The Rector’s Daughter by F M Mayor

I finished this several days ago and I’ve struggled to write about it, because it is such a profoundly sad, and in some ways, distressing book. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, or that it isn’t a good book, because I did, and it is; it’s more than good, actually. In fact, it’s one of the most well written books I’ve ever read. I think that’s why it had such a powerful effect on me, because it was such a truthful and poignant and human novel. The characters felt like real people to me by the end, and I was so drawn in to their world that I was left reeling each time I closed the pages, sometimes not being able to bear to pick it back up again. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a strong reaction to a book, and I was surprised that this struck such a painful chord with me. I think it is because the main character is that much feared figure for a single woman; a spinster – pitied, unfulfilled, living a life of quiet, desperate usefulness to others, judged to have missed out on the true meaning of life by women who have successfully married and become mothers.

Mary Jocelyn is the Rector’s daughter of the title. She is in her thirties, stuck at home with her querulous, fiercely intelligent, impatient, yet well meaning elderly father, and watching other people’s lives go on around her. She exists to be of use to her family; first of all, she cares for her mentally deficient sister, who then dies, and after that, her increasingly aged father. She is so used to being alone, and to having few friends, that despite a rich and interesting imagination and remarkable intelligence, she struggles in social situations and is frequently misunderstood. The local villagers adore her, but those of her own set dismiss her as dull and odd. She longs for affection, for someone to bare her soul to, but even her closest friend Dora, also a spinster, is unable to offer this to her. Her father, Canon Jocelyn, treats her like a child, and though he loves her dearly, he is unable to express his feelings and instead comes across as cold and criticising.

Despite all of this, Mary is a cheerful, undemanding, gentle soul who is happy with her life. She doesn’t ask for much more than she has, and she has taught herself to be content with her lot. She doesn’t begrudge other people the happiness she so desires, and she is generous, kind, and compassionate to all. Then, one day, her world is rocked when a new curate, Mr Herbert, comes to Dedmayne, the small dreary village in which they live. Without realising it, Mary falls head over heels in love, and at last it seems her dreams are about to come true. But then they are suddenly, heartbreakingly, devastatingly dashed, and Mary’s life of gentle content is ruined forever. How can she ever now be content with the greyness of her life, when she, for a brief moment, lived in a rainbow of glorious colour?

Pushed about from pillar to post, belonging to no one, Mary’s life appears a shadow next to those of the married, busy, fulfilled women she is surrounded with. The quiet, desperate sadness that fills her days is amplified by the fact that everyone around her is so busy with their own happy and exciting lives that Mary is all but forgotten, and her unhappiness goes unnoticed. Worst of all, she must watch Mr Herbert and his wife’s unconventional, explosive, yet happy marriage unfold before her, forever wishing she were the one he had loved enough to marry. It was this juxtaposition of the emptiness and fullness of what a woman’s life can hold that pained me the most. Like Mary, I wondered at the unfairness of how some can have everything they dream of, and others nothing. Even if, as Mary does, you force yourself to make the best of things, that raw pain in your heart that lets you know you are not truly content can never really go away.

I felt Mary’s pain all the way through this searingly honest portrayal of a life that did not hold the promise its heart dreamed of. I so wanted Mary to be loved, I so wanted her to have the children she desired, and the home and husband of her own she longed for and would have so enjoyed. But it didn’t happen, and I couldn’t bear it, largely because, as I said earlier, I fear this fate so much for myself (yes, despite only being 24!). This is such a brilliant book, worthy of being a classic, really, in that it so perfectly encapsulates how limited unmarried women’s lives could be before the advent of feminism, as well as being such a tenderly, movingly written portrayal of the often stark, disappointing realities of life. I loved it, as much as it pained me to read it, because I was completely and utterly transported into the world of Dedmayne and its inhabitants, and I cared deeply for every character within it. Mary’s story is what would have been my beloved Anne Elliot’s, I feel, if Captain Wentworth hadn’t come back, and the best phrase I can feel to sum The Rector’s Daughter up is from Captain Wentworth’s lips; it ‘pierce[d] my soul’.ย  I can’t recommend it enough.


