23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Heroine becomes annoying,
This review is from: Lady's Maid: An Historical Novel (Paperback)
Modern women's novels set in Victorian times are rare, and so I pounced on this novel when I heard about it. It was certainly a great read early on, offering a beautifully-constructed glimpse into this fabulous lost world.
As Wilson appeared to develop from a mouse into a much more confident person, my attention was hooked, and I was hungry for more. But her transformation is short-lived, and as the novel progressed I became more and more frustrated with her obsession with the self-centred, passive-aggressive Mrs Browning....I do not like my heroines to be pathetic. Or at least they can be pathetic at the start, but then develop. The novel just fizzled for me.
I think the problem stems from basing a novel on real circumstances. It works fine if the real circumstances are dramatic, and if they allow for a real development of plot and character. But the circumstances surrounding the Browings and their maid just result in a kind of stagnation. There is certainly a kind of satisfaction, as a reader, in getting a feel for the bleakness of that time for people in Wilson's social position, and getting to grips with the mindset of a servant. And I think Forster's central aim with A Lady's Maid is to describe Wilson's changing, and increasingly obsessed mindset. But, as far as I'm concerned, it's not a satisfying read. Many a time I just found myself mentally rolling my eyes at Wilson's seemingly stupid choices.
I also would have liked there to be a little more "immediacy" in the story-telling, in the manner of the old writers' adage "show, don't tell". At a couple of points Wilson is "walking out" with a man, but we we barely hear about her beaux. Still, I suppose that, at least, is a matter of taste, and maybe it is more in keeping with the traditional Victorian novel for things to be related in a less direct way. And at any rate, it would have meant a longer novel.