A Young Lady’s Miscellany is a book written in the style of a memoir about a young woman’s experiences of growing up. Instigated by the discovery of a Victorian self-help guide in her Grandmother’s belongings, the author loosely uses ‘advice’ in the book as she weaves her way through life.
I believe that this reflection is about the author’s life rather than a work of fiction which took me a while to work out and to settle into the narrative. The writing pace skips along— never letting up— as we gallop through a vast amount of past history from the narrator’s early teen years to her twenties. Most of the writing is linear in time but sometimes the author dots back to an earlier episode in life.
Memoirs can be an awkward genre to review as their content needs to appeal to enough readers; some are more suited to friends and family who already know the writer, while others have a subject matter within that is interesting to a wider audience. I found this story hard to warm to, although I did become more engaged with the characters the further I got into it and it was the last third which I found most interesting. My main disappointment, however, was that I thought that the book was going to be a Victorian story featuring the lady implied by the book title and part of me kept waiting for that story to begin.
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What’s a girl of fourteen to do when she finds herself alone in the world with no one to guide her? Why, follow the Victorian self-help guide, ‘A Young Lady’s Miscellany’, of course! The trouble is, the advice it offers proves less than helpful in a contemporary context. Muddling through, often with disastrous results, she finds a friend in her recently widowed grandmother, the door to whose small house is always open. Inept at any job she is able to get and pursued by a slew of unsuitable suitors, she must instead spend a decade navigating her own miscellany in order to come of age.
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