  1. Book Psmith says:

    This is a book I have been on the fence about reading but I have to say your review has settled my indecision. At this juncture in my reading life, I am drawn to female characters are unmarried. I was touched while reading your post by your reaction and how personal it was. Thank you for this review.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Stacey. I’m glad you’re going to give this a go now. It’s not an easy read but it is such a well written and characterised book that I still enjoyed the reading experience even though it made me feel so uncomfortable. I’d be interested to know the thoughts of someone who is married on the book, for a different perspective.

  2. Rachel, you have once again touched me with your words and drawn me into the story, made me feel for Mary Jocelyn before I even realized I was.

    Actually, your review of this seemingly poignant book gave me pause to reflect on how we treat each other as women. What messages we still signal to each other without intentionally meaning to. The vacant feeling at having not been asked to the dance, the child not born, the dream not realized. There are so many more opportunities for women and choices, freedoms, yet a book such as The Rector’s Daughter can still bring about the emotions you experienced reading it.

    “I loved it as much as it pained me to read it” – what a striking testimony to the book – what a heartfelt review. Much thanks.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Penny! You are far too generous to me.

      You are so right. I think there is still a certain amount of ‘status’ given to a married woman compared to a single one, and I don’t think we’ve moved on much as a society in our attitudes towards women who are single from the 19th century. I think the overriding societal belief that a woman’s ultimate destiny and source of fulfilment is in motherhood is probably to blame, because there is that sense that a woman who has not had children has failed in some way. I think women can be perfectly happy and have wonderful lives without being married or becoming mothers, but the surrounding pressure of society is what makes those choices, or simply unchosen circumstances, become more difficult to cope with, and massively undervalued by others, than they should be.

  3. I’m also 24 and I’m also absolutely terrified that this kind of fate awaits me. It may be the 21st Century, but I suppose some things don’t change. The Rector’s Daughter has been on my wish list for some time and now, after reading your wonderfully detailed and personal review, I’m even more desperate to track down a copy!

    1. bookssnob says:

      It’s true – attitudes towards single women really haven’t changed much, and the belief that marriage is the happy ever after for every girl makes it hard to be single when you’re surrounded by magazines and TV shows and romantic movies that tell you so. I’m glad you enjoyed the review and I hope you get a chance to read it soon. It’s powerful stuff. I still can’t stop thinking about it, actually.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Hmmmm. I have been sort of ambivalent about this book, but your post here has made me decide to give it a read. Thanks for the insightful review!

    1. bookssnob says:

      I’m glad to hear that Jennifer! Thank you for reading and I’m pleased you enjoyed the review enough to want to go out and read it for yourself!

  5. Study Window says:

    As a sixty year old spinster who has an extremely happy and fulfilled life, I’m not quite certain where I stand on this. Clearly, it would have been different had I been born at the same time as Mary, especially as I come from very working class stock, and it would also probably have been different had I ever wanted children. I know I’ve been very lucky to have been able to use education as a way of building the sort of life that is my ideal. However, that wouldn’t stop me appreciating a well written novel and if I come across a copy I shall certainly try it.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Well I think your life exactly illustrates how wrong the popular conception of ‘spinsterhood’ is. Feminism meant that women could choose the lives they wanted for themselves, and choosing a life that makes you happy, whether single, married, childless or a parent, should be a totally individual decision that is respected. In many ways women I know think getting married and having children will mean their lives are complete, but then actually, once it happens, they realise there is still much of them that is unfulfilled. Our relationships to others are just a small aspect of a whole life and it makes me sad that society judges people just by whether they are in a relationship with someone else or not. Single women are always portrayed as objects of pity and it really angers me, because there are so many single women out there who are living amazing independent lives and achieving so much, and they don’t care two hoots whether there’s a man there to share it with them or not. It just seems to be everyone else who does – it’s not considered a happy ending when a woman ends up on her own, is it? There are actually many benefits to being single and they are too often ignored in the light of the perceived benefits of being in a relationship. I have done far more in my early twenties than my friends in long term relationships, because I have no one to compromise with and can do whatever I like, when I like!

  6. Deb says:

    Barbara Pym’s books are filled with church-going “spinsters” who do good works and (occasionally) do meet a man–sometimes their love is requited, sometimes not. However, Pym’s books don’t have the melancholy vein this one seems to have.

