Why I Probably Should Have Given Wideacre a Wide Berth

wideacre

Well this was one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read…. I went into this book with a little mild trepidation because I’m not a total fan of Philippa Gregory (her books take wayyy too many liberties with history) and I don’t always see eye to eye on books with the friend who recommended this to me. When I finished my reaction was pretty much:

wtf did I just read.jpg

How to describe it?! At first glance this is just an innocent, evocative, highly descriptive narrative. It was compellingly written and I was intrigued to see where it was going. There were hints of seedy goings on, but the dirty deeds were at least vaguely understandable. And then, all too quickly, the plot started to get fucked up. To put it delicately: this was Flowers in the Attic meets 18th century aristocracy (except without the child abuse, so there’s no reason for the story to happen). Yeahhh it went the incest route. Gross.

And still I kept reading. Partly I’m just a masochist: finishing dreadful books so I can rant on here is what I do with my spare time apparently… But also because all the petty craziness and dastardly schemes kept pushing me towards the finish line. I felt almost as if I could trace the normal, sane book in it. Maybe somewhere in there, lost under all the icky bits was something akin to a Peyton book (one can live in hope- though I really should have learnt my lesson from reading Lolita that no amount of pretty writing can save a book like this).

I’m gonna be blunt: I think modern feminist attitudes will blind readers from the fact that the main character is LEGIT INSANE. Because the whole motivation for Beatrice, the main character, acting like such a deranged lunatic, is that she’s been oppressed by patriarchal society and is not getting her due. However, the premise this rests on is flimsy at best because she’s  a) not the oldest child b) not even good at running the land when she does get to and c) does everything based on emotion while claiming to be intelligent (so intelligent she needs to be the one to get the land). I can’t even see why an uber feminist would like this, since, even if you overlook her murderous tendencies, she is so totally useless and therefore a poor representation of girl power.

I didn’t even get why she was so attached to the land anyway. She just had an *everything the light touches* moment and that was it, she was sold. Never mind that she could have just grown up, married someone in the area and lived nearby. Or here’s a crazy idea: she could have just got over it. I think the author got it spot on in the preface when she wrote: No one like Beatrice ever existed or could ever have existed. Too damn right- no one could have been that stupid.  I mean pfff I know it’s a bit out there- but maybe (and I’m gonna put a spoiler in cos you shouldn’t read this damn book) killing your dear old dad, who you love, is not the best option when you’re worried about your inheritance. Maybe, just maybe moving house is less of an upheaval. But what do I know… I’m not a super-rich aristocrat (well, at least according to the classy author this is how all rich people behave)

Obviously, by that quote, the author meant that historically speaking the events of this book were an impossibility. Even then though, Gregory’s words kept coming back to me in their striking lack of self-awareness. Because having read plenty of books from that time period, I couldn’t stop my brain from wailing: “Why can’t she just be normal?!”  (actually my exact words in my notes were: “just find somewhere else to live, you stupid freak!!”). Honestly, this book is like a revenge porn fantasy to punish Georgian men.

ralph helloBut the murder is not the only way the plot leans on stupid ideas. Another spoiler (are you still planning on reading this though?!) but it doesn’t make sense that her nemesis, Ralph survives being fed to a man trap (one of those contraptions designed to stop men poaching). He basically got ripped in two and this is the 18th century with NO MODERN MEDICINE. But ho hum, there couldn’t have been a plot twist without the legless Ralph (also a bad name for a “villain”- it reminds me of that cuddly character off the Simpsons and hardly inspires fear) from coming back from the dead.

Mostly however the sheer stupidity of this book rests on the shoulders of the main character. Not just in the way that she behaves, but in her construction. I mean her schemes are so goddamn *dumb*. She’s supposed to be cunning, but a friggin molerat in a normal story could have seen through her plans (it’s at this point in shitty books where I start to question e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g: like why  do none of the characters have even an iota of intelligence, have I ever written anything as daft as this cos I may as well just throw in the towel if I have and is the sky even blue anymore?). I think the only idea in here that didn’t make me cringe was when she tricked Celia– which worked because Celia was ridiculously over sweet. That said, every-other-scheme only worked because everyone else acted like an *idiot*.

