A Lady of Quality (by Frances Hodgson Burnett)

For many years I had assumed that Frances Hodgson Burnett had only written three books - the classic children's novels 'The Secret Garden', 'Little Lord Fauntleroy', and 'A Little Princess'. So it was quite a surprise, when looking for free Kindle books, to discover several other books she had written, some of them for adults. I read one or two of the others and - on the whole - liked them.

So a couple of weeks ago, I started reading 'A Lady of Quality'.

There's a reason why some great writers produce books that are almost unknown. This novel features an eminently dislikeable heroine, Clorinda, whose mother died giving birth to her. Her father is appalling, drinking and hunting, and ignores his three daughters entirely, barely noticing his young wife's demise. However Clorinda is a strong-willed fighter who learns at a young age to tame horses - and when her father meets her, he is very taken with her.

So she spends her childhood with her father's depraved companions, learning to drink and to swear, uninterested in women, often dressing as a boy. Until she decides, one day, to become a society lady.. and her about-turn and transformation was very difficult to swallow.

I don't mind a slight excess of emotion, description or moralising in books of this era, but this one went on for pages, sometimes, without adding to the plot at all. I kept reading because I was interested in Clorinda's sister Anne, and because some of the plot developments caught my interest - but towards the end I skimmed several pages in order to finish it more quickly.

There really isn't anything to like about this book; the ending is theoretically positive, although rather depressing, but some of what happens made extremely unpleasant reading. It's not exactly a gothic novel, but there are elements of that genre.

I don't think I'll be reading this again, and really wouldn't recommend it - but if you're now intrigued, make sure to get the free ebook edition.

Review by copyright 2014 Sue's Book Reviews

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