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The Victorian and the Romantic: A Memoir, a…

The Victorian and the Romantic: A Memoir, a Love Story, and a Friendship… (original 2018; edition 2018)

by Nell Stevens (Author)

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413408,887 (3.56)9
Title:The Victorian and the Romantic: A Memoir, a Love Story, and a Friendship Across Time
Authors:Nell Stevens (Author)
Info:Doubleday (2018), 272 pages
Collections:Books I've Read
Tags:non-fiction, memoir

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Victorian and the romantic : A memoir, a love story, and a friendship across time by Nell Stevens (2018)



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In 2013 Nell is on the Eurostar heading towards Paris, on her way to visit her American friend Max, a friend with whom she is hopelessly (and unrequitedly) in love. Specifically, she's on her way to tell Max that she can no longer be his friend, that the strain of their purely platonic friendship is too much of a strain for her to cope with. But miracles happen: after months of denying any desire for a relationship Max decides that he too is in love, and the pair embark on a long-distance relationship, first across the English Channel, and then across the Atlantic once Max returns home to Boston. And as her relationship starts, Nell is also starting her PhD in Victorian literature at King's College in London, and struggling to focus. Why, when all the other graduate students are so specific about their subjects should be, is Nell so uncertain about her topic? The one constant that she has is that it should include Mrs Gaskell, the nineteenth century author of novels such as [Mary Barton] and [North and South]. And this is what forms the other half of the book, the fictionalised account of Mrs Gaskell's trip to Rome in 1855, and her friendship with the American Charles Elliot Norton who she met there.

I was a little unsettled in this book in not knowing what was true and what not. It's clearly based to some extent on Nell Stevens own life, but I've no idea to what extent. And how much of Mrs Gaskell's life is factual is equally vague. But I did enjoy it, and it's reminded me that I enjoy Mrs Gaskell's books (I've read [North and South] and [Wives and Daughters]) and perhaps it's time I read some more. ( )
  SandDune | Feb 8, 2019 |
Nell Stevens writes her PhD dissertation on the Roman adventures of Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), and develops a unique sense of closeness to the Victorian author. At the same time Stevens also has a quite modern romance with a fellow writer, a man she met in her previous graduate program. The two narrative threads are loosely woven together in a way that worked for me, on balance, but which may not work for readers who are looking for thematic unity or who cannot tolerate faux second-person narration. This quick, engaging read (I read it in three sittings over a 24-hour period) is well worth picking up. ( )
  akblanchard | Dec 26, 2018 |
What drew my interest to The Victorian and the Romantic: A Memoir, A Love Story, and a Friendship Across Time was the pitch about “two irresistible true-life romances” set across time. I was very interested in how two lives set apart by over a century could be linked in such a way that a book could be dedicated to it. Sadly, the pitch was not realized for me because I found neither romance irresistible. I was also hoping for a link between the two main characters of the book that would be endearing or meaningful in a way but that did not happen for me either.

There is a contemporary romance angle told by the voice of the author about her love affair with an American. There is also a historical piece surrounding Elizabeth Gaskell and her supposed love affair with Charles Eliot Norton. I say supposed because honestly you have to really “read between the lines” to imagine such a feeling existed between the two and even then I was not wholly convinced. It was a very creative imagining though.

I felt that the Author did a great job making an argument for the supposed love affair that was never able to be realized between Gaskell and Norton. I also felt that she was able to show parallels for what she believed that Gaskell could have felt that were similar to that which the author was also struggling with. I think that there is a great fictional memoir intertwined with a biography about the Author’s journey with love and academia that was at times very appealing to read. Though, I absolutely would have enjoyed the story more if the historical portion had been based on solid facts and not artistic license.

This review is based on a complimentary book I received from NetGalley. It is an honest and voluntary review. The complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating. ( )
  TheGenreMinx | Jul 24, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nell Stevensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mahon, EmilyCover designermain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clark, BradleyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Amanda, Grace and Claudia
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When you wanted to talk about your husband, you talked about sermons.
Of writing many books there is no end;
And I who have written much in prose and verse
For others' uses, will write now for mine,--
Will write my story for my better self,
As when you paint your portrait for a friend,
Who keeps it in a drawer and looks at it
Long after he has ceased to love you, just
To hold together what he was and is.

--Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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UK edition titled: Mrs Gaskell & Me: Two Women, Two Love Stories, Two Centuries Apart
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