Review: Mary Webb’s “Gone to Earth”

by writereaderly

There are various things I could say about this book. One is that it’s the second novel by the author of one of my top two novels in the world, Precious Bane. Another is that it seems to be another Edwardian novel driven almost entirely by lust (cf. the Mr Lawrence reviewed below). Or alternately, that it’s interesting to read an Edwardian novel set among the lower classes rather than the rich, debauched and vapid.

But what I’d really like to say is that you shouldn’t read this book. It’s badly written, too wooden and explicative, the nature writing drowned by excessive moralising – quite a tiresome read. I thought I had the plot sussed and would have given up were it not for the beauty of Webb’s first novel. The greater sin, however, was the book’s moral core, where a heroine who sleeps with the Bad Man rather than the Good Man is subsequently punished in a violent and horrendous way. Not to mention that she gets “thrown in the bracken” (raped), but she’s lust-smitten, so was she really raped and why did she stick around? Shocking, slightly traumatic, and altogether awful.

Where it came from: DC’s Bookshelf
Time & manner of reading: Over a couple of days, with feelings of surprise, tedium and horror (in that order)
Where it went to: Back home
Reminds me of:
Who I’d recommend it to:
Also reading: The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene; The Plumed Serpent by D.H. Lawrence; The Reivers by William Faulkner; Moby Dick by Herman Melville