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Still Worth Reading
on 16 April 2017
Born Mary Annette Beauchamp, but better known to us as Elizabeth von Arnim she led quite an eventful life, but it is her novels that have kept her name known amongst us. This particular novel was first published in 1914 and is an enjoyable read.
Here we meet Ingeborg, daughter of the Bishop of Redchester and we follow her as she grows up into a wife and a mother. It starts with toothache and her being sent to London to have it dealt with, all by herself. Finding that it is an easy operation and having cash in her pocket, and not wanting to rush back home, so she takes herself off on a trip to Lucerne. Here though she finds herself becoming embroiled with an East Prussian pastor, who decides that he wants to marry her.
As we see Ingeborg’s life definitely alters after this. It is interesting to see how her family react, with her father most put out as he relies on her to do all his clerical work. With a heroine here then who is put upon at home, has no real close friends and is in many ways isolated, how will she feel in a foreign country, where she can’t even speak the language?
For us Ingeborg seems at times to be too naive and for some the situations she faces are perhaps dated, but for a lot of women at the time to escape drudgery at home didn’t necessarily mean that they would make ideal marriages, and thus they would find themselves still in despair. We watch her then go through childbirth and watch as so many did a number of her children die early, as well as seeing her once again isolated and very much alone, a stranger in a strange land.
There is quite a bit of comedy here and chances are at times you will find yourself laughing out loud, as well as at other times despairing at the heroine as well as rooting for her. In all this is a woman brought up to serve and obey, and as with many others of the period to do something different and want to be more active meant that they were considered at best eccentric, and at worst ill, or even mad.
An interesting read that although at times does slightly fall into romantic farce, more specifically in the first part, does still have a lot to offer and reminds us all of how attitudes have changed with what women can and cannot do.