The English Wife, by Lauren Willig, brings the “Gilded Age” to life once again. We’re tossed into the era of Edith Wharton, with her literary contemporaries: Mark Twain and Henry James. It’s a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, and then blasted through with the #metoo revolution of female empowerment.
Perhaps, we could compare the novel to Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, along with Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders. We traverse into the forbidden (banned books) territory. We’re chilled to the bone–murder and mystery… It’s a snowy, winter day beside a frozen lake. And, everything falls apart.
Beyond The Controversy
We’re also in a magical/mythical place, Illyria. Borrowed from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the thematic underpinnings also draws us into a frantic and truly fictional world. Bay and Annabelle are the fictional rulers of their kingdom, but nothing is what it seems. There are salacious possibilities, hidden stories behind the well-gilded life. And, Janie must uncover the full truth behind the lies, innuendo and gossip, with help from her dashing newspaperman.
Captured in a gilded cage, each one is unable to breathe, hope or even dream of any other possibility. The beautiful outsider (the English wife) represented something different, exotic, though most of them fully realized just how or why. Against the backdrop of masks and overwhelming glamour, the past resurrects itself and haunts us all.