I like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s fiction – I loved The Secret Garden, I really liked A Little Princess – naturally I assumed that I would enjoy her writing for adults but this seriously lacked something for me.
I honestly found this very dull. Her writing really lends itself to children’s fiction but it didn’t give itself to a romance novel whatsoever. Emily, our protagonist, is just really like a wet weekend. I found her insipid and dreary, I found reading this book really hard work because she was just so… dull.
The first half of the book is Emily making her way in the world, her rags to riches story essentially. The second half, the plot goes “gothic” – I use the term lightly as I like and enjoy gothic fiction, this really felt like parody gothic. It really was just absurd. There were also quite racist undertones which, while may have been acceptable when this was written, still made me uncomfortable when reading.
I really don’t know how many times that as a reader I was reminded that Emily was not intelligent (but she wasn’t stupid!) or that she was childish. There were so many other instances of being told what a character was rather than shown it. I felt bombarded by being TOLD things about the characters which I really would prefer to have explored more passively. The result was that I found it very difficult to care about the characters at all.
I initially gave this book 3* but upon thinking about it and writing this review I’m going to give it 2*. It was passable, it was at least coherent, but I just didn’t enjoy it whatsoever unfortunately.