Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Read in 2018 - 4: The Two Sides of the Shield

The Two Sides of the Shield
Charlotte Mary Yonge

This is the fifth book I read by this author, and as before, I enjoyed it although I had to keep reminding myself of reading it in the context of time and place, not measuring it against modern ideas. It was published in 1885.

You can find the other four reviews by typing "Yonge" in the search box in the upper left corner of my blog. There is also some information about the author.

In "The Two Sides of the Shield", we are thrown right in the middle of a very large family which has been the subject of an earlier book. Whether one has read the earlier story or not does not matter for this story. Doing a bit of research, I found indeed that I had read it; it is "The Stokesley Secret", which I have reviewed here.

In "The Two Sides of the Shield", 14-year-old Dolores is sent to live with the large family of one of her aunts who has - I think - 8 children (I must admit I lost count!). Until the death of her mother, Dolores and her parents lead the fascinating lives of rather high-flying intellectuals in London. Now her father has been offered a position on a scientific mission in the South Sea (or something like that) and decides it is best for him to go, but not good for his daughter to come along.

From intellectual city life, surrounded almost always by adults who let her choose her own reading material and pursuits, to a country house filled with children of all ages, pets, a strict nursery and school room regime and regular prayers - it is no wonder Dolores does not fit in and hates every minute of it.

All efforts from her cousins to befriend her fail; the girl does not even know how to play the way other children do, and hates all "romping". The younger children resort to teasing her, the older ones ignore her as much as possible, and only the one closest to her in age does not give up on her, as hard as it is.

Eventually, Dolores finds a like-minded friend in a young woman living in the village. The young lady is much older than Dolores, but the two of them share romantic notions about literature, and when Dolores makes her new friend believe that she is ill-used and unloved at the home of her aunt, the two hatch a sneaky plan to go behind the aunt's back and let Dolores act against the wishes of both her father and her aunt.

Money is involved, and a mysterious "uncle" of Dolores', and of course the inevitable happens: All comes to light. As bad as the situation seems at first, it proves to be the turning point for Dolores, who finally understands that her new family only meant well, and the love of her aunt and cousin is genuine and can be trusted.

As before, there were some funny bits that made me laugh, but also parts when I thought "oh, please!!", when morals and feelings were too sweet, too tender, too... Victorian.


  1. I think this is always the problem when reading a story which is not of one's own age.

    1. Yes, it is important not to lose sight of the historical context a book was written in.

  2. I like some of her books, but they are certainly from another era! In Louisa May Alcott's A Garland for Girls, one of the stories shows some girls discussing the authors they like with an older woman and Yonge was one of them. It was quite an interesting discussion to me, at the time I read it, in my teens....Our summer cottage was built in 1879 and I tried to collect many books which would have been popular in those early years, but eventually I gave it up. They were a little too different for me and there were other books I wanted!

    1. That is interesting, to have Yonge mentioned in Alcott's book! I like Alcott's "Work" best (the book by that title, I mean); do you know it?
      Yes, books from that era are certainly not for everyone, but I do enjoy switching between contemporary and past authors. Some interesting glimpses into life more than 200 years ago.