Edith Ottley, a pretty and intelligent young woman, has begun to be bored with her life. Her husband Bruce is pompous, condescending, and unaware of his intellectual inferiority to his wife. Edith’s only solace is the companionship of her friend Hyacinth Verney, a young heiress who is living a dashing and unconventional life in London. Hyacinth has just begun to explore the possibility of getting married, and she is strongly attracted to the handsome but aloof Cecil Reeve. But Cecil, in turn, is hopelessly in love with a widow ten years his senior, although she doesn’t return his affections. In short, this novel is a comedy of manners about a social circle in which everyone is in love with the wrong person. Amidst all their tangled romances and unrequited loves, can any of the characters find true happiness?
I read this novel a couple weeks ago, and I find that I don’t have much to say about it now. The book is quite witty in places, and some of the situations and characters strongly reminded me of Jane Austen. (Bruce Ottley, for example, is a slightly more sympathetic Mr. Collins if ever there was one — which makes me wonder why Edith married him in the first place!) But this book never really goes below the surface or allows the reader to sympathize with any of the characters. All the conflicts in the book came across as trivial to me, and in the end I didn’t much care how all the various romances resolved. If you enjoy stylish, witty comedies of manners, you’ll find something to enjoy in this novel; but if you need a strong plot or sympathetic characters, you’ll end up feeling frustrated, as I did.