Monday, February 05, 2007

Book Review

F.M. Mayor, The Third Miss Symons (Virago Modern Classics). Originally published in 1913.

Henrietta, “the third Miss Symons,” is the third daughter of a large Victorian family. She enters life burdened with two attractive older sisters and parents who don’t understand her and don’t particularly care for her. They prefer her more straightforward sisters. They certainly don’t bother to unlock the secret of her personality: what she wants, more than anything, is to be loved and to be important to someone else. Unfortunately, being loved doesn’t come easily to her. She tries too hard, and she herself doesn’t understand the motives and behaviors of other people. As she grows older, she falls back on querelousness and bad temper as a way of asserting herself. She needs to feel important, but comes across as irritating. Her desperate need to be needed makes her almost entirely unwanted. She’s an interesting and brilliantly drawn character: the reader initially sympathizes with her, but gradually—like everyone else—begins to dislike her and to want to give her a good shake. The Third Miss Symons is not a joyous novel, but it’s a brilliant one—a little masterpiece of characterization.

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