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The Doctor's Wife by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
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The Doctor's Wife (original 1864; edition 2008)

by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lyn Pykett (Editor)

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153None77,803 (3.68)4
Member:hongkong9
Title:The Doctor's Wife
Authors:Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Other authors:Lyn Pykett (Editor)
Info:Oxford Paperbacks (2008), Edition: New Ed. /, Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Hong Kong collection, Your library
Rating:**1/2
Tags:19th century literature, 1864

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The Doctor's Wife by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1864)

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I think this is really more of a 3.5. Need to think on it some, it's early yet to completely decide, but it's not a 4 and I don't think it's a 3. So 3.5 will do. ( )
  capriciousreader | Dec 20, 2013 |
Isabel Sleaford lives in a dream world filled with characters from novels by Dickens, Scott and Thackeray. She longs to break away from her boring existence as a children's governess and live the exciting life of one of the heroines in her favourite books. When parish doctor George Gilbert proposes to her, she accepts but quickly finds that her marriage isn't providing the drama and adventure she's been dreaming of. George is a good man, but he's practical, down to earth – and boring, at least in Isabel's opinion. After meeting Roland Lansdell, the squire of Mordred Priory, she becomes even more discontented. Roland is romantic, poetic and imaginative – in other words, he's everything that George isn't...

This is the second Mary Elizabeth Braddon book I've read – the first was the book that she's best known for today, the sensation novel Lady Audley's Secret. Apparently The Doctor's Wife was Braddon's attempt at writing a more serious, literary novel, with a plot inspired by Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary. The Doctor's Wife is not very 'sensational' – apart from maybe the final few chapters – and although it's interesting and compelling in a different way, if you're expecting something similar to Lady Audley you might be slightly disappointed. At one point in the book, Braddon even tells us "this is not a sensation novel!"

The focus of The Doctor's Wife is the development of Isabel Gilbert from a sentimental girl with her head permanently in the clouds into a sensible and mature woman. I didn't like Isabel much at all, though I'm not really sure if I was supposed to. Throughout most of the book she was just so silly and immature – wishing that she would catch a terrible illness or some other tragedy would befall her, just so she could have some excitement in her life – although as several of the other characters pointed out, she wasn't a bad person, just childish and foolish. It was sad that her own romantic notions and ideals were preventing her from having any chance of happiness.

I thought some of the minor characters were much more interesting and I would have liked them to have played a bigger part in the story. I particularly loved Sigismund Smith, who was a friend of both George and Isabel, and a 'sensation author' – probably a parody of Mary Elizabeth Braddon herself. Sigismund (whose real name is Sam) is a writer of 'penny numbers' – cheap, serialised adventure stories. His enthusiasm for his work and his unusual methods of researching his novels provide most of the humour in the book.

Due to Isabel's reading, almost every page contains allusions to characters and events from various novels, plays and poems – most of which I haven't read - so I found myself constantly having to turn to the notes at the back of the book (until I decided I could follow the story well enough without understanding all the references to Edith Dombey and Ernest Maltravers).

Overall, this was another great book from Mary Elizabeth Braddon, although not quite what I was expecting. ( )
1 vote helen295 | Apr 8, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Elizabeth Braddonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pykett, LynEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There were two surgeons in the little town of Graybridge-on-the-Wayverne, in pretty pastoral Midlandshire, - Mr. Pawlkatt, who lived in a big, new, brazen-faced house in the middle of the queer old High Street; and John Gilbert, the parish doctor, who lived in his own house on the outskirts of Graybridge, and worked very hard for a smaller income than that which the stylish Mr. Pawlkatt derived from his aristocratic patients.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0192833014, Paperback)

With The Doctor's Wife, Mary Elizabeth Braddon rewrote Flaubert's Madame Bovary, exploring the heroine's sense of entrapment and alienation in middle-class provincial life. A woman with a secret, adultery, death, and the spectacle of female recrimination and suffering are the elements which combine to make The Doctor's Wife a classic women's sensation novel. The novel is also self-consciously literary, however, and Braddon attempts to transcend the sensation genre. This volume, which reproduces uncut the first three-volume edition of 1864, is the only edition of the novel available today.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:13 -0400)

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