Monday, March 30, 2009

The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The more books I read the more I am amazed at how many wonderful books still exist that I have not read. The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett is one such book.

I first learned of The Shuttle from my friend Alison. She was, you may recall, also the one who told me about The Making of a Marchioness (click on the link for my review) and about Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (click on the link for my review), books that were published many years ago and were nearly forgotten before they were rescued and reprinted by Persephone Books in the UK and later by other publishers.

Most people are familiar with Burnett because of her children's stories like The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy, and The Little Princess. But in addition to these classics Burnett also wrote several novels for adults. The Shuttle is her longest at 508 pages, but it is, in my current opinion, her best.

Set at the end of the 19th century, The Shuttle is a story of drama and romance. The story centers around two sisters, Rosalie and Bettina Vanderpoel, who are the only children of an American multi-millionaire. As The Shuttle opens Bettina (or "Betty" as she is known by her friends and family) is but a child who can do nothing but stand by and watch as her beautiful and sweet older sister is wooed and won by a formal and somewhat unfriendly Englishman, Sir Nigel Anstruthers. To everyone else Sir Nigel appears a worthy match for the millionaire's eldest daughter, but Betty sees something more, something sinister. And it becomes quickly evident to the Reader that she is on the right track. Before the end of the fourth chapter the Reader sees Rosalie settled in her new home at Stornham Court in England, it is obvious that Sir Nigel is a very wicked man.

But as I mentioned, The Shuttle is also a romance. By the fifth chapter twelve years have passed since Rosalie's marriage and the Vanderpoels have heard little to nothing from her. Now a grown woman, Betty believes something bad has happened to her sister and so sets off to England to find her and, if at all possible, save her. It is during the time that Betty is working to save Rosalie that she stumbles upon true love and thus unfolds the romance of the novel, which has an intensity on par with novels like Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion.

In my opinion The Shuttle is a masterpiece. It is a story of drama, love, suspense, and comedy that makes for a definite page turner. Burnett's writing is easy to read, the dialogue witty, the scenes lively, and the descriptions of both people and places are beautiful and illustrative. Even the characters are lovable (or in the case of Sir Nigel lovable to despise). Betty is the perfect heroine, she is beautiful, rich, clever, loving, and generous. Under some circumstances this type of character might be irritating, but Betty is not. She is the type of woman everyone around her (including the Reader) can not help but admire and love.

Overall (if you haven't already guessed) I loved this book. It now now rates as one of my all-time favorite books alongside others like Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Wives and Daughters, etc. On a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent, I would rate The Shuttle a 5. If you have not read it it, you must!

Note: Although copies are somewhat scarce, I was able to find an inexpensive copy printed in 1907 through a used book seller, so other readers might be as lucky if they check. Also it is available online in paperback for $14-19 plus shipping, depending on the seller.


Brittanie said...

It looks great! I think I will be tracking down a copy. :)

Page Turner said...

Oooohhh, this sounds like a great hidden treasure. I'm adding it to my TBR list.

Noel De Vries said...

Okay, you've convinced me.

Anonymous said...

Sounds a bit like Wilkie Collins too. I'd love to read it if I can find it!

Jenny Girl said...

I read about this book elsewhere and put it on my TBR. Glad it really is good. Thanks for the excellent review.

hopeinbrazil said...

Sounds wonderful! Thanks for alerting us to this new (to us) title.