    Also, don’t think I’m lecturing, but 24 is too early in life to be glum about your marital prospects. Anyway, always remember you’re not a “spinster,” you’re a “batchelor girl.” A bachelor girl is a woman who’s never been married; a spinster is a woman who’s never been married…or anything else.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Yes, I must read more Barbara Pym. I rather enjoyed Jane and Prudence, I must say. That was definitely not melancholic and The Rector’s Daughter has a real profound sadness to it that Pym doesn’t bring to her work from what I’ve seen.

      Haha! Thanks! Bachelor Girl it is!

  7. Vipula says:

    I have owned this book for ages but have not yet read it. I could not seem to get involved in the first few chapters. I knos sometimes you need to give more time to a book – after reading your review I think I will definitely attempt reading it .

    1. bookssnob says:

      It’s a bit of a slow starter, and I can understand why you initially struggled. I’d really encourage you to push on through and give it another go – it really will be worth it!

  8. David Nolan says:

    Your review has left me feeling a bit of an intellectual lightweight for having found The Rector’s Daughter a rather heavy-going plod. This is despite seeing the parallels with Persuasion, which is a novel I have always liked.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Well David, one person’s treasure is another’s trash, as the saying goes! I may be going against popular opinion, I don’t know, but this is very much a woman’s book, I think, and I doubt it would resonate as much with a man, which is probably why you didn’t enjoy it. I think perhaps if I’d read it at a different place in life, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it or had it resonate with me as much, though I am sure I still would have appreciated the extraordinary quality of the writing.

      1. David Nolan says:

        I hope I didn’t give the impression that I thought The Rector’s Daughter is a poor book. I know it means a lot to many people, and that’s great. I don’t think the problem was that it is “a woman’s book”, since there are plenty of books with that label that I have greatly enjoyed. It was more a case, as you suggest, of different things appealing to different people. I also think it is probably a book that benefits from a deeper sort of reading than I gave it. I was moved by what you said about your reponse to Mary, and by some of the other comments here. I would probably have got more out of the book if I had read such comments first.

    2. bookssnob says:

      In reply to your last comment, no, I didn’t think that at all! I just took it that you couldn’t get into it at that point in time, for whatever reason. Plenty of books that people wax lyrical about either don’t appeal to me or I just don’t feel an affinity with them at that point in time. Maybe your Rector’s Daughter time will come, and you will enjoy it more another time around!

  9. Penny says:

    I’ve just found your blog and have been so enjoying browsing through it! I have The Rector’s Daughter in Virago, but have never read it. I must do so now!
    I love Barbara Pym and as I was reading your reviews, I wondered if you knew about her. I’m re-reading No Fond Return of Love at the moment and thoroughly enjoying it all over again. I would argue, though, that her Quartet in Autumn is a very sad (some say depressing) book…
    I, too, adore Dorothy Whipple and have been reading her for many years! My husband’s a big fan of her books, too.
    Have you read Miss Mole by E.H. Young? I think you would enjoy it.
    And finally, I have a 21 year old daughter who shares your fears, not because she feels it would be a stigma to be a ‘spinster’, but because she wants someone to love and be loved by and to share her life with…

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Penny, it’s lovely to see a new face! I’m so glad you are enjoying my reviews.

      Yes, I have read one solitary Barbara Pym so far – Jane and Prudence – which I have reviewed. I am not buying any new books this year because I have too many unread ones, and as I have no other Pyms in the TBR pile, that’s why I haven’t read any more. I certainly want to, though, and have always read reviews of her books with much interest!

      Another Dorothy Whipple fan! That’s lovely to see! I do enjoy E H Young as well but I don’t have a copy of Miss Mole so haven’t read that yet, though I have heard it is very good.

      I think a lot of girls my age who are single have these fears. We just want a little romance in our lives, and we fear it’s never going to happen! It doesn’t help that a lot of my friends have married very young and I have to see them start out on married life when I haven’t even got a whiff of any romance yet! It’s frustrating, but then single life has its benefits too, and I am lucky in many ways that I am financially secure and have a good job and many wonderful friends, and can do whatever I like without having to compromise with anyone. As a bit of an adventurer, this is certainly a good thing! Though that longing for a partner never quite goes away, especially as I am ridiculously broody!

  10. Teresa says:

    Regarding fear of spinster-hood, I was also terrified of the prospect of long-term singlehood when I was in my early 20s, but now, in my late 30s with no prospects looming, I find it’s quite a pleasant life. These days, I think that marriage and singlehood just have different sets of challenges and rewards from each other. One situation is probably not better or happier than the other.

