So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Incomplete Amorist

The Incomplete Amorist by Edith Nesbit

Edith Nesbit was a social and political liberal who wrote some of my favorite children's novels. So I looked forward to reading this adult novel. It was published in 1906 and tells the story of naive Betty Desmond who, after her mother died, grew up with her unemotional vicar stepfather in a rural parish. Bored with country life and the chores of a parsonage, she is out drawing one day when she meets Mr. Vernon, a painter who courts women as a harmless game. Vernon also has little to do, and they start meeting with their art supplies in the forest. He paints her portrait and helps her with her artistic skills. Their attraction to each other alarms her prudish stepfather who sends her off to a French boarding school. Mr. Vernon and Betty meet again in Paris where a complex love quartet forms with a former lover of Vernon's and his best friend. Each of the four people think they are in love with the two people of the opposite sex and must make up their mind which is their true love. Intrigue, miscommunication, love, guilt, and jealousy all mix with Nesbit's charming writing style to produce enjoyable characters in a dilemma that kept this reader interested to the last page. The novel is a comedy of manners that relies more on charming characters than witty ones. The general good will gives the book an innocence that comes easily to an author who wrote primarily for children.

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