Utter madness isn't it *heavy sarcasm*, but for a book published in 1872, this quotation is pretty wild. I've read a lot of 19th century novels over the past few years, and quite a number of the heroines are somewhat lacking in a number of things: independence, a brain, passion and their own opinions to name but a few. Nell in Rhoda Broughton's Cometh Up as a Flower, however is something else - she actually defies feminine stereotypes and scorns the company of other women.
Nell lives alone with her father as her mother died when she was young. Despite their family name being one of high rapport, the Lestranges have gone way down the social ladder in recent years, to an extent that bills are unpaid and Nell's father's health is rapidly declining under economic stress. Nell meets a poor man called McGregor: handsome and flirtatious, he conducts an illicit relationship with her, which is kept a secret from her father. But, when her elder sister Dorothea returns to the family home, things begin to go a bit awry. Is love really worth more than money?
Although this book was written over a century ago, its language is not difficult or burdensome (makes a change for a 19th century novel, right?!). Nell's character is incredibly complex - she has a whole number of ideas concerning the social status of women in England, and has a number of factors which govern her every thought. Her sister Dorothea similarly offers a unique and often perplexing character: driven largely by money, she corrupts everything that is good in the novel and comes across as a true villain. This text really explores what your priorities ought to be when deciding who to marry. It also exposes some harrowing truths about the 'choice' even seemingly independent girls like Nell have concerning marriage. All in all, if you're interested in a look at how advanced first wave feminism could be in literature, this is a great text to go to!
Have you read it? What did you think?