Bookish Discussions

The Corset | A Dreamy Neo-Victorian Novel:

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Oh, wow.

This was fantastic.

I read Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions late last year and liked it. I thought she was gonna be one of those writers I enjoyed but never found a favourite from. But…I think I was wrong.

The Corset was brilliant.

It follows Dorothea Truelove, who is young, wealthy and beautiful, and Ruth Butterham, a young, poor woman awaiting trial for the murder of her mistress. Dorothea, a budding new phrenologist, takes an interest in Ruth and her story. But can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad or a murderer? Honest or a liar?

I love stories that follow a member of the traditional middle-class taking an interest in someone who is socially inferior to them. Although this can position the lower-class as an animal in a cage, it also bridges the gap between the two classes where unlikely friendships can grow.

I really like these narratives when there are doctors, or other professionals, studying or interviewing a so-called “working-class criminal” (think of Alias Grace or The Confessions of Frannie Langton). Lower-classes have, more often than not, been the scapegoat for the capitalists. Purcell brilliantly explores the inherent class prejudices in the Victorian society and how the working-class are manipulated.

They are often the victim, not the perpetuator.

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The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz:

“In the end the Kleinmann family had not only survived but prospered: through courage, love, solidarity and blind luck, they outlasted the people who had tried to destroy them. […] They took their past with them, understanding that the living must gather the memories of the dead and carry them into the safety of the future.”


I 7CC9D025-439C-4143-9C18-E8D645F5D891loved this.

It feels weird to say that. Why would I love the story of two Jewish men fighting to survive the cruelty of the Holocaust? Why would I love the story of Buchenwald? Auschwitz? Monowitz? And all the other concentration camps that they were sent to? It doesn’t feel right to say I loved it. But I did.

Jeremy Dronfield is a natural story-teller. Yes, The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz is based on the life of Gustav and Fritz Kleinmann, but Dronfield is preserving the life of these two men through the mode of story-telling. Dronfield, relying on extensive archival research and both primary and secondary sources, tells this story in a beautiful and moving way. You can’t help but get caught up in this story, knowing everything is based on reality. It’s written in such an enchanting way.

It was truly a fascinating read. I learnt *so much* from this. I knew SS officers were cruel and murderous, but I didn’t know just how sadistic they really were. Dronfield shed a lot of light on the Holocaust and the brutality of Hitler’s regime – things I never learnt about at school. It was also very harrowing to read; to know that humanity has the capacity to be so callous and inhumane honestly shocks me. I felt empty when I closed that book for the last time.

I can reflect on the present, knowing the story of the past.

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Ill Will | Heathcliff’s Supposed Origins:

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Heathcliff has left Wuthering Heights and is travelling to Liverpool in search of his past. Along the way, he saves Emily, the foul-mouthed daughter of a Highwayman, and the pair journey on together. Roaming from graveyard to graveyard, making a living from Emily’s apparent ability to commune with the dead, the pair lie, cheat and scheme their way across the North of England. And towards the terrible misdeeds – and untold riches – that will one day send Heathcliff home to Wuthering Heights.

 

The great thing about Wuthering Heights is the many silences. Emily deliberately left *a lot* of things unsaid. Writers can fill these gaps with pretty much any story, because, at the end of the day, it’s most likely going to fit. These silences, however, don’t necessarily need to be filled. Some things are better left unsaid

Heathcliff’s origins forever remain a mystery to fans of the original. Was he an Irishman, seeking to escape the famine that plagued his hometown? Was he a slave, brought to Liverpool to sell on to the next middle-class white man? Was he simply an orphan, left on the streets by his mother because she had no means of taking care of him? We simply do not know. Emily did not inform us. This is where Michael Stewart enters the narrative, trying to fill those gaps.

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