Friday, January 18, 2013

The Darker side of Edwardian Conventions

Rowena, Prudence and Victoria were brought up as sisters, although Prudence is the daughter of their governess. Sir Philip encouraged all three girls to be independent and question the conventions of upper-class life. He didn't expect them to lockstep though the traditional d├ębutante role expected of upper-class girls. His death changes all that. They become the wards of their uncle and move to his grand house, Summerset Abbey, where his wife plans to drag Rowena and Victoria into their traditional roles. For Prudence, she has other plans. Prudence is not Sir Philip's daughter. Therefore, she should be treated as a servant. This change of circumstances is very difficult for all three girls, but particularly Prudence and Victoria. Rowena hates the new responsibilities thrust on her and does a poor job of helping the younger girls cope. She is completely unable to stand up to her uncle and can't protect them, or herself.

The Edwardian period is beautifully described. The history is accurate as are the customs and the dialog. I thought the author did an excellent job of bringing the period to life. Many portrayals of the Edwardian period, like Downton Abbey, tend to show the luxury and beauty of the period. This book shows the luxurious life style, but it also shows how difficult and unfair life could be even at the top of society.

The characters are well drawn. I loved Prudence and Victoria. Prudence is a good person caught in a trap not of her own making. Victoria very much wants to be her own person and make her own way. She's trapped not only by her class, but her asthma. Rowena is a weak person. She doesn't want to be, but she vacillates and is unable to carry out the plans she knows are right. She drifts; as a result, others suffer. While I didn't like all the characters, I thought the author did a good job of bringing them to life.

I highly recommend this book if you like historical fiction, particularly of the Edwardian Period. This book is a treat.

I reviewed the book for Net Galley.