Who wrote this book and when?
Joan Aiken published this in 1998.
Has there been a film version?
Who are the important characters?
Hattie Ward – the youngest of the four Ward daughters, creative and ignored
Ned Ward – Hattie’s youngest cousin and closest friend
Lady Ursula – Hattie’s aunt, a spinster who has it out for her
Lord Camber – Lady Ursula’s former beau, a kind man who feels a kindred connection with Hattie
Sydney Ward – Hattie’s eldest cousin, for some unknown reason is interested in her
Burnaby – the nurse for the Ward twins, who have been hidden away from society
Godwit – Lord Camber’s manservant
Agnes – Hattie’s sister, a shrew and harpy
What’s it about?
Hattie Ward is devastated when her mother falls ill, her domineering aunt comes along, her sisters betray her and she herself is sent to live with distant family. Mostly left to herself, Hattie is given ample time to compose poetry and converse with her cousin Ned. When introduced to Lord Camber, Hattie finds someone else to share her soul with. But things take a turn for the worse when measles hits the entire household and Hattie is wrongly cast as a fallen woman.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
It is neither.
Do I recommend you read this book?
I would recommend Aiken’s other books before this one.
How did this book make my list?
I liked “Miss Fairfax” by Aiken.
Has it won any awards?
“All this was bitter as gall to the irritable spirit of Agnes, the more so since it was based on completely reasonable arguments and thoroughly incontrovertible facts.” – p 12
I always look forward to reading modern authors’ take on the lives of Austen characters – whether after the conclusion of their respective stories according to Austen, or the lives of the characters who hover on the grey edges of Austen novels. This particular novel follows Hattie Ward – who is the aunt of Fanny Price from “Mansfield Park.” She is very similar to Fanny in many ways: she is a writer, she’s overlooked and loaded off onto relatives. And she looks for love though she doesn’t hold much hope of gaining it.
Aiken does a good job of capturing the few characters from “Mansfield Park” properly. Agnes (Mrs. Norris) is a nagging know-it-all, Mrs. Bertram is sufficiently absent, and Fanny’s mom, Frances, falls in love and elopes with Fanny’s father during the course of the book. However, the storyline of this novel is very disjointed, with a very abrupt ending. I’m not sure if Aiken was attempting to imitate the odd plot of “Mansfield” but I can honestly say I never knew which what way the story would meander into next. I wasn’t very satisfied with the story as a whole, but am still glad I read it.