Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
Interesting but flawed
on 6 December 2013
I've been a fan of Jenny Uglow's for some while, but this book was a little disappointing. Here are a few reasons:
The book has clearly been researched in depth, but it lacks focus. It claims to be the story of Sarah Losh, yet as other reviewers have commented it is at least as much about her family - a very interesting family, which would merit a book in its own right. Also, every time the narrative drifts off into the family archives, it accumulates a clutter of miscellaneous and distracting trivia which should have been sifted out.
The sub-title is "The story of Sarah Losh, Romantic heroine, architect and visionary". Romantic heroine - eh? SL appears to have been a good and distinguished person, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing in this book to substantiate the word "heroine". That's just plain misleading language. I'll bet it helps sell more copies, though.
The writing is also sometimes uncharacteristically careless. A couple of random examples: on p 193 there is the ugly sentence, "This would hurt Sarah, being such a careful gardener herself"; and in pp 281-3 there is a cataphoric shift from 1884 to "this century" which I think will catch most readers off-balance.
Overall, then, the book gives the impression of having started from an unclear brief, and of the raw material having been bundled together in some haste.
If that sounds over-critical, I should also say that I couldn't put the book down, that I would still recommend it with reservations, that it revived my interest in a fascinating period of our past, that I'll visit the church at Wreay just as soon as I can.
LATER: I visited the church, twice - what a wonderful place.