The Misses Mallett by E. H. Young
Monday, December 7, 2015
The Misses Mallett is the story of two sisters, Caroline and Sophia, their half-sister, Rose, and their niece, Henrietta, who comes to live with them upon the death of her mother. They live in the town of Radstowe and queen it over local society. Caroline in particular likes to reminisce about all her conquests but she never lets the rest of her family forget that "Malletts don't marry."
Rose, leading an unfulfilled life, falls in love with a man who has a crippled wife. The love is never acted upon but the wife knows and is bitterly jealous. The arrival of Henrietta seems to be a bit of a catalyst in all of the character's lives. She brings new life to the older sisters and shakes up the relationships and lives of those around her. Henrietta herself seems very immature and lives in a bit of a fantasy world. She dramatizes herself into being in love with the same man as Rose which leads to all sorts of emotional complications.
I really enjoy the way Young develops her characters. They are quirky and interesting and flawed. I don't have much patience for a perfect heroine. There are not perfect people in the world so don't give them to me in books. All the characters had unlikable characteristics but their motivations and feelings were so clear that I sympathized with them. They were complete characters with strengths and weaknesses.
A novel about small town life and a group of single woman leading simple lives could sound like a cozy read but that isn't what this is. The emotions, interactions and introspective thoughts make it slightly unsettling at times, maybe because her flawed characters awaken us to the flaws in ourselves.
This was just the kind of book I enjoy. I want to visit Radstowe now. I was told that it is based on Bristol. The writing was very evocative of a time and place. I always appreciate books with good character development. The older I get the less I care about the plot and the more I care about the people.
I have read a few other of Young's books. I hear good things about Miss Mole. I will have to find a copy of that next.