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The Absentee by Maria Edgeworth
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The Absentee (1812)

by Maria Edgeworth

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Touching story about the evils of absentee landlords in 19th century Ireland. ( )
  LadyWesley | Sep 25, 2013 |
The Absentee, published in 1812, is not a book I could make myself finish. The characters are either too perfect or too pathetic, and the subject matter is simply depressing. It is all about the problem of "absentee" landlords from Ireland in the early 1900s, trying to push their way up the social ladder in London society. They don't have the money for it, most of them, and they mismanage their estates because they are never there to do things properly. And all for the privilege of participating in a society where the established members of the ton despise them and only interact with them to eat their dinners and enjoy a sense of superiority over the Irish upstarts. Not exactly an engaging topic.

Nor are the characters compelling. Lady Clonbrony is snubbed again and again by her English peers, but pathetically keeps trying to win (buy) her way into the inner circle. Sounds too much like high school social cliques and drama to make me enjoy this character. She has, of course, a perfect and clearsighted son in Lord Colambre, who suffers in watching his mother waste money and his father plunge ever deeper into debt as he neglects the family estates in Ireland. There is also a cousin/ward, Grace Nugent, who is the perfect match for Lord Colambre but who, of course, has never dreamed of such a thing. Colambre must marry well and despite her many perfections, Grace has a questionable background which renders her, in Colambre's uptight sense of things, quite ineligible.

Unfortunately this is the first Maria Edgeworth title I've attempted, and I'm not hurrying back for more. There is some wit and humor to her writing, I suppose, but it's blunted by the boring stock characters and predictable, rather threadbare plotline. ( )
2 vote wisewoman | Apr 4, 2013 |
The problem of absentee landlords who permitted their agents to cheat and gouge tenants in order to support a lavish lifestyle in the capital is the subject of this novel. The young lord Colambre becomes alarmed about the state of his father's finances and determines to discover the truth. He is in love with his cousin, but fears she is illegitimate. Contemporary readers will probably find it strange that he should regard this as a insuperable barrier to their marriage.
  ritaer | Feb 14, 2013 |
I really liked this book. You could see the ending coming a mile off, but that didn't really spoil it. I enjoyed the characters: they were written very humorously, almost as caricatures, yet were very well developed and very 'real'.

Edgeworth's prose style is open and accessible, and contrasts with the more flowery writing of the contemporary Gothic genre. While the events of the novel are very much of their time (the book was first published in 1812), the characters could be from any period, and there are many modern parallels.

The author's passion for Ireland, political convictions and concern for the Irish people all come through strongly. Although it is a very political novel, it is not a political story; for those who are entirely uninterested in early nineteenth century Anglo-Irish absenteeism (which, I should think, is quite a few people), the book is entertaining for its own sake. ( )
3 vote CatyM | Sep 9, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140436456, Paperback)

Lord and Lady Clonbrony are more concerned with fashionable London society than with their responsibilities to those who live and work on their Irish estates. Concerned by this negligence, their son, Lord Colambre, goes incognito to Ireland to observe the situation and to discover the truth about the origins of his beloved cousin Grace. Can he find a solution that will bring prosperity and contentment to every level of society, including his own family? Rich in atmosphere and local character, "The Absentee" (1812) helped establish the regional' novel form, which influenced such varied writers as Scott, Thackeray and Turgenev. In this sparkling satire on Anglo-Irish relations, Maria Edgeworth created a landmark work of morality and social realism.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:03 -0400)

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