France Hodgson Burnett has been a favourite author since the days when I first read A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. This particular title hadn’t come to my notice before, possibly because it is not exactly a children’s book. It deals with some pretty adult subjects including promiscuity and murder, though in a slightly roundabout fashion most of the time.
I read the ebook version: picked it off the Amazon website as I do with so many books these days simply because it was a. written by FH Burnett and b. free! Starting out, it reads a bit slow, as do so many classic literary titles. The writing is however as compelling as ever, and enfolds the reader in the characters, and makes you want to turn one page and then the next and the next.
The story is a simple if unusual one. A nobleman marries a young bride, who then becomes his broodmare, unfortunately producing only daughters and sickly ones at that. When we meet the primary heroine of the book, Clorinda, it is at her birth and her mother has just tried unsuccessfully to take her newborn child’s life and died in doing so. We progress to Clorinda’s upbringing among servants of the household, her increasingly brash nature (like her father we are told) until one day she comes across her own father and beats him about the legs with a crop. From then he takes to the child as he has not to his two elder dull daughters, and Mistress Clorinda grows up wild and wilful. A sea change comes over her when she turns sixteen, and the rest of the book deals with her campaign to acquire a husband, and become a ‘great lady’. A fascinating tale in itself.
Saying anything further would spoil the book for you dear reader, but let it suffice to say that this is one of those books that you should read. I liked it overall though there were discrepancies in the storyline, and Clorinda is sometimes rather more than even one’s imagination can be led to believe in. Her lacklustre sister Anne sometimes seems to take center stage herself, and like another reviewer I find myself wondering which if the sisters the title actually describes.
The highlight of the book is the pace of the writing, and without a doubt the talent of its author to hold your attention.
A book designer, Arati has always enjoyed books and the world of imagination that they open up. She is extremely accident-prone, due entirely to absent-mindedness caused by thinking about books and their contents, instead of paying attention to what she's actually supposed to be doing. She reads multiple books simultaneously, and her choices range from cookbooks and design manuals to fantasy, crime and Regency romances.
She lives and works in London, UK and sells her art on paper and textiles at Etsy