Elizabeth Barrett Browning was attended to for many years by a maid named Elizabeth (Lily) Wilson. This is a (very) fictional narrative of Wilson’s life.
I originally wrote up a very long review for this book. I decided to delete that review and review it in brief instead because my feelings against it were so violent and I felt that my review was too rude and might offend someone. In short, I’d like to sum up my feelings on this book by saying I think it was an incredibly irresponsible piece of fiction based on real lives. See, 95% of this book was pure fiction based on the small bits of fact known about Wilson. The author chose to take those bits and then (mis)construe relationships, personalities, and circumstances to meet some sort of agenda, one which isn’t really clear because there are two abrupt changes in tone/message throughout the book.
For example, it’s known that real-life Wilson left her first son with her sister Ellen for many years, from his birth until a year after Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s death. We don’t know why, but the author chose to portray it as being because the Brownings were monsters and refused to let Wilson have the child, threatening to fire her if she didn’t leave him behind, and later, once she no longer worked for them, blocking any chance she had of getting him. It was completely ridiculous. I don’t expect the Brownings to be hailed as angels, but I’m sorry, I can’t believe they were the monsters they were made out to be time and time again in this book. The thing that really bothers me is that when I look at reviews of this book, people say this book convinced them to despise the Brownings and not want to read their poetry. That makes me extremely sad. I was really hoping this book would be more like Virginia Woolf’s Flush, which I adored, but I was, sadly, severely disappointed.
I should mention that the audio performance was actually pretty good. The book was read by Carole Boyd and she read all the various voices well (except children, but I really don’t like when adults try to mimic children’s voices anyway).