19 Jan 2011

WEDLOCK.

WEDLOCK. HOW GEORGIAN BRITAIN'S WORST HUSBAND MET HIS MATCH by WENDY MOORE.

Precocious and indulged, Mary Eleanor Bowes was the richest heiress in eighteenth-century Britain. Scandalous rumours were quick to spread when she fell under the spell of a handsome Irish soldier, Andrew Robinson Stoney. When Mary heard that her gallant hero was mortally wounded in a duel fought to defend her honour, she felt she could hardly refuse his dying wish to marry her.

Yet within hours of the ceremony, Stoney, seemed to be in the grip of a miraculous recovery ...... and Mary found herself trapped in an appallingly brutal marriage. She was terrorised by violence, humiliation, deception and kidnap, but the life of Mary Eleanor Bowes is a remarkable tale of triumph in the face of overwhelming betrayal.
...... From the outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: Settling down to read his newspaper by the candlelight illuminating the dining room of the Adelphi Tavern, John Hull anticipated a quiet evening.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: The eventual bill, for four-poster beds, flock wallpaper, Wilton carpets, mahogany furniture, vast quantities of fabric for curtains and assorted materials for bedding - including feathers weighing thirty-nine stones - would amount to more than £1,000.

Not an easy book to review but then I always find biographies and memoirs difficult as you cannot comment on the plot which after all is/was someones life or the characters who are/were real people who actually existed(ed) which only really leaves the style and content.

Mainly the story domestic abuse and one woman's struggle to escape her tyrannical husband, Wedlock is at times a harrowing read, the details of Mary's abuse at the hands of her tyrannical husband very graphic and always disturbing. But somehow less-so than the attitude shown by much of society which at this time saw women as very much second class citizens.

Obviously very well researched, fascinating, insightful, tedious, confusing and shocking are just some of the words I would use to describe Wedlock.

The author's powers of description really brought this biography to life. Reading her describing Georgian Newcastle ......

'.... horrible, like the ways of thrift it is narrow, dark and dirty.'  'I really thought when we enter'd the Town that we was going into the deepest & darkest pit ever heard off, as it was hardly possible to breathe for want of air & the horrid stink of the Tan Yards'

I felt quite claustrophobic and sickly.

The relationships between the middle/upper class Georgians whilst fascinating to read about also came as quite a shock as did the author's writing about the very misogynistic laws at the time which stated that a woman was basically the property of her father until her marriage when she became the property of her husband with few legal rights to protect her.

Not as long a read as I had expected (almost the last 100 pages were given up to acknowledgements, the bibliography and reading group notes) Wedlock was nevertheless a substantial read of 414 pages which I personally thought could have been shorter (less tedious and better flowing) if the author had not kept going off on a tangent detailing events that seemed to have little relevance to the rest of the book. 

Also a negative of sorts - though obviously the fashion in England at that time, several of the 'characters' had the same name which was very confusing and especially so when the author seemed to alternate between using their given names and the titles bestowed upon them.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, if you have an interest in Georgian England in general, the Bowes family in particular or wish to know more about the lives of women at this period in time otherwise you may find Wedlock a bit hard going and certainly not 'as gripping as any novel' as stated on the front cover.

A reading group read, Wedlock is the third book read for the 100+ Reading Challenge.


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14 comments:

Karen said...

That sounds like an interesting one. Maybe a tough read also because eit's true.
I always have problems reading historical romances. I know it's true and really happened but it bothers me how woman are treated and one little thing like showing an ankle causes a complete meltdown...

Arti said...

The cover page gives a bit of hint of the kind of the book that this one is. Yes biographies are difficult to review as real stories are so different than fiction!!
Have a nice day:-)

Vivienne said...

I have this one. I was curious about the storyline. I hate it when the names are similar too.

Misha said...

It seems like an intense book and even disturbing since it deals with real people. Nevertheless, I will still add it to my TBR.

budh.aaah said...

Thanks PW, this IS what I needed to read right now, since as the title suggests that the Tyrant did meet his match and that means a positive ending hmm. One could always do with some pointers right :)

Alyce said...

I love reading memoirs but haven't heard of this book before. I generally tend to stay away from books about abuse though, and with your description of it as being tedious it doesn't really appeal so much. :)

GMR said...

Wow...this one does sound it would be hard to read especially considering the subject matter. Still, great job on the review. Valid point on the similiar names creating confusion when reading...I get that way too with period books. Happy reading!

Suko said...

Petty, thanks for your honest review. It sounds kind of interesting, but a bit too wordy perhaps.

Melissa Gill said...

I'll put that one on my long-list. It sounds good, but a bit tedious. I'll have to make sure I have my brain in full gear before I pick that one up.

Katie Edwards said...

I've had this sitting on my to-read pile for getting on for a year, so I really ought to get around to it soon.

Kelly said...

Not normally my favorite time period in British history, but I'll keep it in mind. I have been trying to broaden my choices in reading lately.

Alexia561 said...

Not a big fan of memoirs, but enjoyed your review! Don't think this one is for me though...

Jenners said...

What a nightmare that he recovered! She should have "helped" him along to his death.

purplume said...

Impressive review. I won't read this because I think it would be upsetting to me. I'm grateful to have your review.