Friday, 2 July 2010

Marcella (Humphrey Ward) 155

Marcella is a somewhat chunky VMC, but immensely readable - I was daunted by its size but was immediately gripped in following the life and dilemmas of the young woman in the 1880s. Following early years spent in a boarding school (where she wasn't exactly a model pupil; she used sometimes to be sent to bed by the teachers which was especially punishing as those in bed during the day were considered to be ill, and were not permitted to take their arms out of the bedclothes, allowing them to read!), we meet her as a 21 year old art student, living in London and trying to work out her socialist ideals. But as the book opens, her father inherits the family estate, Mellor Park, located very near to Oxford (I loved the mentions of various south Oxfordshire villages which I know!) and Marcella moves to join her family. At first this fits with her idealist views; she can work with the poor who live around the estate to try to alleviate their poverty. But then she falls in love with the Tory Aldous Raeburn who is set to inherit the nearby estate of Maxwell Court. Marcella becomes torn between wanting to live up to her principles and to marry Aldous and become mistress at Maxwell. The rest of the book describes what happens after that, so as usual, I don't want to go on and spoil the plot!

I found Marcella an extremely likeable young lady and the book gave a good insight into the world of the 1880s for privileged ladies; she seems to have been quite well done by for the period having the opportunity to pursue her own desires rather than being constrained by the period as is often a feature of this date.

It's the only novel by Mrs Humphrey Ward published by Virago; although she wrote a number of novels the rest seem to have long vanished into obscurity. And this novel was published only the once with an original green cover.

6 comments:

  1. Glad you enjoyed this one, Verity! Pleased I could find it for you.

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  3. Your reviews are always so bizarrely timely! I got this from an Oxfam shop just the other week and thought I would really enjoy it - looks like I definitely will having read your review!

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  4. I was just recently talking to a friend about Frost in May when she mentioned this book in connection, and said how much she'd enjoyed it. Another Virago for the library list.

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  5. 當一個人內心能容納兩樣相互衝突的東西,這個人便開始變得有價值了。............................................................

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  6. Good to know that this one was so enjoyable; its size has put me off many times as well, but I'll worry less about that now thanks to your comments.

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