The Life and Death of Harriett Frean

Harriett is the Victorian embodiment of all the virtues then viewed as essential to the womanly ideal: a woman reared to love, honour and obey. Idolising her parents, she learns from childhood to equate love with self-sacrifice, so that when she falls in love with the fiance of her closest friend, there is only one way to confront such an unworthy passion. Or so it seems…

This short novella begins and ends with Harriett Frean and her mother. Sixty some years pass in between.  Childhood, family tragedy, romantic complications, and then navigating the perils of adulthood all must come. It’s only 184 pages, but Sinclair’s story is complicated and thoughtfully written.

I was most intrigued by Prissy and Harriett’s relationship. There are declarations of love–they say they will never marry for love of one another. It seems very gay. And then strangely…they fall in love with the same man? What a weird love triangle. Love quadrangle? It was all very tragic, indeed.

My love of female Victorians continues. I am not so surprised that I enjoyed this, except for its brevity. (Ugh, can you tell I’ve been reading Victorian fiction? This review is so pretentious!)


This fulfills Boxall #107.


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