Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World HistoryThe Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History by Linda Colley
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I wanted to read this book because the life of Elizabeth Marsh sounded profoundly liberated and interesting, regardless of the time period in which she lived. She was a woman who had many adventures, traveled the world, flaunted conventions, and wrote about it. What's not to find interesting? How about this book, for a start?

I was under the impression that this book was Elizabeth's story, based largely on her own words. I read over 100 pages before I came upon anything substantial about Elizabeth herself. For a book about someone who should be a feminist icon, it concentrates heavily on the men around her. If you would like to know a lot about the life and business dealings of James Crisp, then this is the book for you. One of the reasons we know anything at all about Elizabeth Marsh is that she wrote books and diaries about her life and travels. Yet the meager sprinklings of quotation from these works were so light as to not be worth much at all. I wanted to hear what Elizabeth thought about things, not what author, Lind Colley thought about Marsh.

But editorializing seems to be Colley's objective in this book. She plucks this idea that Elizabeth Marsh's mother may not have been purely Caucasian from seeming thin air. No where does she provide proof of such an assertion, but because the woman grew up in the islands, she must be part African. Over and over again in this book, Colley bizarrely repeats the myth of Marsh's mother's lineage, as if it has any bearing on Elizabeth's world view. It happened so many times it became glaring and made me wonder what Colley's true agenda was.

I did not enjoy this book at all. In fact, it frustrated me to no end. But that isn’t Elizabeth Marsh’s fault. I don’t know how Colley managed to take such a fascinating, exciting life story, and turn it into such a mundane, boring, exposition on British business and politics. This book was a severe disappointment. I am just glad that Marsh isn’t around to read it.

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