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Posted April 12, 2010
Great start, not so great finish
Wild Romance tells the story of Theresa Longworth, a Victorian woman who broke out of conventions to get what she wanted. The first half focused on her pursuit of, affair with, and marriage to William Charles Yelverton, and on the trial that sought to determine if that marriage was valid. I really enjoyed this half of the book - it read quickly, held my interest, and presented a fascinating analysis of Theresa's strategies and the public's view of them. It looked closely at the expected roles of women in Victorian society, and the ways in which Theresa managed to cleverly sidestep them. I enjoyed reading about the various trials, and why the public or court favored Theresa or Yelverton, the factors that formed their opinions, etc. Although Theresa isn't exactly someone you can root for wholeheartedly, I still sympathized with her plight.
The second half, however, was a different matter. It tells of Theresa's life after the trials, and serves as a more detailed biography of her later life. I found that I didn't care much what happened to her - at least not in such detail. I felt as though since the trial couldn't be stretched to an entire book on its own, Schama filled the rest of the pages with every detail on Theresa's life she could find. Essentially, we follow Theresa on her travels, and travel she did, quite literally up until her death. Some passages were interesting, and she does further examine the roles of women - I did especially like Theresa's musings on the institution of marriage in various cultures, the search for a definition of that institution having consumed years of her life. Yet I felt the detailed descriptions of Theresa's experience in each country dragged on a bit.
Overall, a fascinating read that loses its momentum halfway through, but one I would recommend for those interested in the way the roles women were expected to play in Victorian society could be broken through.
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Posted November 9, 2011
Posted April 11, 2010
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