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READING THE TBR, DAY 206: Maulever Hall (1963) by Jane Aitken Hodge

About a quarter of the way into this book, I knew exactly where it was going. Our heroine has amnesia, and there is much mystery as to where she came from, who she is, why she was running away and who is the little boy she had with her, but who does not seem to be hers? When I tell you that she does not regain her memory until the novel’s overblown conclusion, hundreds of pages later, and that in the meantime she is proposed to multiple times by no less than three men, becomes engaged (halfway through the book!), is told that she is already married, survives multiple attempts on her life, and relies on the kindness of so many strangers she should be dead many times over even without the assassin on her trail, you will scarce credit it, nor should you.

The ending is even more nutty, in which our dismayingly foolish heroine a) believes a proven liar again, b) puts herself in harm’s way again and c) gives her psychopathic would-be murderer exactly what he always wanted, simply because he only decided to murder her and a child for the sake of love.  

This book is ridiculous.

Of course, Gothic fiction is ridiculous; it’s supposed to be outlandish and near-farcical. It’s also supposed to be creepy, though this one misses that mark almost entirely. I haven’t read a lot of Gothics — most of my experience is drawn from Northanger Abbey and Georgette Heyer’s The Reluctant Widow, both of which are gentle but merciless parodies of the genre — but I have read enough to know that this attempt is… less than stellar. 

Speaking of Heyer, I originally bought this book because Jane Aiken Hodge was her first biographer, and while that effort was not nearly as successful as Jennifer Kloester’s more recent chronicle of that elusive genius, I nevertheless was very curious about the quality of Hodge’s own historical fiction, and kind of ashamed of myself that I hadn’t even known such existed, let alone had read it.

If this is any indication of her general standard, though, I really haven’t been missing much.  

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 206: Maulever Hall by Joan Aiken Hodge
GENRE: Gothic Romance
PUBLISHED: 1963
TIME ON THE TBR: 3 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Op shop.
KEEP: Maybe, but only for Heyerian reasons.

Published inTBR

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