And if a smart character being stupid was the only inconsistency that would have been bad enough… but I also had trouble pinning down her age. I can’t tell you how many times I thought “wait- she’s supposed to be a teenager?” This does not sound like someone who is a clever sixteen- she just sounds over thirty. I had to suspend my disbelief for pretty much the entire book.

Well that was when it wasn’t making me feel physically sick. Because this main character is poisonous enough to rival even Humbert Humbert- and that’s saying something! It wasn’t just the murder or the incest (though bloody hell- when I write it like that- it’s certainly bad enough!) it was also watching her ruin people. That actually managed to be the worst part of it for me- seeing the consequences for everyone else. She’s one of the most disgusting characters I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading about. I can’t even say it was fun to read about such a villain because there was no legitimate reason for her to act like such a crazy bitch. She just reminded me of a spoilt brat throwing her toys out of the pram.

And by the end I was left with the same questions I had at the start: What the hell is the meaning of this story? Should she have never sat on a horse and acted like a man? What is the point of all this? Why write this? I didn’t get this book at all– a line I often reserve for some highbrow books- but trust me this is as low as it gets.

Rating… arghhh… how is an ape supposed to rate a book like this? It’s the wrong kind of bananas! Here’s a handful of measly peanuts instead:

nuts

So have you read this? Will you… pahahaha… let’s not even pretend you’re gonna pick it up… Don’t do that to yourself. Seriously.

49 thoughts on “Why I Probably Should Have Given Wideacre a Wide Berth

  1. Just tell me that Legless Ralph wasn’t the secret brother she had incest with? ‘Cause that could be awkward, in SO many ways, hahahahaa.

    But with the whole dad murder thing. I kill my dad all the time to get the inheritance. My brother and sister complain for a couple of weeks, then get over it. Once I’ve blown through that years inheritance, I just repeat. Stop judging me! and it’s not really my fault anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. hehehehehe no, he’s just the guy she had sex with as a pubescent teen and used to murder her father… which is totally fine. Then she made him legless, cos, why not?

      HAHAHHAHAHAHA makes total sense!! Obviously! If this has taught me anything it’s that if you kill your dad for your inheritance (and then try and fail to kill the guy that helped you do it) things will work out just fine for you….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, I actually think that there is no low Phillipa Gregory won’t stoop to! Most of the time I try to maintain an attitude of “read and let read,” but authors like this really cross the line, I feel! Throughout her “historical” books there are all kinds of suggestions of incest, “righteous” murder, witchcraft, affairs that we have absolutely no proof happened, and all types of ridiculous conspiracy theories! Publishers really need to get a clue when it comes to that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hehe I’m glad I’m not alone in this!!! I really try to have a similar attitude and rarely think “why did the author write this?!”- but after reading this, that’s all I can think!! Yes, I’ve always struggled with the huge levels of historical inaccuracy in her books. I get very frustrated with books like that :/

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Omygosh! This book was terrifying to me. I couldn’t finish. As soon as I saw your post title I was like, “oh snap!” And started having traumatic flashbacks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the peanuts!! OH. MY. THIS WAS SO DARN FUNNY! What a review!! I agree I won’t be reading it but I was happy to read your review… I really dislike when the protagonist is so wonky that you want to pull your own hair out! And I agree I normally finish books like this just so I can rant and have good reason to, lol. It’s like a book bloggers right of passage! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This was HANDS DOWN the funniest review I’ve ever read! Oh man I’m in tears this so fantastic! I definitely won’t be reading this book but pretty PLEASE do another review just like this again soon! The peanuts though!!!! I’m dead, hahahahahahaha

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  6. Great review! It’s been a looong time since I read it but the memories of how crazy it was are still unfortunately perfectly clear. I think she was sleeping with her brother in order to control him? How is that feminist? Gregory’s questioning of inheritance laws – fair enough. But her routes of inquiry we’re so completely off the mark! In attempting to create a feminist character she has in fact created a very anti feminist character

