Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Victorian Novel

I just finished reading a fun novel written in 1903: The Magnetic Girl

I know that the 'Victorian' period technically ended in 1901, but this is close enough. In terms of cultures and attitudes, the 'Victorian' age really lasted until World War 1. This book is certainly not Modernist.

The book was recommended by another blog. Unlike the stereotypical Victorian novel, it does not feature long, boring, endless descriptions of minutiae. It is easy and fast to read. This is probably because the book was clearly intended to be a mass-market work, not a literary work. The last 20 or so pages of the book is actually a catalog of other books available from the publisher.

The book was advertised as a 'long novel' but it is quite short by the standards of today's popular novels. There is not really a lot of meat to the novel; it would have been better as a short story. The middle of the book, where all the 'action' takes place, is somewhat boring and can be skipped or skimmed. The fun part is the thoughts of the narrator.

The book is basically a first-person account of a young lady who makes a wish to be extremely attractive, and has that wish granted for a day. Her attitude is surprisingly modern and progressive; she hates the way that the women around her devote their entire lives to following fashions and attracting men. She also has some very feminist things to say about men, how they act, and what they are good for.

Yet despite this, the main value of the book is that it is a period piece. It is an excellent look into history. It gives the reader a glimpse into life in 1903 London, and the kind of thing that people read for fun over a hundred years ago. I also learned a couple new words. I'd recommend it for anyone who has a few hours to spare and is interested in literature and/or that time period.

The link above is the only place you will be able to find the book; the copyright has expired so Google shows the whole book. If you do read it and you are not already well-versed in Victorian, have an unabridged dictionary handy as you read it. Also, I should mention that a 'grenadier' is a very large, strong, well-built soldier; that word is used a lot and it is assumed that the audience knows what it means. A modern author would use 'bodybuilder' or 'football player' in that context.

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