Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Methods of Lady Walderhurst by Frances Hodgson Burnett

304 pages
Copyright, 1901, by Frederick A. Stokes Company
University Press, John Wilson and Son
Cambridge, U.S.A.

The Methods of Lady Walderhurst is the continuing story -- a sequel -- to The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett. **Please note: because of the nature of this story I cannot post a review without giving away a little of the Marchioness ending, so if you wish to avoid a spoiler, better wait to read this review until after you've read The Making of a Marchioness.

That said... The Methods of Lady Walderhurst picks up very soon after the proposal scene at the end of The Making of a Marchioness. Emily Fox-Seton is back in London staying with Lady Maria Bayne while awaiting her wedding to Lord James Walderhurst. The novel, like its precursor, does start off a little slow and appears to be a simple romance novel of what life is like in the "happily ever after" that was promised in Marchioness. But if the reader sticks out the first few chapters the story does pick up and turns from a simple romance into a story of drama and suspense.

There are two threads to this story. The first thread follows two very different marriages -- that of Lord and Lady Walderhurst and that of Lord Walderhurst's heir presumptive, Captain Alec Osborn and his wife, Hester Osborn. The two couples have vastly different relationships and outcomes by the end of the novel. The second thread follows the drama that surrounds Lady Walderhurst when Lord Walderhurst leaves for an extended business trip to India. What begins as mysterious occurrence and an accident soon leads Lady Walderhurst to think someone might be trying to kill her!

Because of this some might consider The Methods of Lady Walderhurst a sensational novel typical of the late Victorian period, but that doesn't mean it's bad. I found it to be an enjoyable page-turner that reminded me a little of 1860 novel The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (a favorite of mine). It has subtle lessons woven into the story that make it a much meatier story than what might be found in a modern sensational novel. It is also an interesting read for those who have a historical interest in the late Victorian era. Burnett's story depicts realistic relationships amongst the cast of characters as well as the gender and class roles typical of the era.

Some readers may object to the involvement of East Indian mythology and witchcraft that two characters bring to the story, but this is not the message of the novel, more of a means to clarifying the drama and danger and add to the suspense and mystery. It should not be found any more objectionable than any villainous behavior would in a novel.

Overall I enjoyed The Methods of Lady Walderhurst. It wasn't exactly what I expected (just a story of romance). It was much more and I found it to be a delightful surprise and a fun read. As the story progressed I began to care more for certain characters and had more and more difficulty putting the book down, I kept thinking, "Just one more page and then I can stop reading." By the time I reached the end I was very satisfied.

I don't think it was quite as good as The Shuttle (still an all-time favorite), but they are two totally different stories so they aren't really comparable. I am glad I read The Methods of Lady Walderhurst and definitely recommend it to others who have read The Making of the Marchioness or who are looking for a romance with melodrama set in at the turn of the last century. Individual copies are rare, but the two books have been reprinted into one paperback and can be found online. I bought my copy through Amazon from a book seller in the South who in turn bought it as a library discard.

On a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate it a 3.5 to a 4. I have enjoyed reading Burnett's novels for adults as I've always enjoyed her children's stories. I look forward to reading more of her works in the future.

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