1001 Reads

Regularly updated blog charting the most important novels of the last 2000 and something years

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

23. Eliza Haywood - Love In Excess (1719- 20)

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Francisco: Yawn... I think that book lists which include female writers for the simple fact that they are female are doing a disservice both to feminists and the whole of womanhood. There is a reason why there were not many female writers, and that was the social inequality and the place in which women were put in society. This seems to be glossed over by trying to put some books written by women in the 17th and 18th century... the problem is that they are scraping a tiny barrel, and the stuff that comes out is pretty terrible, for the simple reason that there is very little to choose from, as women writers were very rare. This is not a slight on women or their capacity but on the society that didn't allow them to write. You had to get only the pampered elite women writing and while it was sometimes sucessful as in the case of the Princesse de Cleves, more often it wasn't.

This is an example of that. Particularly after reading Dafoe, Haywood seems like a hack. The writing is clunky and hardgoing and while the first of the three parts is quite enjoyable and readable the same cannot be said of the other 2 thirds of the book, which came out in the coattails of the success of the first part, after a while you just don't care anymore. There is some depiction of female sexuality which is quite interesting, as is D'Elmont, the main character, but you soon lose interest.

The book went unread for a long time since when it was published until the 20th century, some claim that it was because Victorian Britain couldn't take the image of powerful women... I say that it's because it was shit, and feminist barrel scraping brought it back from it's well deserved oblivion.

Vanda: Dull, overwritten, with such pseudo-complex sentences that you loose interest in after about 5 words.

I'm having problems coming up with any good points about this book. I simply don't understand why this is included. Is it because it mentions female sexuality? Defoe does that in the two next books on the list and he does it better. Is it simply because she's a woman writer? If so, then it's a pretty bollocks reason (and I've talked about this already in the review of god-awful Oronooko.)

Haywood is also excessively fond of Deux Ex Machina endings. Is this character a nuisance to the plot? Kill her off. Is this other character impeding where she wants the story to go? Kill him off! This happens over and over. Seriously. It's like she doesn't have the commitment to stick with pre-designed plot lines, and so everything misteriously turns out fine because all the impediments die. How fantastically convenient, and how crappily written.

Honestly, I wouldn't bother. The books coming after this one are very much superior. Read those instead. I wish they'd stop including women writer's just because, you know, they're women. It's offensive.

Final Grade

Francisco: 4/10
Vanda: 3/10


From Wikipedia:

Haywood’s first novel, Love in Excess; or The Fatal Enquiry (1719-1720) touches on themes of education and marriage. Termed an amatory bodice-ripper by some, this novel is also notable for its treatment of the fallen woman. D’Elmonte, the novel’s male protagonist, reassures one woman that she should not condemn herself: “There are times, madam,” he says “in which the wisest have not power over their own actions.” The fallen woman is given an unusually positive portrait.



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