- File Size: 1263 KB
- Print Length: 431 pages
- Publisher: Musaicum Books (December 18, 2019)
- Publication Date: December 18, 2019
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B082Y7Q9C5
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,560,650 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Print List Price:||$6.80|
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The Doctor's Wife (Romance Classic) Kindle Edition
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"A deft and subtle writer." -The New York Times
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"Written with psychological precision and economy." -Library Journal
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
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I can't give the book a bad rating because of that, though, because it is MY ignorance and not anything that MEB had done wrong.
The MAIN character, Isabell Sleaford Gilbert, is a very ''interesting'' one even though she is sometimes a bit hard to understand. But the ''being hard to understand'' parts were the FUN parts of reading the book – most of the time. In spite of my ignorance of those ''classics'' references, I was able to ''get'' Isabell in my own way.
For the MINOR characters in the book, where those references were used; again, in my own way, I was able to ''get'' them well enough, too.
So for those of you who are on roughly the same knowledge level (of those classics) as I am, this is fair warning.
For those of you who are by far more well-read than I, this book might very well be right up your ally! And you will understand why it is impossible for me to give it a bad rating. I respect Braddon very much for giving those nods to the classics, giving an in-the-know reader of those MUCH more depth to the characters in THIS book than I was capable of having. And I envy you that. Not enough to READ them, though! I'm too lazy to go THAT far! I did ''make do,'' though, in being able to enjoy this book very much.
In fact, this novel is a combination of Austen's Northanger Abbey and Lennox's The Female Quixote. One could make a strong argument that the character of Isabel Gilbert is lifted directly from Lennox's lead character Arabella in The Female Quixote. Both characters have educations that have been sorely neglected by their parents and both live in relative isolation from the rest of the world; drawing their ideas of life and love from the sentimental fiction they immerse themselves in.
The primary difference between the two works is that Lennox adopts a more satirical, humorous approach to her work. Her character (Arabella) finds herself in all sorts of embarrassing and foolish situations and almost ruins her life, but thankfully falls short of it. On the other hand, Braddon's novel takes on a more serious tone. Unfortunately, Isabel Gilbert's foolish notions draw her into marrying a man she does not love. Though, ironically those same notions keep her faithful to him. There is no true happy ending for Isabel, though Braddon wisely does not punitively make it so. After all, Isabel throughout is as innocent and naive in her heart, even when making the worst of decisions. Things are the way they are, as a result of Isabel's decisions.
Braddon does not decry the Romantics of the age (Tennyson, Byron, etc) as terrible authors (though she is unmerciful to the "sensation" novels of her day). Like Austen did with her Romantic contemporaries, she gives credit to their talent while strongly warning against emulating their fiction or adopting their idealogy in real life. Though not quite as good as Northanger Abbey or The Female Quixote, Braddon does a credible job of making her point in The Doctor's Wife.
Perhaps Braddon channeled Madame Bovary; if so, you should stick to your own ideas, Mary! Madame Bovary fit her time and place and mood, and although she was not the most sympathetic of characters, at least she had dimension. Isabel was too shallow to be allowed to walk around by herself. Please see maryelizabethbraddon.blogspot.com if you wish to discuss any of Braddon's books.
Top international reviews
The book describes the struggles of an intelligent but emotionally and intellectually neglected young woman to become an adult and cope with the real world. Her struggle is shown with insight and sensitivity and is sometimes quite moving.
The usual themes of a sensational novel of the time are present - death, adultery,dark secrets and terrible betrayal - but there is also (I think) an aspect deeply personal to M.E.Braddon. As a woman who earned her own living, perhaps she wanted to defend and further the rights of women in an age when they did not have as much freedom as men. In particular, she shows how women had to deny and submerge their own identity and longings in order to do their domestic duty to their husbands, since this was regarded as the role of every respectable female. As has often been pointed out, the book is like Flaubert's 'Madame Bovary', though the choices of the heroine are different and therefore, so is the outcome.
Lacking parenting, moral guidance and education, and with a dark secret in the family, Isabel Sleaford can feed her mind only with romantic novels and poetry. As a result, she is full of illusions and unrealistic dreams. She accepts a proposal of marriage from George Gilbert, a doctor. This is not because she finds an intellectual equal in him but because she is discontented working as a governess, longs for romance and he clearly adores her. He is kind and well-meaning but insensitive to her needs and, after their marriage, he bores her. Too immature to value his good qualities, she finds friendships with other men who seem more interesting and exciting. One of these relationships deepens into romantic love and, although nothing of a sexual nature takes place, the naïve Isabel is gossiped about, judged and condemned by her neighbours.
