Top positive review
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Heartbreak of surplus generation of women
on 16 September 2008
'Mary thought of her busy, happy life. She compared it to Kathy's fullness; it seemed starvation...'
This beautifully written, minutely observed novel will break your heart (and if you are a middle-aged spinster make you thankful that you are unmarried in the 21st century and not in the years after the Great War.)
Mary, the rector's daughter, is only in her mid-30s, dowdy, devotedly loyal to her chilly Victorian father, determinedly cheerful. Her quiet, mostly contented life is shattered when she falls in love; she is held in the man's arms and kissed ... but only once. When her father dies, Mary's life expands and, in a way, she blossoms; she is embraced into the world of Unnecessary Females - all those busy, active, organising but unfulfilled English spinsters of her generation.
But just as fascinating and beautifully observed is the unsuitable marriage of brash, thick-skinned Kathy and the austere clergyman who - on the face of it - should have married Mary.
Flora M Mayor knew from experience the heart-aching loneliness of the unmarried and childless; over 30, she was devastated when her own fiance died of typhoid /malaria as they were making their wedding plans.
Her book will haunt you.
Postscript, Sept 2009: I see that Susan Hill, in her thought-provoking and very readable new book Howards End is on the Landing (a book about books and reading) has placed The Rector's Daughter in her final 40 of books that she couldn't live without. Which places it in some very fine company indeed.