You won’t find Lydia Robinson mentioned much in the historical record. Most who have heard of her will know her as no more than a caricature made by Anne Brontë in a novel after a disastrous affair with Anne’s brother Branwell. What if she were more than a caricature, though? What if she were a living, breathing woman, with her own desires and failings.
This is the question Finola Austin asks, and she more than delivers on the promise of a novel about a woman who never wrote one in defense of herself. Lydia is not always likable, but she is always compelling as a forty-something woman in the mid-nineteenth century. Brontë’s Mistress is reminiscent of the novels of the Brontë sisters, but with a modern sentiment and enough subtlety that I needed to have it pointed out in the author’s note. (Speaking of which: read the author’s note. It was as fascinating as the rest of the novel.).
Austin breathes life into a figure I had never heard of, and into an era so many of us view as stiff and prudish. There is a good reason for that, but those wicked women of the era were humans as well and deserve to be remembered as such, Lydia Robinson included.
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