Monday, April 5, 2010
The Rector's Daughter by F.M. Mayor
The writing style of this novel is clearly a throwback to the greats of the female literary tradition - Jane Austen and the Brontës. The story even alludes to their great heroes, such as Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre. However, in plot, this story is really nothing like those that came before it, with the possible exception of Wuthering Heights. Readers will definitely pity and sympathize with Mary, but the extent to which she allows herself to be walked on is sometimes frustrating, and Mr. Herbert is by no definition a second coming of Mr. Darcy. He is an inconstant man, unworthy of the kind and gentle heroine. For readers desiring the classic love story, this is not the place to look. However, this novel has much to offer in other areas. Mary's relationship with her father, the inscrutable Canon Jocelyn, is fascinatingly complex. The highs and lows of their life together is sometimes wonderful and sometimes beautifully painful to watch. Mary's solo adventures are also masterfully developed, evoking both the uncertainty of coming into one's own and the change in the world order that was taking place at the time - a movement from old world morality to modern liberty, two worlds which Mary finds herself trying to navigate simultaneously. Even her strange relationship with Mr. Herbert lends to this effect. The passion he stirs within her previously dormant breast changes her and her life forever, in some ways for the better, in some ways for the worse. This novel is a study in human nature and will often take readers by surprise with its unexpected twists and turns. It sometimes feels as though the reader is being held at arm's length, but this style works well towards rousing the same murky feelings in the reader that reside within Mary's own heart.
This novel can be purchased here.