Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Doubleday Books in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I had never encountered a writer who could fill a page so entirely with herself, and haven’t since. Mrs. Gaskell is witty, and cutting, and sharp, and hilarious, and gossipy, and excitable, and dramatic, and above all, brimming with love for the people around her.
Nell Stevens describes Elizabeth Gaskell perfectly in the above quote. I found myself shaking my head in agreement. This book immediately caught my attention when I read the synopsis. I was escatic for an opportunity to read and review. Nell Stevens, the author, does her thesis on Elizabeth Gaskell, who happens to be one of my favorite authors. After reading North and South, Cranford (pictured) and Mary Barton, this book made me eager for my next Gaskell read of Wives and Daughters.
The Victorian and the Romantic is a historical memoir of sorts. We go on a journey into the lives of Gaskell and Stevens shared in alternating chapters. This style worked as I learned more about the life of Elizabeth Gaskell, the controversy around the biography she wrote about her friend, Charlotte Brontë (adding this to my book wishlist ASAP) and her friendship with Charles Eliot Norton. At times, I felt as if I traveled back in time and shared conversations and musings with Gaskell.
When I imagine my ideal Ph.D.–the one that could actually be a labour of love, a monomania, a joy to write–it is one long letter to Mrs. Gaskell.
As Stevens struggles with her own love life and the choices and decisions she’s faced with while trying to FOCUS on her dissertation for her Ph.D. does not seem to be an easy feat. Stevens is in an emotional limbo as she faces the challenges of a long distance relationship with her boyfriend Max. But by the time her story collides with her emergency room hallucinations of conversations with Gaskell, Gaskell’s life and advice help Stevens see that it’s time for her to make her own choices and be the author of her own experiences, instead of a critic.
Overall, an interesting and fun summer read. If you’re a fan of Elizabeth Gaskell I’d recommend this one!
Do you enjoy books with alternating viewpoints or storylines? What’s your summer (or your current season read so far?