Book Reviews: Esther Waters, The Victorian House and My Own Story

Recently, I read George Moore’s Esther Waters, Judith Flanders’ The Victorian House and Emmeline Pankhurst’s autobiography My Own Story. Although I was keen to spread my love of the trio, I didn’t think I had enough to say about each individually to justify a full review. So, in the spirit of bending the rules, here are my three reviews combined…

Esther Waters

Late Victorian novel Esther Waters follows a highly religious, pragmatic servant girl as she navigates the perils of unwed motherhood and stringent poverty. Despite the perceptions of the Victorian era as being averse to any expressions of sexuality, I was surprised to discover just how tolerant average people were of Esther’s difficult predicament. I enjoyed the authenticity of the dialogue and the history behind the narrative; Esther is a likable, resilient protagonist, in a story that keeps twisting and turning and pulling you in.

The Victorian House

The Victorian House is an excellent history book. That’s about as simple as it gets really: detailed and immersive, revelatory and consistently fascinating, The Victorian House explores the average middle-class Victorian household room by room. It showcases different aspects of Victorian home life that I had certainly never considered before (the bugs!) in a manner that definitely does not romanticise the less attractive facts of living in the Victorian era. A must read for anyone who’s interested in Victorian domesticity.

My Own Story

The blurb of My Own Story states that the book documents the life of Emmeline Pankhurst ‘in her own words’. This is literally true, but perhaps a bit misleading: it’s less of a personal, emotional account of her experiences as a Suffragette than a cleverly thought-out dissection of the Suffragette movement in the years leading up to 1914. My Own Story is an absorbing read nonetheless: detailing the considerable injustice faced by Suffragettes, the book often feels like a justification of an attitude that many of its time felt to be disruptive. It reminded me of the current Black Lives Matter movement, and acts as a sad reminder of the difficulties continually faced by marginalised peoples. Although I would have liked a more personal slant, it was well-written and extremely persuasive. Votes for Women!

 

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