Through terrible and painful circumstances, she matures and her true nature is refined and strengthened through surviving these cruelties. (I find it interesting that Mary Braddon herself flouted convention. She lived with John Maxwell, her publisher, for a number of years because he was married and his wife was in an asylum. Only after her death did Braddon and Maxwell finally marry. I wonder whether M.E. Braddon knew what it was like to be discussed and censured by respectable society).
This is not your average sensationalist novel, although it belongs in that genre. A modern novelist would treat aspects of the story differently, no doubt. However, M.E.Braddon is writing about a topic that she feels deeply and cares about and she does so with intelligence. There are passages in the book that I will remember because of the profound psychological truth contained in them. A worthwhile read!
This is the second Mary Elizabeth Braddon book I've read - the first was the book that she's best known for today, the sensation novel "Lady Audley's Secret". Apparently "The Doctor's Wife" was Braddon's attempt at writing a more serious, literary novel, with a plot inspired by Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary". "The Doctor's Wife" is not very 'sensational' - apart from maybe the final few chapters - and although it's interesting and compelling in a different way, if you're expecting something similar to "Lady Audley" you might be slightly disappointed. At one point in the book, Braddon even tells us "this is not a sensation novel!"
The focus of "The Doctor's Wife" is the development of Isabel Gilbert from a sentimental girl with her head permanently in the clouds into a sensible and mature woman. I didn't like Isabel much at all, though I'm not really sure if I was supposed to. Throughout most of the book she was just so silly and immature - wishing that she would catch a terrible illness or some other tragedy would befall her, just so she could have some excitement in her life - although as several of the other characters pointed out, she wasn't a bad person, just childish and foolish. It was sad that her own romantic notions and ideals were preventing her from having any chance of happiness.
I thought some of the minor characters were much more interesting and I would have liked them to have played a bigger part in the story. I particularly loved Sigismund Smith, who was a friend of both George and Isabel, and a 'sensation author' - probably a parody of Mary Elizabeth Braddon herself. Sigismund (whose real name is Sam) is a writer of 'penny numbers' - cheap, serialised adventure stories. His enthusiasm for his work and his unusual methods of researching his novels provide most of the humour in the book.
Due to Isabel's reading, almost every page contains allusions to characters and events from various novels, plays and poems - most of which I haven't read - so I found myself constantly having to turn to the notes at the back of the book (until I decided I could follow the story well enough without understanding all the references to Edith Dombey and Ernest Maltravers).
Overall, this was another great book from Mary Elizabeth Braddon, although not quite what I was expecting.
Via the Sigismund Smith character, the author seems at times to be parodying the 'sensation' genre and at other times trying to distance herself from the genre. The novel contains far too much 'showing off' in the form of endless references/lists of everything from the Classics, composers, poets, even to types of ceramics. It smacks of Ms Braddon trying to show she is a 'serious' author.
The truth is that this novel contains long mundane sections which only comes to life when, thankfully, we get 'more plot and lots of it!'. On the surface, it is a love triangle but it is really about the realtionship between teenage doctor's wife Isabel and country squire Roland.
In a 'sensation' version this pits 'a modern Byronic hero' against 'a base coquette' but Ms Braddon offers us a 'serious' version of a vacillating young man and a mere child.
A pleasant, restrained read that got better as Ms Braddon let herself go.
There is melodrama by the bucket load - as to be expected from Braddon and some nice twists and turns but perhaps no real surprises when great reveals are made and at times the main characters are quite infuriating, but that could have been because I was drawing connections to Madam Bovary.
I found it a slower read than Lady A's Secret, and really had to persevere with it. However, for a non too challenging and somewhat entertaining read, The Doctor's Wife is worth a few hours of escapism.
SPOILER ALERT: -
To give Braddon her due she did keep with a tragic ending to her story - although not the same totally dismal demise of Emma, her husband and their unfortunate child - and even in that there is some whimsy.
The story itself is a good read, but the long passages to be missed interrupt the narrative.