Welcome to the Reading Doctor!
We introduced this service last year and we welcome your questions again in 2021.
Read more about Dr Louise here. Send us your questions for her by emailing us: firstname.lastname@example.org
The reign of Queen Victoria was a period of massive and rapid change in England. The Empire expanded, technology advanced apace, science became Darwinian, and industrialisation altered the nature of the economy, of rural and city life, and of traditional class structures.
In a period sometimes called “the age of the novel,” the expansion of a middle class with increased leisure time offered a new reading public, facilitated by the advent of a publishing industry and the growth of public libraries.
Writers looked to the new realities in their work, Victorian realism replacing Romantic idealism, and writers such as Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Anthony Trollope, Elizabeth Barret Browning, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy and Charlotte Brontë have written some of my very favourite works.
These novels take the Victorian period as a setting and a subject, overlaying a more modern sensibility.
· Sugar and Agnes are presented as two Victorian female archetypes – the whore and the angel in the house – as the pivots of Michel Faber’s novel The Crimson Petal and the White, before being revealed as infinitely more complicated.
· A child narrator uses a language of her own devising to tell a sinister Gothic tale in Florence and Giles by John Harding, about two orphaned children and their neglectful guardian.
· A Māori boy turns his gaze upon Imperial London in Tina Makereti’s The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke, and finds it both dark and dazzling.
· Young Halfie is a coin boy in Hokitika Town during the height of the West Coast gold rush in the novel by Charlotte Randall.
· Two academics in the present research two fictional Victorian poets from the past, in the clever and romantic Possession by A S Byatt.
· Domestic violence and female emancipation are the large themes of Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss, set in Victorian Manchester.
· A priest and an heiress meet on the ship to Australia and embark on an impossible endeavour to transport a glass church in Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey.
· The Booker Prize-winning novel The Luminaries, by Elizabeth Catton, combines a murder mystery with a complex astrological structure, set during the West Coast gold rush.
· In the 50th year of Victoria’s reign, a young medical student volunteers at a shelter devoted to reforming fallen women, in seedy streets just a stone’s throw from the refined cloisters and spires of Oxford, in The Whore’s Asylum by Kate Darby.
· Mr Timothy spends his nights dredging the Thames for bodies and the treasures in their pockets; when he finds the branded bodies of two young girls he is prompted to become the protector of another, in the novel by Louis Bayard.