The Recluse - Evelyn Juers
There is an urban myth in Newtown that the inspiration for Charles Dickens archetypal Miss Havisham was based on a woman who lived here in the 19th century. Eliza Donnithorne was allegedly jilted at the altar and never recovered, the wedding feast remaining on the table until her death. Sound familiar? However, this book is anything but a retelling of Miss Havisham’s sad end, instead Juers delves into the history of the Donnithorne family and examines the fables that made Eliza the myth she is today – who came first? Eliza or Miss Havisham?
I must admit that at times I found myself cast adrift as Juers recounted history of the family – jumping back and forth between cousins and distant family members I struggled to keep straight and see the point of. Nevertheless this was a thoroughly researched collection and I was fascinated at how Eliza has become a local legend simply by becoming a recluse – the only hard evidence to be found were letters to her lawyers and family that stated she was unwell and an avid reader. So the real question is – does a woman have to have a tragic past to decide she would prefer to spend her life alone reading? This reader certainly hopes not!