The Life and Death of Harriett Frean
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The Life and Death of Harriett Frean

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3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  292 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Harriett is the Victorian embodiment of all the virtues then viewed as essential to the womanly ideal: a woman reared to love, honour and obey. Idolising her parents, she learns from childhood to equate love with self-sacrifice, so that when she falls in love with the fiance of her closest friend, there is only one way to confront such an unworthy passion. Or so it seems.....more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published April 14th 1980 by Virago (first published 1922)
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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
"Pussycat, Pussycat, where have you been?
"I've been to London, to see the Queen.
"Pussycat, Pussycat, what did you do there?
"I caught a little mouse under the chair."

Baby Harriett (Frean) laughs everytime her mother recites this to her. Her parents wonder what it is here which their baby finds funny.

The very first novel I've read which starts with a nursery rhyme.

Later, after about an hour of nonstop reading, Harriet Frean is already 68 years old, dying of the same cancer which killed her mother...more
Nenette
The title says it all...The story started when Harriett Frean was a baby and her mother cooed over her, reciting a nursery rhyme. It ended when she was dying at the age of sixty-eight, while she listened to the same nursery rhyme from somewhere at the back of her head, and her last words were "Mamma". If the author had made the title "The Life and Death of Spinster Harriett Frean", then there's nothing more to say in this review.

Harriett was an old maid; otherwise, hers was a very ordinary life....more
Safae
Who is Harriett Frean? she is an insignificant women with no past no present and no future.
Her life is so empty, the book reminded me of the curious case of Benjamin Button , which contained an insignificant life as well.
There are a lot of lessons that you could learn from this book, such as never be too good, never give up your dreams , and be yourself.
Harriett seemed to me that she hadn't developed a personality of her own in her entire life, the book began with Harriett the child , and she ha...more
Carol
This short novel concerns the life of Harriet Frean, a woman of the late nineteenth century. It's told in succinct, almost plain style, using select episodes to illuminate a whole life. It is also a dark and harsh critique of late Victorian morals and propriety as well as an examination of the dark side of familial bonds. Harriet makes several choices according to the repressive and self sacrificing dictates of her parents' Victorian values. However, instead of improving the lives of those affec...more
Mrsgaskell
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emily
What if you don't get out enough? You will die wondering if it is better not to have lived at all, that's what. Nobody could live a duller life than Harriet Frean of The Life and Death of Harriet Frean by May Sinclair. Sinclair was a suffragist and Harriet Frean is the opposite, a woman who is raised to be "nothing but beautifully behaved." Harriet never tries to be anything but beautifully behaved and chugs along dutifully and self-sacrificingly until, at the end of her life, she's gained an in...more
Helen Kitson
The story of a self-sacrificing Victorian woman who turns away the man she loves because he's engaged to one of her friends, and persists - even in her thirties - in thinking of herself as 'Hilton Frean's daughter' rather than as a person with her own rights and desires. It's a very short, strange, disturbing little novel written by a woman whose spare prose is very different from the styles of her friends and acquaintances, who included Henry James, Thomas Hardy, and Rebecca West. [June 2006]
Erin
What a sad little book. I could relate to Harriett who often sacrificed what she wanted for what she thought others wanted, and it just resulted in no one actually getting what they wanted. Such a sad existence, and even the most simplest choices turned out to be the wrong ones.

The story was written very clearly and simply, with little emotion, yet it was full of feeling and emotion. Definitely a surprising little gem.
T.L. Bodine
I read this novel in one sitting as part of a British literature course I took. I read dozens of books that semester, but this one stuck out and has haunted me ever since. It is, in its own quiet and understated way, one of the most disturbing novels I have ever read.

Essentially, the story revolves around the detached illustration of the way well-meaning social rules can create a monster.
Juan
Not many people seem to know about May Sinclair. But she was a genius. This little gem reads like a dream.

