A Book to Hate

Quote of the day, from Madame Claire, by Susan Ertz, 1923:

John, her husband, is as negligible as ever.  I cannot think what you found in him to dislike, unless you, like Nature, abhor a vacuum.

I had never heard of Susan Ertz (1894 -1985) until I got an AbeBook email commemorating the publication of the first ten Penguin paperbacks in 1936.  Madame Claire must have been a popular title, for it was one of those first ten, along with Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.  So I have now put in requests for some of her other books — no longer in active circulation, they appear to be “in storage” at various libraries throughout the state.

And then there’s Anthony Trollope, who lives on in no small part because the BBC keeps resurrecting him.  How else to explain The Small House at Allington?  I had been thinking about reading this book, and I am so glad I didn’t get around to it, because I would have had to stomp on it — and I was brought up to treat books with respect.  As it was, I listened to a radio production of it on BBC 7 — and that’s four hours of my life I am never going to be able to explain away.

I have always thought Charles Dickens something of a misogynist for crafting the most insipid of heroines (Lucy Manette springs to mind) — that is, until I encountered Trollope’s Lily Dale.  Her name should have set off the alarms, but silly me, I was thinking she would be lively, along the lines of, say, Lizzie Greystock in The Eustace Diamonds . . . .  BUT NOOOOOO!!!!  The idiot girl falls in love with someone named Adolphus (!), who ditches her when he finds out she is to have no marriage settlement from her uncle the Squire.  Adolphus  marries a titled heiress named Lady Alexandrina (!!) de Courcy, only to find — in a small bit of justice– that  there’s more title than money to be had from the alliance.  And does our heroine hold her head high and metaphorically kick Adolphus to the curb?  Of course not — her name is Lily, and in true Victorian “language of flowers” fashion, she is pure of heart and soul and mind — well, OK, it isn’t clear that she actually has a mind . . . .  but nevertheless, she declared she would henceforth consider herself a widow (!!!) and devote the rest of her days to nurturing the memories of her beloved Adolphus.

*Sigh*  Nothing like a morbid Victorian heroine to suck the life out of a book.

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