The Hand of Ethelberta
Around 460 pages
It has been a couple of months since I posted, so I apologize for the delay. I feel like I start every post with that sentence. Here's the flimsy excuse for this time: I was reading A Dance To The Music of Time, which is the second longest "book" on our list (it's actually a series of twelve novels). I was reading that for approximately a thousand years, but I FINALLY finished and was able to knock this one out in a couple of days.
Ethelberta Pershwin (I have to admit the name kind of floored me) is a young widow and talented "poetess." Because of her husband's wealth and social rank, she was forbidden to see her somewhat destitute family. When her husband dies, Ethelberta is once again strapped for cash so she decides to make a living as a storyteller and poet. To prevent London society from discovering her low family, she pretends that all of her relatives are actually her servants. And apparently everyone is okay with this. She is also courted by four different men (because love triangles are passé).
I am a little confused about why this was included on The List, as it doesn't really stand out compared to Thomas Hardy's other work. It is not a bad novel by any means. As with any Hardy, it is filled with rich descriptions and clever dialogue. Maybe it was the characters that made this one fall flat. Ethelberta is our usual perfect female lead, worshipped by both men and women. At least Bathsheba had personality traits besides "flawless." The ending also rubbed me the wrong way as it was decidedly un-Hardyish.
Still, I love Hardy so even his lackluster novels fill me with delight.
Published in serial form for the Cornhill Magazine.
UP NEXT: Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. I have high hopes for this one, as I adore George Eliot.