I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write a review for this book. I wanted this blog to be about promoting books I think should be read, therefore I don’t write reviews of books other people shouldn’t read. I still don’t know how I feel this book, due to my problem of loving one of the main characters and hating the other one. On one hand this was my problem with The Tenant at Whildefell Hall, and I did recommend that one. Though I did end up loathing the character in this book more than in The Tenant for reasons I will come back to. On the other hand the reason I was inspired to create a blog in the first place was due to Moby Dick, which also left me drawn between hate and love. I found out, due to so few people having actually read it and therefore understanding what I was talking about, I did find writing a mock review (which I haven’t published) helped in understanding my own feelings. On the third hand I don’t think I want to go so far as to say you shouldn’t read the book, I do think the character I loved deserves to be read and talked about and all that good stuff.
Enough rambling. So…
The book is about Leopold van Zonshoven who receives a letter telling him he is his grand-aunts beneficiary after her death. While she is not forcing him, she has asked him to consider marrying the grandchild of her younger brother (Leopold being the grandchild of her younger sister) Francis (she is a woman, but her name is a plotpoint). Leopold says he will try to make this woman marry him, even claiming he will renounce the entire fortune if Francis isn’t willing to marry him. So he travels to meet her and her grand-father at the old family home.
Francis (Majoor Frank) is an amazing character, and I was surprised how she was such a different take on the “not like other girls”-trope, and how I hadn’t thought of how homogeneous “not like other girls”-trope actually was in 19th century books.
I’m exaggerating, but I really haven’t read many women like Francis, who is written to be sympathetic. She was raised as a boy until she was 14, then forced into the female world which she rebelled against. Now as a grown up she is being rejected by society due to her lack of femininity, and she rejects society because she sees the falseness of it in general and how she has been treated specifically. I enjoyed watching this kind, charming, brash, loud mouth, rash person trying to balance the two different world she was now a part of and who she was in the middle of it. She isn’t outright rejecting everything feminine, she just doesn’t know how to deal with it. I loved watching her try to overcome her flaws of harshness, bitterness and keeping people at a distance.
I did not like Leopold van Zonshoven. First of, the book is written from his perspective and we therefore get the same problem I had with The Tenant of Wildefell Hall. The book is structured and written very similar to the opening and ending of that book. Having the book written from Leopold’s perceptive due leave us with a problem when he has no introspection. He has no flaws, which would only make him a dull character if his role in the book hadn’t been to try to help Francis overcome hers. When he says “I will be husband and father” I wanted to throw my ereader across the room, and there was something so aggravating reading about someone who doesn’t acknowledge their faults criticizing a person so much better than them. Even if I know Francis will be a better person because of SOME of it.
My other gripe with the book is that they are treating it as if Leopold is right in everything he says, which makes it on one hand a very dull ending. I really wanted him to be chased by an ostrich until he fell into a lava lake, where he would lie suffering while magpies and loons pecked at him (I might have just watched The Birds by Hitchcock).
But then again, maybe characters like that is just my pet peeve. If you have read The Tenant of Wildefell Hall and wasn’t bothered by Mr. Markham, you will probably like Leopold just fine. But despite of that I would say read the book, because Francis deserves to be read and talked about. Francis deserves better.