Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Doctor's Wife Book Review

Rawr Reader,

      Woah, it's been a month and a half. How are you? Have you missed me as much as I've missed you? I've read so many books since my last review and I'm sorry I just never got around to writing a quality review. And then November started and I'm participating in Nanowrimo and so reading at all went to the back of my priorities. However, school trumps Nanowrimo and so I had to read and I just finished such an awesome book! This is The Doctor's Wife by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. The excerpt as always, is provided by Goodreads:

When The Doctor's Wife was first published in 1864, Mary Elizabeth Braddon was well known for her scandalous bestseller, Lady Audley's Secret. Adultery, death, and the spectacle of female recrimination and suffering are the elements that combine to make The Doctor's Wife a classic women's 'sensation' novel. Yet it is also Braddon's most self-consciously literary work and her rewriting of Madame Bovary. Like Emma Bovary, Braddon's heroine, Isabel Gilbert, is trapped in a marriage to a man incapable of understanding her imaginative life. But Braddon's novel differs vastly from Flaubert's in the nature and consequences of Isabel's 'affair'.

    This is one of five books I had to read for my women in literature class.

(safe for those who haven't read this book yet)
   Just to set up a little background on the novel itself, the very little I know but do only because of my literature class, I want you to know this is very different from what you usually see on my blog. But I like to be diverse in my reading endeavors so I hope by the time you finish reading my review, you'll be interested in checking this book out. It's a Victorian novel published in the 1860s, and is subgenred as a "sensation" novel which entitled several themes but not exclusive to murder, disguise, secrets, mistaken identity, women and their conflicts with their domestic lives. Sensation novels helped a rise in literacy and increase of printed material which resulted in decrease of price, which means more read and more could be bought to be read. Alright, that's about all I have in my notes, onward to the text. ^^
   This story, though may have been written in the 1860s isn't difficult to read at all. In fact, other than The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë which is another book I had to read for the class, I outright enjoyed reading it. I actually enjoyed this one more because I enjoyed almost every character, whereas in Tenant I only really enjoyed one character. But it's easiness in read is probably what helped it make it so popular among the masses. I don't know how successful this book itself was back then, but as a sensation novel I can understand why this type of book was. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I've been exposed to many more genres of literature and fiction than they had accessible to them. Reading this reminded me a lot of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley I read for the first time earlier this year (though of which I don't have a review, I apologize) because I fell under it's spell of both language and plot. I, probably like you, think that some classics (not famous Classics but books written before the twentieth century) can be predictable and boring and with nothing interesting that happens but I promise you that there are books that aren't and I defend that this book is one. Granted, if you're looking for action, seek sci-fi, fantasy, any YA being released nowadays. 
     Now I said that I enjoyed this book because, compared to Tenant, I loved most of the characters. The first I want to talk about is Sigismund Smith, a writer who absolutely loves word. This man is dedicated to his profession, an aspect that I hope one day I can claim to be my own as well. He writes penny-numbers, basically thrilling stories that are released at extremely fast paces. His name itself is an illusion, his real name being Samuel. I don't know about you, but if I meet someone who is so dedicated to his craft that he believes he needs to change his name to live up to readers expectation, that's someone who I want to meet and be friends with. As I read his scenes, I just wanted him to step out of the pages so I could be his friend. My only regret is that he's in such a small portion of the book.
     The next character is Isabel Sleaford, later to be known as Isabel Gilbert, Geroge Gilbert's wife. Before she meets and going into their marriage, we learn how Isabel is a very enraptured reader, absolutely loving and investing in her characters in all the books she reads, albeit how naive it can make her depictions and expectations of the real world. So while others in my class argued that she was just childish, melodramatic, and naive, I found her very relatable because of her passions for novels. Her basic knowledge of any form of education has only been drawn from her reading novels and she was never taught otherwise, which wasn't allowed due to her place as a woman. So yes, when she finally married George and still possessed her pre-marital obsession with books and the dramas and deaths it brought, and who still expected a "hero" to come into her life, I didn't judge her and condescend on her character.
     Enter Roland Lansdell, the charming, godly-looking man who chanced upon her life. Oh, and did I mention that he just so happens to be one of Isabel's favorite authors? Oh, and he's ridiculously rich, with 15,000 pounds a year (equivalent to 1.5m dollars a year today)? Oh, and if that isn't enough for you, he's cousin to Isabel's late employer before she was married, Charles Raymond, the closest living relation to Roland in the world. Yeah. So, he's definitely a sign of trouble. But what made him so remarkable was that he was so flawed in his feelings for Isabel, when at first he thought her merely stupid and not that pretty. Ah, love.
     So it would be a lie to say that a romance doesn't form between them, but it's a romance with love that does not equate the other. Because what is life but separate interpretations of people, and their interpretations of love? I won't go into what types of love, because not all love is good, but equally, not all love is bad. And I really came to loving this tentative couple and how they grow and learn what they can of the world. While one has the keys to the world and wishes to share it with someone and the other who yearns to see it but only does through her novels, it makes it quite an argument how these two can't be a perfect couple. 
     However, earlier this week my teacher made it light that certain events in the book which seemed to be closed at the beginning begin to come to light and return to Isabel's world, I may or may not be expecting what happens in the end. Me, being the most open-minded person in the world, began to consider a million and one ways this book could end. And now that I have, I was right in one of them. Which doesn't help you, but I just wanted to let that be known. ^_^
     For most of this novel I wanted to give it 5 stars, then nearing the end I wanted to give it 4 stars because it got a little boring, but decided on 5 stars because there were several really beautiful words said and just like Frankenstein, it really stuck with me and transcended in its story above all those I've read so far. I found what Frankenstein opened my eyes with in the question of humanity, this story does with different interpretations of love.

