Thursday, 6 May 2010

Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary

This is my first attempt at a book review. So here goes. Firstly I loved this book. It delighted, surprised and gave me so much more than I thought it would. I chose it because it was the Persephone that interested me most, from the small selection in the local book shop.
I knew I'd like it right from the start. Each chapter begins with a passage and I love books that do that.
One of the main characters is the house, Keepsfield.
'It's more than a mansion - it's Buckingham Palace whitened, and in a better setting.'
Lady Rose is full of love, imagination and excitement. For life. And for Scotland.
'I'm so happy. I'm all little bubbles inside.' Drinking life up.
'My eyes ached with trying to see everything at once and not miss anything.' she writes when visiting London.
But those around her don't share her vitality.
'Enthusiasm is so tiring, Rose, and I'm afraid it may give you wrinkles.' Thankfully she has an aunt who when asked by Rose if it is a bad thing to have an imagination responds.
'A good thing. You enjoy everything so much more. It gives you so many worlds to live in; you skip lightly out of one into another. From star to star; comet-like.'
Lady Rose and her friends are presented in court with their finery and high spirits. Wondering what they're eating. 'Perhaps it is pate of peacock' You just know how sumptious everything must have been. Daydreaming who they may marry. Discussing meeting a man like Mr Darcy...

The story is hinged around three tourists who are visiting Keepsfield. I like them, especially when one says as she's asked to pose for her photograph.
'That background, it doesn't belong to us. Why should we force ourselves into it, just so that we can have some pictures to show our friends at home of our smug little selves in the midst of unsuitable magnificance? I won't do it.'
And that's why Persephone books are great. Suddenly a sentence reaches out and grabs you., right when you're not expecting it.
It's a book of flashbacks that tell the story. And oh how I loved how Time was talked about to wend you back...
'Somewhere hidden away in the dusty portfolio of Time was a picture which fitted here... So old Time seized his book and began turning back the pages, ten, twenty at a time - more than seventy years of yellow leaves.'

It's election day here and this is what I'd scheduled to post, before finishing this novel.
Have you voted? When was the book you're reading written? Would your heroine have been able to vote? Would the authoress have been able to vote? She may have written a book, which had been published but just think. In 1918 women over 30 could vote and it wasn't until 1928 that the Equal Franchise Act meant women and men had the same right. So, Ruby Ferguson, who wrote Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary, was at Oxford University but unable to vote. It would have been unthinkable for Lady Rose.
Now I've finished Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary today seems the right day to post my review. Why? For passages like this, from Rose's school friend.
'I mean that we aren't expected to want to live, or to do things, or achieve things. We haven't to have any views or aspirations; and ideas are improper and dangerous. ...If I had my way women should be free to do the same things as men; come and go as they wished, and read and talk, and be doctors and lawyers, and financiers, and Members of Parliament, and newspaper writers. Wouldn't that be wonderful?'
And then later about Lady Rose herself
'She had cried on her bed all the afternoon, realizing bitterly that in 1874 married women had no rights, even if they were countesses.'
These are women with thoughts, imaginations, desires and they're not able to fulfill them. They stay as dreams...
We, or maybe it's just me, start reading these period novels and wish to be Lady Rose, in her vast house, wearing her amazing dresses. However, as her story unravels it brings a shiver down my spine. How could I have wanted her life? The repression? The Rules? Spoken and Unspoken? I want my life. Yes it took time to meet Warmth but we met each other and fell in love, it wasn't arranged for us.

I shall write no more for fear of giving the story away. Our visitors to Keepsfield want more. They think the end of the story is 'vague and disappointing' and are told.
'But in real life things go like that. Our stories have no ending. We come into the light for a little while, and then we move into the shadows and nobody sees us any more.' For us the reader there is more. But do we dare read on? As Ruby Ferguson writes before the final chapter.
'If any reader feels that this is a fitting place to make an end he can conveniently do so. ...A story is not told unless it is told in its entirety; but that is no reason for forcing it whole upon a reader with a literary conscience. You may read no more; but if you must, well, then, you must.'

Thank you Claire and Verity for organising this week.
I've gained so so much from it.
Happy Living our own life. Happy Daydreaming,
Relish and Enjoy our freedom to vote.
Happy Persephone Week to you all


  1. What a beautifully poetic first review, Joan!

    Lady Rose & Mrs Memmary is my favourite Persephone and has a special place in my heart.

    Today I am thankful that, unlike Lady Rose, I have the power, privilege and right to vote.

  2. I think Lady Rose may have become my favourite Persephone too.

  3. "However, as her story unravels it brings a shiver down my spine. How could I have wanted her life? The repression? The Rules? Spoken and Unspoken? I want my life."

    Yes, exactly! The transition from romance to the harsh realities of the period was amazing.

  4. Oh, dear I am overcome. and horribly torn between wanting to snatch this book up right now and wanting to save it up for the perfect moment. Thank you for that!

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  6. Thank you for your lovely comment :)

  7. Another Persephone for my wishlist... I love the quotes, especially the one that begins "That background, it doesn't belong to us..."
    Great review!


Ooh how lovely more stripes on the page...
Thank you for taking the time.