"'It's silly,' Lizzie said, 'not to be able to look at a new thing because it's new. That's the way you grow old.'"
Ruth Mcauley
This short novel tells the disturbing tale of a Victorian girl named Harriett Frean and her attempt to live a "morally beautiful" life... a decision that becomes more difficult when she falls in love with her best friend's fiancé. The story calls into question whether or not doing the moral thing always leads to the greatest happiness for everyone involved and explores the concept that you may be mistaken when you let your actions be dictated by what you think other people want for you. I really...more
May
I have mixed feelings about this classic from May Sinclair, primarily because it really speaks to a particular person and mentality, which differs diametrically from mine. That said, I have to give it high marks as it is well written and I can understand why it is a true classic.

Harriett, having grown up and conditioned to a particular culture and way of thinking, believes that acting "beautifully" is the right and only way of living. Stuck within the structural confines of this conditioning, sh...more
Candice
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sue
Had I like Harriett Frean more it would probably have been 5*! She was a lady of her time- wanting to be seen to do the right thing but lacking charity when it was needed most. The book follows the life of a spirited Harriett to her old age. What happened in between? Not a lot really - there could have been more, but she was wedded to being good and that didn't help the people who loved her.
Elysa
This was a very intriguing short read. It explored the complexities of families and how making yourself completely dependent on them can be damaging. This is one of the (not quite scariest, but sort of) most uncomfortable pieces of fiction I've ever read, but I think it is important.
Ann
A sad story of a life left unlived.
Livinginthecastle
3.5 stars really. This is an account of a woman who is taught to 'act beautifully' above all else and prides herself on it from cradle to grave. This book, written in 1922, shows the foolishness of this endeavour and Harriet becomes trapped by her hero worship of her parents, although she prefers to exalt in her martyrdom. The one issue I would have is the fact that the book suggests she ruined other people's lives by her decision, whereas I would say they could've taken different decisions too.
Stephanie "Jedigal"
Enjoyable and quick read. I liked Harriet the child more than Harriet the adult, but I wouldn't if that wouldn't be true for the vast majority of human beings if I could know them all in both states. The author does a nice job of showing a person who doesn't even realize how insular and self-centered her viewpoint is until very late (too late) in her life. Somehow the reading of it is not nearly as depressing as the message of it.
Amanda Wallace
This is a story about the pressure to "Behave beautifully" it highlights the restrictions of women and the expectations of them to exist in no other place than the domestic sphere. I felt the end was quiet heart breaking as she does not learn anything of real value, she does not break away from her parents teachings - it reflects how many women probably led their lives. Which shows how far we really have come.
Rebecca Smith
A small book with a profound message that compels you to re-assess and potentially change your life - As a modernist text, the stream of consciousness technique employed may confuse the reader at first (as it did my mother :-?), regardless of this, it is a must read!
Nicola
Sweet, nostaglic but with very sad undertones. A woman who who has been taught one way to live in the world and is unable to acknowlege the prison bars which this creates around her.
Vrinda Pendred
I really really liked this book, short and simple and to the point with a bit of a daring statement to it and really made the emotions felt strongly, despite the brevity.
Eileen
There's nothing like the total horror of a life made meaningless by one's own action (or inaction).
Maulida
Ada perbedaan antara benar-salah dan baik-buruk.
A must-read.
Monica
I had to read this for school. I enjoyed it!
Elizabeth Halsey
I love this book.
Leather
Leather marked it as to-read
Sep 01, 2014
Stine Ilberg
Stine Ilberg marked it as to-read
Aug 31, 2014
Christina Crumbliss
Christina Crumbliss marked it as to-read
Aug 31, 2014
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

May Sinclair was the pseudonym of Mary Amelia St. Clair, a popular British writer who wrote about two dozen novels, short stories and poetry. She was an active suffragist, and member of the Woman Writers' Suffrage League. May Sinclair was also a significant critic, in the a...more
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