This was the first of Oliphant's novels that I have come across, and, having finished it, I'm genuinely surprised that she isn't more widely read - as another reviewer has said, she certainly gives Trollope a run for his money, and I'm a big fan of Trollope. 'Hester' gives a very different view of the status of women in the 19th century, well worth reading for anyone interested in 19th century literature or history. However, it's also a genuinely well-written, enjoyable novel, with strong characters and a well-thought out plot. It's less a novel of suspense and more a novel of subtle character development, as we see the ageing, wealthy, businesswoman Catherine Vernon's relationship with the young, penniless, Hester, who is prevented from going out to work by her family's pride. Well worth reading!