Rhoda: a novel

Rhoda: a novel - Anonymous I picked up three promising looking volumes in quarter calf on the York University Library shelves. Imagine my disappointment, when I had allowed myself to get interested in 18-year-old Rhoda, raised genteelly but in the country, to discover that volume 2 was bound in two parts, and York did not own volume 3! Google Books, however, came to the rescue with a downloadable pdf, so my reading experience spanned the centuries in a rather bizarre way.

I thought this wasn't badly written an all, although the mechanical way in which the Country-Good City-Bad theme was worked through began to grate after a while. Thought there was actually quite a lot of psychological insight into the late teenage female mind, especially in the early chapters. I'm glad I got to read the third volume, though, because that's where all the incident was concentrated. I even shed an actual tear for Rhoda, if you can believe it, when, after doing absolutely nothing wrong (except perhaps being a bit incautious about showing her emotions), she lost everything that she'd married into, with her middle-aged husband not just withdrawing his affections and good will, but (rather improbably, given his character as previously drawn), committing suicide after an abortive duel with the villain of the piece.

I'm not sure whether this anonymous author could (or would) claim Jane Austen's influence, but there was enough dry wit that I was occasionally reminded of that lady. The reflections on what it meant to conduct yourself as a dependent, and as one who had given a voluntary oath of subservience, were really quite interesting (though bad for the tooth enamel). I could have done without the occasional passage of Christian moralising, but fortunately it was not much insisted on. And, finally, I was amused by the marginalia I found in the original volumes that I read, all in the same, rather spidery and obviously female hand, which seemed nineteenth-century in both its formation of letters and in the sentiments it expressed. That reader was far more in tune with the author's point of view than I was, certainly.

The scramble for volume 3 notwithstanding, I'm glad I pulled this one off the shelves.