The Mystery of Mrs Blencarrow

Title: The Mystery of Mrs Blencarrow

Author: Mrs Oliphant

Published: 1890

Challenges: Women’s Classic Literature


The Mystery of Mrs Blencarrow was reprinted by Persephone Books alongside another novella by Mrs Oliphant entitled Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamund.  In the first story, Mrs Blencarrow is a respectable widow living with her children in a large house in a country village.  It is the winder and she has thrown a party for the village, one attended by a flighty, spoilt young girl named Kitty.  Kitty is upset because her parents disapprove of her love interest, but she is determined to marry him regardless.  It is during their secret elopement to Gretna Green that Kitty discovers a dark and mysterious secret about Mrs Blencarrow and brings back the news that might ruin her neighbour.  In Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamund Mrs Lycett- Landon’s husband ‘disappears’ on a trip to London for work.  Mrs Lycett-Lamdon’s suspicions bring her to London and after checking her husband’s usual haunts – discovering some lies along the way – she discovers him living happily in London…with a new, younger wife! 

My Thoughts

I am going to discuss both novellas separately as I have different views on both of them.  The Mystery of Mrs Blencarrow was a brilliant read.  It is shrouded in mystery right from the beginning when a hidden voice calls into a dark room “are you there?” I kept trying to second guess the actual mystery and I wasn’t far off if I’m honest…in fact as soon as Kitty and her lover (whose name escapes me) venture to Gretna Green, the home of quick marriages, I knew exactly what Mrs Blencarrow was hiding.  The characters are perfectly drawn caricatures of a village society, with Kitty’s mother, Mrs Bircham is just a malicious old bat.  She is mortified when Kitty elopes, but the news of Mrs Blencarrow’s secret marriage makes it suddenly acceptable because she feels there is someone or something more scandalous than her daughter in the village.  

On the other hand, I didn’t really enjoy Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamund.  I found the story very slow and I wasn’t really very interested in the characters or what happened to them. I know I read it, but I’m pretty certain I didn’t take much of the story in.  I can see why these two novellas were published together and I was quite surprised when I saw that they were published in the Victorian era.  Their content about women and marriage is quite shocking for Victorian times, with the women in the novel refusing to submit to the laws of marriage or to the men in their life that make silly mistakes.  In Mrs Lycett-Landon’s defence, although I didn’t like the story, I did appreciate how she refused to listen to her husband’s excuses and continued to live her life without him.  Mrs Oliphamt’s writing is certainlyahead of her time in that respect, but, whilst enjoyable, this hasn’t been my favourite Persephone read. 


The Classics Club Spin #11

I haven’t taken part in a Classics Club Spin for a few spins but as we are coming up to the holiday season and I will hopefully have a bit more time on my hands I’m feeling optimistic about this spin (famous last words).  The rules are simple, pick 20 books from your list, number them and on Monday 7th December a random number will be picked and then that is the book you need to read by the 1st February…argh 2016! 

I was hoping to group my books, but with 25 left to read I just decided to remove 5 that I don’t really fancy.  I then discovered the shocking fact that there are only 6 books by women left on my list.  I would like to think this is because I have read a lot of the books by female authors and I have to certain extent, but I think if I looked closely my list would be quite male dominated.  If I were to write my list today I imagine it would like very different.  Anyway, below is my lovely list with female authors plonked in every so often: 

1. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens 

2.The Beautiful and the Damned – F.Scott Fitzgerald

3. A Room with a View – E.M. Forster

4. Persuasion – Jane Austen 

5. The Forsyte Saga – John Galsworthy

6. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

7. Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy 

8. Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen 

9. Women in Love – D.H. Lawrence

10. The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje

11. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

12. Emma – Jane Austen 

13. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – J.R.R. Tolkien

14. The Jungle Book – R. Kipling

15. The Warden – Anthony Trollope

16. Lady Audley’s Secret – Mary Elizabeth Braddon

17. A Farewell to Arms – Ernst Hemmingway

18. The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins 

19. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins 

20. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte 

Good luck to everyone taking part!