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Monday, March 23, 2009

Reader's Diary #470- George Gissing: A Victim of Circumstances


Trying to find a short story by Charles Dickens online, I stumbled upon a story by one of Dickens' supporting critics, George Gissing. I'd not heard of Gissing before so I decided to read his instead. Am I ever glad I did.

"A Victim of Circumstances" is the story of the Castledines, a couple of artists living in rural England in the latter half of the 19th century. The catch is that they have put their energies behind the husband, Horace's, career when clearly it is the wife, Hilda, who has the most talent.

I've often wondered how it is that couples pursuing the same artistic endeavours survive. How does Tabitha King, for instance, deal with her husband's success? And I have to wonder if Graeme Gibson didn't give up writing novels because of feelings of inadequacy.

But even beyond the obvious marital tensions such a circumstance would create, there are so many other interesting angles to pursue. I was embarrassed to see a little of myself in Horace. I've tried, perhaps lazily and haphazardly, my hand at poetry and this amateur floundering is paralleled wickedly in Horace's attempt at historical paintings. There's also an excellent feminist undercurrent in the story that I was quite surprised to see in a story written by a Victorian-era male writer.

I'm very much looking forward to discovering more of Gissing's stories.

Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link below.

12 comments:

J.C. Montgomery said...

I'm definitely going to have to write this one down. As you noted, it sounds very unlike what a man would write during the Victorian period, hence why it sounds so intriguing.

Teddy Rose said...

This one sounds really good John! Thanks for the link, I just printed it off.

I am still playing cach-up with ARC deadlines so alas, I will not have a whort story review this week either.

Lynda said...

I have a novel by Gissing waiting to be read on my shelves. Thanks for this review - I'm off to read this short story now ;0)
Mine this week is a fairytale:
http://lyndasbookblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/godmother-death-by-jane-yolen-short.html

Tea said...

I read another story this Monday. Now, I need to go and write my comments.

JoAnn said...

This sounds like a very interesting story. I'll be reading it later this week...thanks!

Eva said...

I second J.C.! I'm not sure I'd want to be married to someone who is in the exact same career field as mw if they were at all competitive.

Alisa said...

This sounds very interesting.

One horrifying perspective on the two-writer household can be found in Elizabeth Jane Howard's memoir 'Slipstream' - she talks a lot about living & writing with husband Kingsley Amis.

I am regularly thankful that I am not in a relationship with a person whose creative ambitions run parallel to mine.

Book Psmith said...

Happy Monday everyone! John - Sounds like a very good story. I will have to check it out this week.

katrina said...

Gissing's novel New Grub Street is well worth a read. Story looks great.
Linked my story review

Isabella said...

I read and enjoyed New Grub Street last year -- about the publishing industry. Doris Lessing sang Gissing's praises in an essay -- I'm glad I followed up on it.

Melanie said...

Gissing is one of the only men to be published by Virago press. His "The Odd Women" is a wonderful look at women's roles and feminist issues in Victorian England -- I reviewed a while back and called it more of a social tract than a novel, which I would still say, but it is quite intriguing to read.

John Mutford said...

J.C.: While the feminist angle isn't the only theme of the story, it was somewhat surprising.

Teddy: Looking forward to have you back at the short stories again soon, I hope!

Lynda: I'd not even heard of Gissing before now. I'll be looking for his novels, for sure.

Tea: I'll check it out. Thanks!

JoAnn: Come back and tell me what you thought.

Eva: Actually my wife and I are in the same field but we're not competitive in the least.

Alisa: I'll be on the lookout for Howard's book. Sounds interesting.

Book Psmith: One of the better ones I've read so far this year.

Katrina: Once again, it looks like I'm one of the few unfamiliar with Gissing.

Isabella: Doris Lessing? That's high praise.

Melanie: Maybe we can have a Gissing revival.