Monday, August 18, 2014
Book Review: Only a Novel
Recommended for: Ages 10 to Adult (interest and reading level)
Elizabeth Markette has always led a quiet and privileged life under the guardianship of her wealthy grandmother. But when her grandmother dies and leaves twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth alone in the world and nearly penniless, she’s forced to earn her own living for the first time in her life. Taking inspiration from her favorite British novels, she sets sail for England to seek a position as a governess. Before she can do that, however, she is rather abruptly and overwhelmingly befriended by a lonely and slightly eccentric young socialite, Lavinia Bancroft, who introduces her to the sparkling world of London society. Yet Elizabeth still feels the need to make her own way, though once she actually acquires a position, she begins to have doubts as to whether she’s actually qualified. The children she’s teaching don’t seem to like her, the housemaid seems far too eager to be friends—who wants to be friends with a housemaid?—and the stable hand keeps interfering with the children. Elizabeth’s one hope and consolation is that somehow, some way, Mr. Darcy will come riding out of the mists very soon indeed to save her from a life of respectable servitude. There’s just one problem—where is he?
I hadn't heard much about this book before a friend lent it to me, so I didn't really know what to expect. I ended up really loving Only a Novel. After I finished it, I handed it over to my sister who read it in a day. She loved it too.
Only a Novel was very well written. It had a very old-fashioned feel, like that of the classics, but thankfully without the rambling the classic authors were prone to do. It had somewhat of a satirical tone, and was full of delightful references to the works of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, and Lewis Carroll. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had read more of Jane Austen's works than Pride and Prejudice, but I still enjoyed all the references. In fact, even though I am not much of a Jane Austen fan, it made me curious to possibly try more of her books in the future. I only deducted half a point because there were some formatting errors in the book. It was extremely well proof read, but the text on opposite pages did not always begin and end at the same point on the page, and she forgot to take the header off the first page of about half of the chapters. Most people probably wouldn't notice, but I tend to notice just about all formatting errors.
The setting is primarily in England in the early 1900s. It seemed accurate to me, and felt quite real. Having always loved British literature, I really enjoyed it. I liked how it also was not primarily a high class setting, but had plenty of servant life. I've always preferred the servants to the rich people in books.
Elizabeth Markette is convinced her life will be just like that of a novel, but it is anything but that. Real life isn't nearly as glamorous. Being a governess isn't as wonderful as it seemed in Jane Eyre, and why hasn't Mr. Darcy shown up? Elizabeth is forever trying to make her life like a novel, but running into difficulties all along the way. Still, it has a happy ending, which pleased me much. There weren't any plot holes, and it kept moving at a good pace throughout the whole book. It was a very enjoyable story.
Character Development: 5/5
All the characters were very well developed. Every line of dialogue seemed to portray their various personalities. Elizabeth kind of aggravated me for a while be her snobbishness towards servants, but I was pleased at her character arc. Lavinia was certainly an entertaining character, Mercy was sweet, and Rodney was funny. Actually, Rodney was my favorite character. He liked to say ridiculous things to make people laugh, which caused me to be constantly grinning while I read the book. But Rodney was also kind and understanding. I loved the characters, and I was sad to say goodbye at the end of the book.
Only a Novel was a well-written, enjoyable book which I highly recommend.