Review: The Yellow Wallpaper ~ Charlotte Perkins Gilman

yellow wallpaperISBN ~ 978-0914061168
Publisher ~ Orchises Pr
No. Of Pages ~ 16 pages
Links ~ Gutenberg Project, Amazon

First published in 1892, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is written as the secret journal of a woman who, failing to relish the joys of marriage and motherhood, is sentenced to a country rest cure. Though she longs to write, her husband and doctor forbid it, prescribing instead complete passivity. In the involuntary confinement of her bedroom, the hero creates a reality of her own beyond the hypnotic pattern of the faded yellow wallpaper–a pattern that has come to symbolize her own imprisonment. Narrated with superb psychological and dramatic precision, “The Yellow Wallpaper” stands out not only for the imaginative authenticity with which it depicts one woman’s descent into insanity, but also for the power of its testimony to the importance of freedom and self-empowerment for women.

4 Thumbs-UpIf Henry James and his The Turn of the Screw is an example of gothic horror at its best, then this extremely short novella has to be an example of how the subject of descent into madness can be written about without it becoming long winded and overly graphic.

The characters in this novella expertly reflect the role of women during the late 19th century and their position in the male dominated society in which they live.  Written in the first person, this short read is the diary of a woman’s descent into madness courtesy of the ‘I’m the man, I know better attitude’ of her Husband.  Only to be expected in a piece of writing of this length, no time has been wasted on giving complex back stories to the main character and her husband, which adds to the sheer desperation the reader feels coming out of the page as they read.  No hint is to be given as to what kind of a woman would allow herself to be so crushed and dominated by the whims of one single person and, because of this, it is rather easy for a female reader to instil their own sense of indignation into their readings, not taking into consideration the differences in societal norms that are acceptable in the 21st versus the 19th century.

At first read it is easy to miss the impact this piece of writing has on the reader; it appears choppy and has no obvious flow to it which for some readers may be cause enough for them to disregard it as being badly written.  However, due to its short length, it deserves to be re-read and then mused upon.  Yes it is choppy but we are reading the writings of the descent into madness, and in this it takes on a kind of brooding presence that lingers with the reader long after they have the closed the back cover.  If raw chaos could be described I would say it was in the wallpaper, and the way in which the mind can draw the most damming of things out of simple objects comes into play here.  What I did find interesting, and an example of how the novella had made me think was that after reading it for the second time I watched several film shorts based on it, each being different in their interpretation of the words, but all having one thing in common; the chaos brought into one woman’s life by the wallpaper.

If you have an hour to spare and are not sure what to do with it, or don’t want to start reading a long novel, may I suggest you take a look at this.  Whether or not you enjoy reading it will be based on how you interpret the words but one thing I can guarantee is that you will not forget it in a hurry.

divider

Review: The Crying of the Children ~ Peggi Lennard

The Crying of the children19th century Britain; Joseph Skinner wanted Ellie to disappear and he didn’t care where to. He wanted Thomas to rot in the cellar, Little Will to lie silent in the mud, his workers to work harder and his wife to remain sedated in bed, where she could cause no trouble. But his wife fought back. Dr. Taylor helped her. Mandrake Jnr. was always on hand. And Ellie? Well Ellie had quite a journey.

 

3 Thumbs-Up

This Authors debut novel is definitely not a book for those who have a weak stomach, or are easily upset by the written word.  I’m not one of these types, but even I found that, at times, I had to put this book down and walk away to regroup my emotions and my mind; it is that disturbing in parts.

The locations for the novel is the very grim and very private world of Victorian England so, with this in mind it is not surprising to see there is very little real depth or back story to any of the characters; and this is how it would’ve have been in real life, Wives would have known little about their Husbands and the servants would have known how to keep their mouths shut.  In abiding by this social expectation, in her writing the Author actually paints in very vivid detail the personalities and traits that make up her characters; and there is a very large list of them ranging from a despicable wealthy man of society right down to the lowest of the low.

To live in poverty in 19th century Britain was not how we see living in poverty in 21st century Britain, and the Author has done an outstanding job of capturing the misery of those in this situation.  She has held back no punches when it comes to describing the choices open to these people, and what they had to do just to survive from day-to-day.  Her descriptions of ‘parental’ discipline are graphic and moving, and serve to illustrate that children were regarded as a disposable commodity.

There were places in this novel were the hand of a good proof-reader and editor would have come into play, and made the book even more haunting.  In places the Author gets her characters mixed up, and I found myself having to flip back the pages to get them straight in my own head.  This did detract from my enjoyment of the book, but still made it something I wanted to read on to the end to discover what the outcome would be.

I would recommend this novel to lovers of the history genre, both fiction and non-fiction as, at times, this novel becomes something more than just a story; it turns into a social commentary of the times it covers.

001