairs. And Rosy's 12-year-old son, the crippled Ughtred, is reminiscent of heroes of her children's books.

The writing is superb, and Burnett knows so much about the psychology of the battered woman. She understands PTSD before its time. The battered woman is not a masochistic victim, but often a successful woman brought down by isolation and constant belittling and tantrums. The abuser often is charming and sympathetic in public: only his wife and children know his other side. How Burnett knew this I don't know: she also writes about this in The Making of a Marchioness.


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