A Country Gentleman and His Family by Margaret Oliphant

A Country Gentleman and His FamilyA Country Gentleman and His Family by Margaret Oliphant is surprisingly well written. Mrs Oliphant was a Victorian authoress who wrote novels to support herself and several dependents so was prolific but variable in quality. This book had skillful characterisation and lovely, revealing reflections on life. While the plot was somewhat predictable, the characters were not,  while still being plausible. The book opens with the death of two husbands (one boring, one wild) and the complex feelings of relief experienced by their wives. Mrs Warrender, dutiful during her husband’s life, feels relief at the prospect of expressing a side of herself that has been suppressed and misunderstood throughout her marriage. Yet her easily shockable daughters and somewhat dictatorial son prove a challenge. Meanwhile Lady Markland blossoms as she takes over the reins of her young son’s estate in an effort to turn it around after her husband’s damaging treatment of both his estate and his family. Yet Lady Markland’s flourishing is threatened by a possible remarriage, to which she will bring all the complications of a history, mature opinions and character, and a son from her previous marriage.

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