This book made my soul happy. It’s a historical fiction romance that was absolutely everything I didn’t know I needed. I’d describe it as an almost realistic feminist fairy tale. Now – I know, you probably read that and are thinking… Feminist – Romance – Fairy tale? One of these things doesn’t seem like it fits. WELL – I’m here to tell you that not only did it work, it was AMAZING. Also – side note: I don’t like that we assume a feminist story can’t end with a woman and man falling in love. Feminist can fall in love too – K. THX. Now, back to the book.
The story takes place in late 1800’s England, right at the start of the Woman’s Suffrage Movement. It’s main charter, Annabelle (who reminded me a lot of Jane Eyre) is one of the first, and only, women accepted into Oxford’s women’s college. Her acceptance comes with a scholarship from The National Society for Women’s Suffrage but her cousin whom she lives with and keeps house for, finds both these ideas to be deplorable. Fortunately, Annabelle is able to use her cleverness to persuade her cousin to let her leave and attend college. Of course, that doesn’t come without its price – a price of two pounds per week that is, so he can hire a maid in her stead. (Can we just take a minuet to be grateful that we aren’t considered owned property of men anymore)
Once at college Annabelle is faced with a great deal of obstacles including: being one of the only women at the school, maintaining her studies, working to send money back to her cousin, fulfilling the requirements of her scholarship, fighting for what she believes in and if that wasn’t enough, figuring out her feelings. (she’s a pretty damn modern women for the 1800’s!)
What I loved most about this book was that it included elements of the classic fairy tales we all grew up with and loved without losing it’s feminist message and while staying true to the time period. Even if you don’t consider yourself someone who typically enjoys these genres, I really encourage you to pick this one up and give it a chance. It’s going to surprise you.
Final Side Note / Question: While reading this, I drew a lot of connections to those classic fairy tales I’ve been mentioning. Annabelle’s relationship with the male protagonist reminded me of the relationship between Belle and Beast and there were many other scenes and wording that elicited the classic princess imagery too: the horse scene, library, and west wing mentions also reminded me of Beauty and the Beast, the apples reminded me of snow white, and the ball gown scene reminded me of Cinderella. – If you read this, did you guys notice this too? were there any that I missed?