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Thursday, 19 September 2013

Book Review: A Lady of Quality by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Lady of Quality, first published in 1896, is one of Frances Hodgson Burnett's novels for adults and treads a completely different path to her famous work The Secret Garden. It tells the story of Clorinda Wildairs and is set in the 1600s. Her mother dies giving birth to her and her father has no interest in his three daughters. He lives a life of debauchery while his youngest daughter picks up some interesting habits in the stables. When he comes across the child and sees her riding his favourite horse, he takes a fancy to her. For a few years she is the renowned companion of drunkards until she transforms herself to catch a husband. One is particularly taken with her but her refusal has reverberations through the years.

I have to say, I struggled with this one. The heroine is too changeable. She goes from being the companion of a bunch of old men to being the prize d├ębutante to being a perfect wife. There are a lot of changes in her character the reader's meant to accept just because she's stunningly beautiful and wondrous and everyone loves her - as we are told on numerous occasions.

Frequently, I felt as if I was actually reading a novel. The handiwork was evident and it was jarring. Two thirds in, the book suddenly becomes interesting with an unexpected event that I expected to throw the heroine into turmoil. It didn't and her life continued pretty much in the same vein. I felt cheated by the ending and more than a little irate at the time I'd wasted with Clorinda.

Far more interesting, though, was her sister, Anne, who is meek and mild and knows everything Clorinda does. For me, Anne is the actual lady of quality and not her beautiful, fabulous sister.

This book suffered from a lack of direction and the ability of the author to immerse herself so much in the heroine at the cost of believability. Not a great read by any stretch of the imagination.

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