                                                           I give this book 5/5 stars.

Author's Quote:
"He has told me what I am: 'an infant crying in the night; an infant crying for the light; and with no language but a cry.' "
-Roland Lansdell, The Doctor's Wife

Next To Read:

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

River Song's Spoilers:
(unsafe for those who haven't read this book yet, so don't read this section)
   Why did Sigismund get no love after the beginning? I mean yes we saw him once more after Isabel was married and Roland had left to try and get over Isabel, but he was so charismatic, I wish Braddon wrote more scenes with him. Anyone else who's read it loved him?
    And yes, I hated the ending. A little before George got sick I thought to myself, watch her end up losing both of them. So yeah, Roland's death really ate my heart out and chewed it and spat on my remains. And his final words to Isabel really made me fall in love with him, but I pitied how he was such an empty character. He genuinely believed that he didn't have anything to offer to the world even with his mass amounts of money, and how that his love for Isabel wasn't enough even on his deathbed. While he did love her, he knew that even if she did end up marrying him after George's death, them together wouldn't have been pure and true, only coincidental for him and only a second love for her. 
     Both Isabel's and Roland's mentalities toward their young demises was a little depressive. Don't get me wrong it was a little funny at the beginning, but then as they kept saying how they were going to die young, and even slightly, embracing that they would to finally fulfill their literary fantasies of an epic life. 
    Isabel got a lot of heat in my class for being so childish, naive and melodramatic, but I only saw it as wishing for the life that she read about. Her home life wasn't terrible, but she was lower middle class and she was part of a family who didn't understand her. She fell in love with novels and its characters and the world through literature's lens instead of reality's, and I connected with her for that. And she wasn't perfect, she didn't love her husband but a man who wasn't, but she didn't do it to harm anyone. In that way, she was completely innocent whereas Roland at first wasn't. Though eventually he grew to love her, they both represented and stood for two ends of the spectrum, what it means to be worldly and what it means to be innocent. Roland was, he was rich and had traveled abroad and had loved women though not truly, and Isabel was poor and meek and who invested herself into novels because she only ever thought that was the closest she'd ever get to it. So yes, the masses may hate Isabel and think Roland foolish, but the only true fault I see is that they weren't allowed the liberties that our society offers today, which is to love and actually show you love.
   Another of my favorite characters is Charles Raymond, arguably the moral compass of the story. He admits to pondering how perfect Isabel and Roland would have been for each if they had met a year before, but he tries to keep them in focus that that was a life that wasn't an option anymore and that they had to focus on the truth of how life is now. He tries to convince Roland to give up his infatuations and its all because of his love he had for Roland's mother, so he knows what life was like to love someone that wasn't theirs to love. 
   And while leaning of his past love for his other was only one of the most heartbreaking parts of the story, and another of learning how Isabel's life was after two years after Roland's death, my number one would have to be Roland's final words to Isabel. I haven't been so emotionally toyed with since reading The Bronze Horseman trilogy or actually more recently, A Storm of Swords. I hated how I completely understood the truth he was saying to Isabel, how he couldn't be happy with her if they could be together. I understood that he didn't just believe in only their earthly love, but a more universal one, that wouldn't be constrained by time and existence. And coming from a man who had the world at the palm of his hand and who wasn't very religious, that just had to be one of the most romantic things to be read. That's right, read, if a guy said that to me in real life, I more than likely would react differently. 

Until Next Time,
Nicole Ciel

No comments:

Post a Comment