21 Nov 2012


OTHER PEOPLE'S DAUGHTERS: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE GOVERNESS (Published in the US as Governess: The Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres) by RUTH BRANDON.

If a nineteenth-century lady had neither a husband nor money of her own, almost her only recourse was to live in some else's house and educate their children. Marooned within the confines of other people's lives, neither servants nor family members, governesses occupied an uncomfortable social limbo. It was a strange and unsatisfactory life.

Other People's Daughters uses private letters and journals and gives a vivid picture of what it was like to be a lone professional woman at a time when such a creature did not officially exist. The lives of those woman with their suppressed fury, romantic daydreams and intellectual frustrations provide an intimate new insight into the social attitudes of Victorian England.
..... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): The governess is an ancient institution.

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page ): But a lady's defining characteristic was that she did not work for a living. So the mere fact of seeking paid employment instantly relegated the governess from middle-class respectability to an ambiguous limbo between upstairs and downstairs.

MY THOUGHTS: An insightful though somewhat dry and occasionally too political insight into the lives of the governess from its conception to downfall. Other People's Daughters chronicles several real life English governesses (and others who, though not actually governesses themselves, were involved in the fight for equality) through a selection of private letters, journals, and novels.

Including the accounts of the almost unknown clergyman's daughter Agnes Porter to the more famous Mary Wollstonecraft (mother of Mary Godwin, the future author of Frankenstein) and her sisters (Eliza and Everina) and Margaret Landon (the 'Anna' of The King And I) Ruth Brandon also makes liberal use of the writings of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters.

The range of personalities and geographical locations (from English country houses to Thailand's Royal palaces and even an African harem) amazing, its just a shame that reading this 2009 Phoenix Paperback edition with its minuscule print and overly lengthy chapters, each of which was almost a mini biography in itself, was such a toil.

A book probably best dipped into as and when as opposed to read as a whole, this is a wonderful resource for all those interested in the Victorian era and in particular those with an interest in women's history.

KEEP IT OR NOT?: Ex-library stock. Not a keeper I'm afraid.


Jeannie said...

Sounds like something you'd read for a class in university - or write for one. Not a page turner.

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I would find this quite interesting! Thanks for telling us about it.

Tracy said...

Eh doesn't sound like a very good read. Thanks for the review and thanks for stopping by to check on me yesterday. I am doing much better than I was last week! Happy Thanksgiving! Have a great weekend! :)

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Yep, sounds like a better reference book than a story. Would be good for those wanting more research.

Suko said...

This sounds like an interesting way to garner information about the Victorian era. Thanks again for your honest and insightful review.

DMS said...

Thanks for the honest review! I like the cover. :)

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Like the first comment, definitely sounds like something you'd have to read for class. Doesn't grab my attention, but I'm sorry it didn't work for you!


Arti said...

Its always good to read books when they have letters and real life incidents. You have reviewed the book quite well. Sad it did not cut your expectations.
Have a wonderful day Tracy :)

naida said...

It does sound like something best read a bit at a time.