    And regarding this book, I am intrigued. I find it interesting that her great love occurred somewhat late in life (for that time period anyway). I wonder if that would make it harder or easier to cope with (both for the character and for me as a reader of similar age to the character).

    1. bookssnob says:

      Teresa, you are an admirable and wise woman. I think you are exactly right. Without wishing to be offensive to her three children (we know she adores us!), my mother often says that if she had her time again she’s not sure she would marry or have children. I don’t think it helps that my parents didn’t have the best marriage, but I can see her point – she hasn’t really done anything for herself because my dad and then we children took over her life. I don’t think she’s been able to do anything spontaneous or adventurous since her teens. It all depends on who you marry of course, but there is a freedom in singleness that ensures a life well lived, on your own terms, and though it can at times be difficult, I’d far rather ‘paddle my own canoe’ as Louisa May Alcott would say, than be trapped in a relationship where my personality and desires were stifled for someone else’s. I am just thankful that single women have the freedom to be who they want to be and do want they want now, rather than be stuck as companions to others, as they were in Mary Jocelyn’s day.

      That’s a very good point. I think it probably did make it harder for Mary to cope with because it happens so suddenly, and she discovers a side of herself she never knew existed. I think such an upheaval would have been easier for her to deal with had she been younger, but at the age she is, and knowing it’s probably never going to happen again for her, the pain is much worse.

  11. Merenia says:

    Hi Rachel, this was such a sensitive and beautiful review and put into words all the thoughts I have had about this novel, without being able to articulate them as you would! The Rector’s Daughter would be among my top favourite books ever for it’s beautifully sketched depiction of silent suffering and disappointment and the perfectly natural longing for the love and companionship of married and family life. The writing is exquisitely carved and FM Mayor deserves greater recognition as a gifted writer. I do think it is a book of it’s times though, in that female ‘singlehood’ for females is not the horror it was even 50 or 100 years ago, due to the ‘independences’ women have gained since then. But I understand fully about button pushing books – I can’t at this point read books that mine the topic of motherhood, (there are a few Persephone’s on this topic that I am definetly not up to), or I become completely insecure, ridden with guilt and anxiety, and generally unhinged about how I’m doing as a Mother. Thanks again for your gorgeous and vibrant words.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Merenia! Thank you, what a lovely comment. You do yourself an injustice – your description of the book is perfect. It’s such a subtly heartrending book, that doesn’t need to be melodramatic to create the pull on the heart that it does. I really can’t believe that more people don’t read her books, or that they aren’t studied as classics alongside Austen, the Brontes, etc. I agree – singleness is no longer what it was, but I think the status given to married women in society compared to their single counterparts is still there, whether it’s acknowledged or not.
      Button pushing books I suppose change as you go through life – that’s really interesting, and touching, about your inability to read books about motherhood now. I’m certain you are a wonderful mother, and the fact that you don’t like reading about motherhood because you care so much demonstrates that perfectly. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. heather says:

    What a tremendous review and heartfelt comments. The Rector’s Daughter is now on the list!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thank you, Heather, I really appreciate that. I hope you read it soon – if you do, come back and tell me what you think!

  13. Darlene says:

    Your reviews are so thought-provoking, Rachel! Just yesterday I had a talk with R about how my life would have been different if I had not quit my job to stay home with our daughter. We must all have days when we want the opposite situation from those we’re living in? This book sounds like a very touching read and one to make us thankful for the good things in our life!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks, Darlene! Of course we do – the road not travelled will always hold mystery for us. Could we have been happier? We’ll just never know. This really profoundly moved me in many ways and did make me grateful for all of the wonderful aspects of my life that I sometimes take for granted.

  14. Kate says:

    Oh wow. I’ve actually passed this book a few times at the used bookstore down the street. I suspect I’m going to have to go back and get it now. Lovely review!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Kate – run and get it now! You won’t regret it!

  15. savidgereads says:

    What a wonderful review Rachel. If I hadn’t already been desperate to read this after all Susan Hill has said about it, you have now made this a book that I simply have GOT to read! Wonderful, wonderful review.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks, Simon! I know Susan Hill waxes lyrical about this too – one rare occasion where our tastes appear to overlap! I hope you get hold of this and read it soon, it really is superb.

