Wednesday 22 February 2023

Read in 2023 - 4: Starvecrow Farm

Starvecrow Farm

by Stanley John Weyman

Another free ebook I came across at Amazon’s Kindle shop, and although I can not really recommend it without reservations, it did make for an interesting and somewhat different reading experience.

Published in 1905, Starvecrow Farm is set in 1819, a year that saw much action from and against radical political forces in England. The previous decades of industrialisation had brought great changes to society, with few profiting and many suffering from them.

Lancashire and the city of Manchester were centres not only of industry but also of political radicals. The events of the French Revolution, barely 20 years ago, were still fresh in people's collective memory. Not only for radical ideas and plans of revolution, but even for offences such as poaching a person could be imprisoned, deported to Australia or even hung.

In such a setting 19-year-old Henrietta, of a respectable but unloving family, flees the prospect of an arranged marriage and falls for a radical who entices her to elope with him.

During an overnight stop at a country inn, the man vanishes, and her romantic notions soon follow – especially when she learns the truth about him. Still, she has disgraced her family and can’t simply go back to pick up her old life. Also, there is still the matter of the man she was supposed to marry…

The young woman is falsely accused of being an accessory in the radical’s crimes, and faces aversity from all sides. She shows remarkable courage and resourcefulness to set things straight, and eventually does not only manage to clear her name, she even rescues a kidnapped child and finds a husband.

All events and places are described in much detail, which made the book more interesting than it would have been otherwise. But dialogue is lengthy and sometimes of the kind that makes you want to shake the persons who are speaking, urging them to say what they mean, and say it quickly.

The roles of men and women, of various classes and wealth, are very much rooted in the time not only of the setting, but also of the writing oft he book. Characters are very black and white with few redeeming features for the "bad" and few true faults with the "good" ones. There is humour in the book, too, but how much of that a modern reader will actually grasp is hard to say.

Anyway – it was my companion on the way to and from work for several weeks, and I have read worse (but also much better) books; if nothing else, I learned a lot about the social and political landscape of the time.

More about the author is here Stanley J. Weyman - Wikipedia. A version of the book with its original illustrations can be read online here (Project Gutenberg).


  1. Thanks for the free ebook link! I really do not ever read books online as I do like the feel of an actual book in my hands. But that is a good source to remember if I am ever stuck for something to read and I can't get my hands on a book!

    1. Looks like today I am unable to comment on my own blog other than anonymously... anyway, it's me, Meike.
      I never read books online, either, as I stare at computer screens all day for work anyway. But my kindle is different - there is no back light, no "flicker", and I can read on it even in the brightest sunlight while waiting for a train without it hurting my eyes.
      At home, I read paper books, but while I am out and about, nothing beats the kindle, my trusted travel companion.

    2. Usually, if it says "anonymous", I can click on the little gray arrow next to it and select one of the other choices - Google account or Name/URL. If I pick Name/URL, I just type in my name and then click "continue" in the gray bar and that usually works. Sorry if you already tried this and it didn't work...

    3. Yes, I did try exactly that several times this morning, but it would not work... Now I have tried again, and Lo and Behold, here I am :-) (and I have done nothing different from this morning).

  2. I don't think my eyesight is up to reading a book on line these days sadly.

    1. See my reply to Ellen, Anonymous (Pat?). - Today, I am anonymous on my own blog!!

  3. This doesn't sound like one for me. I'm having difficulty reading at the moment, just for short periods of time and with a lot of squinting - very frustrating! Have read two devastating novellas recently, 'Foster' and 'Small things like These' by Claire Keegan that I think are wonderful and heartily recommend. Very Irish and powerfully sad.

    1. Sorry to hear your eyes are making trouble. Before I had my operations, I was the same - could not read longer than maybe for 10-20 minutes, and needed super good lighting. My kindle came in very handy then, as the font size can be easily adjusted, something a paper book can not do unless you use a magnifying glass.
      Your two "devastating" novellas do not sound like something I would enjoy - I have had my fill of sadness in the past half year...