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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotional and thought-provoking
Alas, Poor Lady tells the story of one London family, the Scrimgeours, over a period of more than sixty years, from the Victorian era through to the 1930s. Captain and Mrs Scrimgeour have eight children - seven are girls and only one, the youngest, is a boy - and we get to know all of them, some better than others. We watch as they grow up and try to find their place in...
Published on 23 April 2011 by Helen S

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A novel to cut your throat by
Alas Poor Lady was my mother-in-law's most treasured book. Born in 1904, she was the most bohemian and witty person. Her life as an actress had nothing in common with the poor little down-trodden heroine of this unremittingly tragic story. The plot revolves around a tail-end daughter of a wealthy Victorian family, who simply cannot cope with the horror of being plain,...
Published on 13 Dec 2009 by Mrs. Disraeli


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotional and thought-provoking, 23 April 2011
By 
Helen S - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Alas, Poor Lady (Paperback)
Alas, Poor Lady tells the story of one London family, the Scrimgeours, over a period of more than sixty years, from the Victorian era through to the 1930s. Captain and Mrs Scrimgeour have eight children - seven are girls and only one, the youngest, is a boy - and we get to know all of them, some better than others. We watch as they grow up and try to find their place in society - a society designed to cater only for men and, to a lesser extent, for married women. For a woman who stayed single (whether by choice or not) her options in life were very limited.

I loved this book but I know it won't appeal to everyone. It's slow and detailed, doesn't have a lot of plot, and it did seem to take me a long time to read it. And yet without anything really 'happening' this book still left me with a lot to think about. For anyone with an interest in feminism and the differing roles of men and women in society, I can't recommend Alas, Poor Lady highly enough.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars alas poor lady, 8 Jun 2010
By 
J. A. Percival "book wight" (Hampshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Alas, Poor Lady (Paperback)
Alas Poor Lady is one of those heartrending novels that stick in the reader's mind for ages: Noel Streatfeild's Saplings, also published by Persephone, is another. The plot is simple: the story of a large Victorian family, initially well-to-do, that slowly implodes under the strains of the 20th century. Grace, the youngest of a long family of girls, remains unmarried and as the family's financial resources begin to inexorably dwindle she and her sister Mary are forced into lodgings and near-starvation while their married sisters bicker over who will support the two of them. Rachel Ferguson shows how fear and panic affect people who are thrust into a world that is totally alien to them, and she also draws characters who are totally real: Grace, Mary, Paula, Alison Wrenne and the Wrenne children are pure delight. Her descriptions of middle-class Victorian England and its insane ideas on raising girls to idleness and helplessness are second to none. Someone compared Alas Poor Lady to woodlice when their stone is removed: total chaos and panic ensues. It's a stunning book but good grief, it's emotionally hard to read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Limited lives or Educate your daughters, 3 July 2011
This review is from: Alas, Poor Lady (Paperback)
If you think you would have preferred living in a previous, more elegant time, when families and society really protected women, you will never think so again after reading this.

The Lady is poor, at first only in spirit but as the story progresses also materially. The author has set out to describe the very few possibilities there was for middle class women born before WWI. Even beautiful and/or intelligent women were as limited as their corsets, but the lives of the plain and untalented were truly horrible even before the money run out. Seven different possibilities are described through the seven daughters of a well-to-do officer. Number one comes to marriage completely unprepared and becomes a London cynic. Number two is the brainy one and thus is unmarried and stays at home. Number three and four marry, one lives in the country and the other mostly in India, and both are rather shadowy figures. Number five becomes a nun as the only way to get a life; number six becomes very bitter and eventually gets away by renting a cottage in the country. And number seven, Grace, is the main character, the youngest daughter neither beautiful nor intelligent. When the parents die and the money is willed to male relatives or simply gone the three "remaining" daughters, already middle aged, discovers that they are completely helpless. Not only can they not earn money, they cannot even cook a meal. Grace is forced to become a very bad governess in between living on unwillingly given family handouts.

There are many details and side figures on the way and the long story itself does give a good sense of the very slow lives of unmarried women where the main task is to get time to pass, weather still smothered in cotton wool at home or barely surviving in a rented room. And under everything is a smouldering anger at the way society treats women. It is never in the open and you can probably read the book without noting it, but it is very much there.

I am a bit disappointed that after trying to be unconventional, the author bows to literary convention and lets poor Grace die a happy. It would have been so much more effective and realistic if she had dared to end in spirit of the rest of the book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A novel to cut your throat by, 13 Dec 2009
By 
Mrs. Disraeli (Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Alas, Poor Lady (Paperback)
Alas Poor Lady was my mother-in-law's most treasured book. Born in 1904, she was the most bohemian and witty person. Her life as an actress had nothing in common with the poor little down-trodden heroine of this unremittingly tragic story. The plot revolves around a tail-end daughter of a wealthy Victorian family, who simply cannot cope with the horror of being plain, dull and worst of all, unlikely to marry. She sinks into poverty and the humiliation of being a governess. She is incapable of pulling herself out of her genteel poverty. The story is one of unremitting gloom. Jane Eyre it ain't but perhaps it will make salutory reading for our post feminist generation. Sadly I shall never know why my mother-in-law liked the book so much.
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Alas, Poor Lady by Rachel Ferguson (Paperback - 22 Jun 2006)
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