A PhD has to be a labour of love; optherwise, it just won’t happen.
History meets memoir in two irresistible true-life romances–one set in 19th century Rome, one in present-day Paris and London–linked by a bond between women writers a hundred years apart.
In 1857, English novelist Elizabeth Gaskell completed her most famous work: the biography of her dear friend Charlotte Bronte. As publication loomed, Mrs. Gaskell was keen to escape the reviews. So, leaving her dull minister husband and dreary provincial city behind, she set off with her daughters to Rome. There she met a dazzling group of artists and writers, among them the American critic Charles Eliot Norton. Seventeen years her junior, Norton was her one true love. They could not be together–it would be an unthinkable breach of convention–but by his side and amidst that splendid circle, Mrs. Gaskell knew she had reached the “tip-top point of [her] life.”
In 2013, Nell Stevens is embarking on her PhD–about the community of artists and writers living in Rome in the mid-19th century–and falling head over heels for a soulful American screenwriter in another city. As her long-distance romance founders and her passion for academia never quite materializes, she is drawn to Mrs. Gaskell. Could this indomitable Victorian author rescue Nell’s pursuit of love, family and a writing career?
Lively, witty, and impossible to put down, The Victorian and the Romantic is a moving chronicle of two women each charting a way of life beyond the rules of her time.
When I started reading The Victorian & The Romantic I was expecting something a bit different. The narrator switches from past to present day and from one character to another. I couldn’t quite connect with Mrs. Gaskell in the past but I did connect with present day, traversing the wild lands of academia. I miss the days of being in an academic cloud. Of wandering the campus, rushing to classes, spending hours in stuffy libraries. Those are some of my fondest memories from University and when I come across it in a book I instantly feel at home. As I kept reading I then stumbled upon this quote:
Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.
This is a quote that I have run into numerous times this month (at my coworkers desk, on someone’s fridge, imprinted on a mug) and I can’t help but wonder what is the universe telling me?! When I read it in the book I literally slammed the book down on my bed and stared at the ceiling.
The romanticism in this book had an air to it, of lovers in the dark and stolen moments. I really enjoyed the writing in this book. I need to mention as well that I learned about Mrs. Gaskell. Before this I had no idea she existed, shame on me! How can I call myself a Bronte fan.
This was a different read for me. I wish I liked it more but I didn’t dislike it so it lands happily somewhere in the middle. If you’re a fan of academia and memoirs check this one out!
**Thank you Penguin Canada for sending me a copy of the book for a review.**