Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Red Pottage (Cholmondery)

I purchased Red Pottage after reading Simon’s review about it – it seemed to have been yet another VMC that had passed me by thus far. It joined the TBR but flushed with the success of enjoying The odd women last week I thought it only right to attempt this book too – partly because it had been recommended by a fellow blogger, but mainly because it was published in the same year.

What makes this book so gripping is the way it starts with a suicide pact between two men associated with the Lady Newhaven – her husband and her lover – they draw straws and the one with the shortest straw must die within 5 months. Lady Newhaven overhears the drawing of the straws but has to wait for five months to find out who it is.

Around this suicide pact we follow the story of Rachel West and Hester Gresley, childhood friends who have ended up in quite different circumstances in adulthood. Rachel is a heiress following years of povert y whilst Hester is forced to live with her vicar brother who has quite a different way of life to the one which she would choose. He conforms to all of the social expectations, but she is writing a novel which is anything but.

Bits of the book are intensely humourous such as when the man who has drawn the short straw is nearly drowned (unintentionally) and ends up being rescued by the other man.

Although this book, along with The odd women, did some more to dispel my distrust of Victorian VMCs, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much – I wonder perhaps because I read it so close to a book that I had loved. I didn’t find its commentary on women went as far – it was much more a book about friendship between women than the lot of women. On the other hand, it went a lot further into the issue of class which plagued society, satirising it.

Do look at Simon’s review as it goes into it a lot further than me!


  1. I really loved this one and am pleased to see you liked it - the Victorians are marvellous when you click with them!

  2. I was sold at 'heiress' and 'vicar'! Thanks, Verity!

    After being completely floored by The Odd Women I bought two more Gissing novels and now I'm frightened to read them in case they don't live up. I'll get over it I'm sure.

  3. Thanks for the link to my review, Verity! So glad you liked this too; I agree that it was a brilliant conceit to have the straws drawn at the beginning, and having Lady Newhaven guessing...

    I must read The Odd Women, I know I'll love it... but maybe not during A Century of Books...