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The Third Miss Symons (VMC) Paperback – 10 Aug 1987

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Paperback, 10 Aug 1987
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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (10 Aug. 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0860681319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860681311
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 1.1 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,368,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Mayor's achievement is to take the "superfluous female" of the Victorian census return, and transform her into a figure of luminous importance (INDEPENDENT)

As a literary study of that now-extinct creature, the Victorian spinster, it shines (GUARDIAN)

This is a great work of fiction, with deep emotional, moral, intellectual and social content.. (Susan Hill)

Book Description

*A marvellous, moving novel of solitude, spinsterhood and, above all, triumph.
*An extraordinary many faceted account of one woman, and the richness of her being.

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Format: Paperback
Henrietta, "the third Miss Symons," is the third daughter of a large Victorian family. She enters life burdened with two attractive older sisters and parents who don't understand her and don't particularly care for her. They prefer her more straightforward sisters. They certainly don't bother to unlock the secret of her personality: what she wants, more than anything, is to be loved and to be important to someone else. Unfortunately, being loved doesn't come easily to her. She tries too hard, and she herself doesn't understand the motives and behaviors of other people. As she grows older, she falls back on querulousness and bad temper as a way of asserting herself. She needs to feel important, but comes across as irritating. Her desperate need to be needed makes her almost entirely unwanted. She's an interesting and brilliantly drawn character: the reader initially sympathises with her, but gradually--like everyone else--begins to dislike her and to want to give her a good shake. The Third Miss Symons may not be a joyous novel, but it's a brilliant one--a small masterpiece of characterisation. And although it's a short novel, it stayed with me a long time.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First published 1913 and set in mid-Victorian England, Flora MacDonald Mayor's novel 'The Third Miss Symons' focuses on Henrietta, a plain, difficult child who grows into an even more plain and difficult woman. One of seven children, and with three sisters, all of whom are more attractive than Henrietta, poor Henrietta cannot seem to find her place in the world. Her older sisters pity her, but seem to find her a figure of fun; one of them makes a play for Henrietta's lone suitor, only to discard him once she has made the conquest; her youngest sister - whom Henrietta loves dearly, but is unable to adequately convey the depth of her feelings - is fond of Henrietta, but later has her own family to occupy her; even a favourite teacher at Henrietta's old school fobs her off when Henrietta tries to strike up a friendship. The harder Henrietta tries to make people like her, the more they draw away from her, and the more bad-tempered and difficult Henrietta becomes as a result. Will Henrietta be able to break the cycle of her behaviour and find someone who will give her the love and affection she craves - or will she have to resign herself to a life on her own?

With an interesting introduction by Susan Hill, and a Preface by John Masefield, Miss Mayor's brief novel is a wise, perceptive and authentic portrayal of a woman who is trapped as much by her personality as she is by her circumstances, and where the author is very straightforward about her heroine's character flaws: "…it was because [Henrietta] was so unlovable that she was so little loved." This is a sad and, at times, a frustrating story (which makes the reader want to step inside the book and give Henrietta some much-needed advice or, as Susan Hill comments in her introduction, to give her a 'good shake'), but it's impossible not to feel for Henrietta and to become involved in her poignant and cautionary tale.

4 Stars.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Have already read The Rector's Daughter and found this to be also worth reading. A little dark. Perhaps still valid as a warning to women who do not develop their own life. I also suspect she was describing a woman with Asperger's because of her ability to constantly upset people. She had clearly studied someone she knew in order to portray her main character.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As described. Received in a reasonable amount of time.
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