(Cover picture courtesy of Mrs. Stepford.)
Wideacre Hall, set in the heart of the English countryside, is the ancestral home that Beatrice Lacey loves. But as a woman of the eighteenth century she has no right of inheritance. Corrupted by a world that mistreats women, she sets out to corrupt others. Sexual and willful, she believes that the only way to achieve control over Wideacre is through a series of horrible crimes, and no one escapes the consequences of her need to possess the land.
Warning: Includes mature content and some spoilers.
My feelings toward Wideacre are the same as the way I feel about spiders, snakes and some people. It’s a mixture of disgust, dislike and supreme boredom. I’ll try to explain.
Beatrice Lacey was her father’s favourite child when her older brother Harry was away at school. She grew up taking care of Wideacre and loved it, but women had no right of inheritance in eighteenth century England (even though ancient Egyptian women did thousands of years before). Long story short, in order to keep her beloved land she is directly responsible for two murders, one maiming and shipping off one person to an insane asylum. This is not counting the deaths of people in the village who commit suicide or starve because of her decisions in the second half of the novel.
I had a really hard time getting into Wideacre at first because of the slow pace. Then I had a hard time staying with the novel because Beatrice was a character with absolutely no redeeming qualities. She murders, maims, and manipulates without any sort of guilt most of the time. If you want a great ruthless character, check out Thu from House of Dreams by Pauline Gedge, who actually has some redeeming qualities. Beatrice Lacey has none whatsoever, not a single one. She’s not even particularly interesting in the second half of the book because we are stuck in her point of view as she descends further into madness.
I don’t have any doubts as to the historical accuracy since this is a Philippa Gregory novel (although the characters aren’t real). But accuracy doesn’t redeem even this novel because of the horrible main character and somewhat ridiculous premise. Philippa Gregory is not a bad writer, so I would recommend picking up The Constant Princess or The White Queen before picking up Wideacre.
This is definitely not for anyone under 15 because of the mature content, which includes graphic murder, incest and very explicit sex scenes. I’m not joking here; you’d think the novel was set in the court of an Eighteenth Dynasty Pharaoh what with all of the incest, sex and murder.
I give this book 1/5 stars.