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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 .

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 .

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