Monday, December 15, 2014

Historical Fiction Review: The Governess by Noorilhuda

The Governess by Noorilhuda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Governess tells the story of a young woman cast aside by her husband and forsaken by all who know her. It opens on the morning of a hard-won interview. Jane is haunted by a voice in her head that tries to undermine what little self-respect and confidence she still has. Despite her reputation and her inner struggles, she is hired and assumes the role of governess for a well-to-do, but broken family.

Let me start off by saying I really enjoyed this story. The people and their histories are thoroughly explored, but not all at once. Everything is revealed slowly, just enough to draw you further into the story. At first I was worried I'd lose interest, because it seems to take an incredibly long time for anything to happen. But, instead, I found myself more and more engrossed as the story progressed, leading to some very late nights the last few times I picked up the book.

The story is complex and weaves several subplots into the main one that follows Jane on her road to redemption and self actualization. The mystery surrounding Jane's scandal, the vindictiveness of her husband and those he's turned against her, the aging Aunt, the Master of the house and his undying, self destructive love for his deceased wife, the relationship between him and his mistress, and the hints of connection between the Master and Jane. This isn't a romance novel. It's an exploration of some very real, very difficult social situations. It's a lot to take on in a single story, but I think it is done very well.

On the downside, I must admit this story can be a bit convoluted and slow. The first chapter, for example, is long and full of Jane's recent history and struggles, yet in the live story, she only manages to dress herself. What I'm saying is don't go into the story expecting action and adventure. This is a story designed to be thought about, internalized and talked about. It doesn't go anywhere fast. The shifting perspectives can also be a bit confusing, at times reflecting memories and at others reflecting experiences and thoughts of people who are no longer alive during the time in which the story takes place.

Overall, I found this to be a wonderful story, though covering some difficult issues. I would recommend this mostly to those who prefer historical fiction, and in particular to those who might read this for a book club or buddy read. When I finished, I wanted to discuss it, but since I didn't know anyone else who had read it, I really didn't have any outlet. I want to talk about what I thought about the ending, but doing so would spoil it. So, I will hold my tongue and recommend this for others.

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for a review.

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