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!!! hahaha I can imagine- I don’t think this is going to leave my memory for quite some time! (if ever!) Yes- she was- and I agree one hundred percent. I also think it would have made more sense to make her the *older* sister- then it would have been more like her getting passed over- I don’t understand why she didn’t make that simple change. Maybe because she wanted her promiscuous but didn’t want her assaulting her younger brother? (which makes very little sense considering the depths of depravity she was willing to go to when writing this book). I totally agree- especially after reading her introduction- I genuinely thought this would be a strong female character- but like you said, it felt like she was creating an anti-feminist character by mistake. Maybe she thought that she was creating a character like the Wife of Bath (again, just speculating) where an anti-feminist character can be used to criticise patriarchal structures and therefore becomes proto-feminist? But even if she was trying to do that, she didn’t succeed because characters like that are hard to balance and Beatrice wasn’t even remotely consistent!! Arghh it just made no sense!! This book just drove me crazy!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I read it a long time ago, but I got the sense that we’re supposed to think that Beatrice is truly insane. I don’t think we’re meant to read her as a heroine. But as I said it’s been a long time since I read the book so perhaps I’m not remembering everything!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hehe I might have thought that, had I not read Gregory’s rather flattering introduction. But I take your point- my problem is, even as a villain, she had shoddy motivations and made very little sense as a character. I’m actually rather fond of anti-heroes, but they have to at least make sense to me, and Beatrice unfortunately did not :/ But that was just me 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Okay, this goes on the nope-list! I’ve heard about the author but haven’t read a book by her yet. And will probably not do that 😀 A character that’s as bad or worse than Humbert Humbert? No nope, NOPE. I’m outta here 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hahaha good call!! I’m not crazy about her books in general- but even if her other books are inaccurate historically, they at least had an element of fun in them…. this book was not fun. it was just weird. hahahaha yes- good call. Funny thing is, you can at least understand why Humbert Humbert is the way he is- however gross that may be- here she’s not even doing it because she fancies her brother- she’s doing it for crazy reasons that never make any sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh dear! I’ve heard so many bad reviews of this book! But I’m actually still curious about this title, even with all the bad reviews. I’ve got a copy of it and the other books in the trilogy, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. Wasn’t this one of her first books?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hehee I get why a lot of people don’t like it to be honest. I’d be interested to hear what you think- it’s a pretty crazy read. And yes, it was her first book- she mentioned the story of how she wrote it and got published in the intro.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pwahahaha I was totally thinking of Ralph when you mentioned the guy’s name xD Terrible, terrible name for a villain!
    And you’re right, it doesn’t make sense that he survives. It also doesn’t make sense for the heroine to obsess over some land and kill her dad for it… Or get it on with a relative (her dad? brother?) WTF. This book clearly doesn’t make sense in any department.
    I think so-called “hardcore feminists” would possibly enjoy reading about this crazy bitch ruining men and everyone else in their path because they’re “fighting for what they believe in and to regain their rights” or some crap. But I, personally, don’t see the appeal.
    I’m so sorry you had to read this! And no bananas…. Man, that’s really bad, indeed! I haven’t read anything by Gregory so far but I’ll steer clear of this one.
    Great review, nonetheless! 🙂 Made for a very entertaining read hahaha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hehehe I know right!!
      hehehe she gets it on with her brother after she kills her dad and tries to kill her lover- yeah WTF pretty much sums it up. The plot made zero sense.
      hahahaha totally possible- I think it may have been framed that way 😉 Except that she wasn’t the oldest child, so she wasn’t actually being screwed out of anything legally- I don’t know why she wasn’t the eldest to be honest, then it would have made sense. I agree though- I wouldn’t have seen the appeal regardless. Destroying people’s lives because of some slight (real or imaginary) is not the way to go!!
      hehehe thank you!! haha good call!!! Thanks very much!! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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