Classic English Literature.

The Doctor’s Wife by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

I’ve finished it! At last!!

This took me longer to read than usual, mainly because I lost interest a few times and had to push myself to finish it. It is the story of Isabel Sleaford, a girl who longs for the life she reads about in books. She marries a country surgeon, George Guilbert, who is committed to helping the poor people of the parish. Isabel, however, finds her husband boring because he is so unlike the dashing heroes she reads about in her books.

She is then caught up in a romance with the handsome Roland Landsdell (who has scented handkerchiefs and leather riding boots, swoon!) and they meet in secret at night. She is then caught up in the romance of it all and she talks excessively of his handsomeness. Her husband is reduced to a background character, and we are reduced to having to read 5 page descriptions of Roland’s handsomeness.

In the end, Isabel loses both her husband and her lover. She matures as a woman. She grows up and learns important lessons while realizing that when she has fortune as she had always desired, she never wanted it in the first place.

This book has been referred to as an English retelling of Flaubert’s Madam Bovary, but it could be compared to any book which has an errant, somewhat naive wife realizing the error of her infidelity when her husband dies – often as the result of putting himself into dire situations with no thought for his own safety.

As I have said, I thought many times about giving up this book and returning it to the library because at times it just seemed impossible. When they reintroduced Isobel’s father into the story, I thought that he was yet another love interest for her and it made me roll my eyes in annoyance.

The book is good however because we see Isobel Guilbert begin as a naive girl and end as a more world-weary woman who has learned a great deal by what she has lost and uses her wealth to help others.

MY RATING: ***/ *****


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