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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Downton without Maggie Smith, 8 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Helen (Kindle Edition)
Reading Maria Edgeworth's first and most famous novel, Castle Rackrent, gave me a feeling of a potential not fully developed. A quick read about a novelist whom I had previously heard of but not known encouraged me to expect that her late novel, Helen, might show the fulfilment of that potential. Alas, this was not the case. Whereas Rackrent has individuality of style, a narrative voice via an unusual persona, unexpected ironies and twists of perspective and lively characters, Helen is full of cliches and stereotypes - a kind of 19th C Downton Abbey without the servants or Maggie Smith. Helen herself is an insufferable prig while the other characters are caricatures. Far from being the successor to Jane Austen I had hoped for or even better a worthwhile voice in her own right, I found by the middle of the novel that my reading experience was superficial and not worth the time being invested - there is a lot of padding to achieve the obligatory "three volumes" expected in her period. I therefore abandoned Helen before irritation could turn to resentment and moved on to more rewarding experiences from Gissing, Meredith and Jerome K Jerome. I still think the brief and unpretentious Castle Rackrent worth the quick read it requires but it now seems that this might be the peak of her achievements rather than the foot hill.
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