The Clever Woman Of The Family
Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823-1901) was an English novelist known for her huge output, now mostly out of print.Like Yonge's other works, this novel has an instructional purpose and a high religious & moral tone. However, in this case I did not find these so intrusive as to interfere at all with my considerable enjoyment of the book. Needless to say, The Clever Woman of the Family is hardly a feminist manifesto . This book has many of the elements of a classic Victorian novel. There's the long-suffering, nearly saintly invalid. There's a helpless widow, and there's a buffoonish curate. And most importantly, there's an independent-leaning woman whose spunk and desire for knowledge make her foolish. In Yonge's novel we enter the world of Rachel Curtis, the so-named "clever woman," who loves to read the latest tract on educational theory, and hopes some day to put them into practice for the benefit of local youth. But Rachel is also a provincial daughter, and there are few opportunities for an independent and knowledge-hungry woman in the provinces in 1865. Rachel disagrees strongly with women acting flighty and foolish for the benefit of suitors or the clergy. What Rachel values is substance, but she finds little of it in her provincial surroundings. Those around Rachel see her as arrogant and foolish. When Rachel is finally given the opportunity to put her theories into practice, the consequences are more devastating and far-reaching than anyone could have imagined.
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