  16. I loved the Rector’s Daughter, and in a way felt it had a happy ending, It’s heartbreaking but there is fullfilment there too.
    I think you make a very good point about the pressure that still exists for women to marry – that without a succesfull relationship your somehow a failure. It should be crap but it’s pressure that’s hard to ignore – that somebody with as much to offer as you have should even worry about it is proof of that.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Yes, you’re right – it’s not all doom and gloom. What I loved about Mary was her ability to make the best of things and rise above her limitations, and in that sense, she did have a fulfilled life, even if it wasn’t exactly the life she wanted.
      Hayley what a lovely thing to say! Thank you! The pressure is definitely there and it’s not easy, though I refuse to be made to feel inferior because I’m not in a relationship. Nothing irritates me more than being weighed and measured according to whether a man has ‘chosen’ me or not!

  17. Merenia says:

    Hello again Rachel, I have so enjoyed following the discussion triggered by this book. Almost as soon as I posted my comment I realised I had worded badly the part about the ‘naturalness’ of Mary longing for married and family life. I think that should be rephrased into ‘longing for companionship or a mate’. Am aware that both the state of marriage and the having of family are not universal desires or aspirations and not an inevitable part of having a mate. Nobody pulled me up on this, I just wanted to correct myself in case I came across as completely old fashioned and assumming we are all born with the desire for a married relationship and children and that this is the only path to happiness! Not explaining this well. Think I’ll just stop here… perhaps have studied too much sociology and now neurotic about my every assertion!

    Your posts have often given rise to some great ‘life’ discussions, they are a facet of your blog that I really relish. I do believe a lot of the truths of life and how to live can be found in the novel and how I LOVE to ‘discuss’ them with kindreds!

    Desperate Reader is very right, it is a very ‘couple’ focused world and finding a place as a single person in all of that is awkward and lonely at times; as someone who did not find a mate until almost 30, I recall it VERY well.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Oh Merenia, I didn’t think you worded it badly at all. I think many women want to be married and to have a wedding day, etc, and there is a certain naturalness about that – everyone wants to be special and loved and feel they ‘belong’ to someone else, and marriage is the public way in our society of expressing that.

      Thank you, Merenia – I really enjoy these discussions too. It’s so wonderful to know that I am not alone in the way I think and see the world.

      It is a very ‘couple’ focused world, and ‘single’ is abnormal, and inferior, and worthy of pity, and I so wish it wasn’t. I am not ‘single’ really – I have many significant relationships with a variety of people and I certainly don’t feel inadequate just because one of those people isn’t a man who wants to be my boyfriend. However I often do feel the awkwardness and frustration and sheer misery of being treated differently by my coupled peers, and when I do eventually meet someone, I am going to remember those feelings and NEVER treat single people the way I have been treated by smug couples. I’m sorry you had to experience the same thing, but I am delighted that happiness has come for you and that you can enjoy the life you so wanted. I’m sure the wait was worth it – I hope it will be for me, too.

  18. (partly in reply to Merenia) I agree that people are not meant to be alone – I don’t think it suits us at all and is perhaps where a lot of the pressure comes from. Who doesn’t want to be loved, to feel useful and needed? I think this is also where the power of Mary’s story comes from. The reader can see exactly how much she deserves to be loved and cared for but everybody around her is to busy with their own lives to notice her much. A cruel situation and one designed to strike at the heart of any woman.

    What bothers me in life is that single women seem to be seen as far more lacking then single men. Making sense of why life doesn’t turn out exactly as you imagined it would is hard enough without feeling judged by the rest of the world if a man won’t validate your existance. It’s also got to be a big part of why women drag on in bad relationships. And now my inner feminist is up in arms I’m off to do something domestic to find some balance…

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hayley, I couldn’t have said it better myself. You are right in every respect.

      Single men are ‘bachelors’ – they have ‘chosen’ to be single, are jack-the-lads, living it up, making the most of life and applauded for not wanting to settle down. Single women are ‘spinsters’ – they are rejects, waiting to be chosen by men, sad, unwanted creatures who live small lives compared to their coupled up sisters. I hate the way that women still have to wait to be chosen – we are still treated as passive objects whose destiny is in the hands of men. And women are just as bad perpetrators of this – it is they who judge other women and consider them lesser species if they are not loved by a man. You’re exactly right – so many women stay in miserable, abusive and just plain unfulfilling relationships because they are more scared of being single than of being miserable inside a dysfunctional ‘relationship’.

