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.
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.