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Surrey, United Kingdom

Friday, 23 July 2010

Clara Reeve by Leoni Hargreave

Clara Reeve by Leoni Hargreave was given to me by my brother-in-law who is a literary fanatic, with a book collection that could probably put the British Library to shame. His main area of interest however is science fiction, so I was very surprised when he gave me this book, of which he mistakenly had two copies. So, how does a sci-fi enthusiast end up with not one but two copies of a Victorian pastiche novel? Well, Leonie Hargreave is a pen-name, which the author Thomas M Disch was advised to use when publishing this novel which was so different to his usual output of science fiction work. 

As a fan of all things Victorian, I was absolutely delighted and couldn't wait to get reading.  With the background knowledge of the book being written by a) a man and b) a sci-fi author I was very much prepared for the worst.  Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised.  Hargreave/Disch really managed to evoke the sensation novels of the Victorian era and all the trademarks are there - the mysterious continental man-servant, the mentally unstable wife, the question of inheritance and a dark secret bubbling under the surface.  The period detail is well created and it really felt quite authentic, perhaps even so far as it being quite a verbose and hard-going book at times.  The main character of Clara is endearing and sympathetic - all her troubles are visited upon her for no apparent reason other than an accident of her birth; very much a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  What I did find frustrating was that the denouement was so late in the book and consequently, I felt, a bit rushed.  

Not one of the most memorable Victoriana novels I have ever read - it's no Fingersmith or The Crimson Petal and the White (which also was rather a departure from the authors usual subject matters and writing style) but I like to think it was one of the more authentic and unusual.


  1. Very much so...Worth a read if you enjoy gothic. It is quite a labour of love though at nearly 600 pages!