      The more I think about this, the more I realise that actually, women are still just as much judged by their relationship to men as they were years ago, when a ring on the finger and the name ‘Mrs’ rather than ‘Miss’ brought instant respect and status. Getting that ring is a mark of success, and not, is failure. The fact that women’s titles change and men’s don’t is another example of how this world is set up to differentiate the women belonging to men and those who don’t – the successful ‘Mrs’, the failure ‘Ms’ and the still waiting to be picked ‘Miss’. I’ve got myself up in arms now!

  19. David Nolan says:

    It’s him up north again. I thought there might still be some people subscribed to the comments on this topic who are not aware that The Rector’s Daughter is Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime this week and next. At the time of writing all four episodes so far are still available. The first part will be the first to disappear but it will still be online until 10.45 pm (BST) on Monday 5th July. It can be found at:

    Having struggled a little with the book, I have to say I am greatly enjoying hearing it read, in abridged form, by Juliet Stevenson.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks for this David – I’m glad you are getting on with it better now you’re hearing it read – I can imagine Juliet Stevenson reads it beautifully. I unfortunately can’t get on with audiobooks or readings – I tend to drift off or start thinking about the washing up and then that’s it!

  20. Hello all.Yes I also am enjoying the Radio 4 broadcasts of this work.As a separated man I can empathise with the heroine.To an extent at least – I am a father.If I’d missed out on that wonderful experience my life may have been a lot sadder.I say ‘may’ cos I can’t ever really know now.I do wish Mr Herbert would ‘cop on’ and make a play for the rector’s daughter!

    Incidentally, I find more and more I prefer to listen rather than read,especially with poetry.Anyone else find this,or am I just lazy?

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Dara, thanks for coming by. I’m glad you’re enjoying the readings and that it’s resounding with you – it’s nice to hear a male point of view on the book.

      Ha! I think we all wish that!

      Personally as I just said to David, I can’t listen to books being read because I just drift off – I like to do something with my hands while I listen and before I know it, my attention has become too focussed on what I’m doing and I lose the thread of the story. A paper book will always suit me best!

      1. Penny says:

        But I find talking books are wonderful when I have a lot of ironing to do. I can get through so much, while drifting off into another world…

        I love paper books, though and have never even considered reading a book from the computer or on one of those portable electronic books.

  21. Mark says:

    Having just finished listening to the BBC Radio 4 version I am pleased to have found your review and the spirited discussion.
    Some books are so good you want to find out what other people thought about them and while Amazon reviews can be ok I have never seen them develop into discussions in the way your review has.
    I also suspect that if I had been reading this rather than listening I would have skipped to the end at some point to see if Mary was going to be allowed some happiness before she died. Part of the success of the Nook at Bedtime version was the unbearable suspense.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Mark, thanks so much for reading and commenting. I seem to have had a lot of traffic from people listening to the Radio 4 serialisation of this and it’s a pleasure to gain new readers as a result. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’m glad you enjoyed my post and the ensuing discussion; I think this is the sort of book that has real power to move people and trigger personal, in depth responses to the story. F M Mayor is an incredible writer and I would strongly encourage you, and anyone else reading this, to read her two other novels, both of which you can find reviews of on my blog. The Rector’s Daughter is her best in my opinion, but The Squire’s Daughter was also excellent, as was The Third Miss Symons.

      Yes, the benefit of a radio version is that you do have to wait and ponder, which is wonderful with a novel like this, as it only heightens the enjoyment and personal engagement. However, much to my annoyance, I really don’t have the sort of brain that can stay tuned in aurally. I drift off far too easily. I need to train myself as I am sure I would love listening to books read aloud on the radio or on CD!

  22. Georgie Bolwell says:

    I think I’m going to read this for my A level English coursework…The story fascinates me, as much as I worry that I will become entirely encapsulated by the sadness that you have described. Would you say that there is any reference to an unmarried woman’s duty to her family? I have to compare the book with King Lear and A Thousand Acres and this is the angle that I have chosen.

    Thank you,


    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Georgie

      There is definitely a lot in this about unmarried women’s duty to their family – particularly in this case the female character has a strong sense of duty to her father, sacrificing her own wishes for him in many ways.

      It would certainly be an inventive text to do for A level – I hope you enjoy reading it and writing about it!

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