"The Incomplete Amorist" is the first adult novel by Edith Nesbit I have ever read, and I must say it did nothing to make me want to read more. I love her children's books - they are, along with Astrid Lindgren's works and the Narnia books, my all-time favourites. And when, not that long ago, Monica wrote about some of Nesbit's books on her blog, I went straight to the kindle shop and downloaded all the free ones I could find. "The Incomplete Amorist" was among them.
While researching for this review, I came across this review, which sums up very well what I would have told you about the book myself.
For those of you who do not wish to follow links leading elsewhere, here is my brief summary of this (relatively short) novel:
Young Betty grows up an orphan with her strict stepfather, a vicar in rural England in Edwardian times. She dreams of being an artist, and one day, while she is out sketching, happens to come across a man who really is an artist. Predictably, the two of them embark on something we today would certainly not call an affair (they never even kiss or hug), but what was deemed improper from society's point of view back then.
Her stepfather finds out, and to make Betty forget the man (Vernon), he sends her to Paris, where she is to study art. In Paris, very predictably, she runs into the man again. And when the lady who is supposed to chaperon her dies, Betty grabs the chance to take her life into her own hands without anyone back home knowing about it.
She has enough money (originally intended for the chaperone) to rent her own rooms and does indeed study art, making friends among her fellow students, and meeting Vernon regularly for meals. The two of them think they are in love with each other, but neither tells the other what they believe to be feeling. There are another woman and another man to complicate matters, leading to Vernon leaving Paris, and Betty going away, too.
Still, nobody at home knows about any of this, but finally, Betty's aunt and her stepfather decide to go visiting the girl in Paris, where they find out that she never lived with the chaperone and spent the past months all on her own.
They follow Betty, who finally learns the truth about her stepfather, and returns to England with him. She does get married to the man who loves her in the end, but I must admit that the "happy ending" left me quite flat; I never cared for Betty throughout the book, or for any of the men. The character I felt most for was her stepfather, and you just have to like the aunt.
My free ebook version came without illustrations, but I found the illustrated one at Project Gutenberg, and am nicking two of the pictures for this review.
Do not read it if you expect a typical Edith Nesbit book; the Edith I love shows herself in only very few instances in this story. Still, it makes an interesting picture of life for a young woman in Edwardian times, and how that life (and that of those around her) was restricted in so many ways by society's conventions.