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A Simple Story

3.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  513 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
When Miss Milner announces her passion for her guardian, a Catholic priest, she breaks through the double barrier of his religious vocation and 18th-century British society's standards of proper womanly behavior. Like other women writers of her time, Elizabeth Inchbald concentrates on the question of a woman's "proper education," and her sureness of touch and subtlety of c ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published November 19th 1998 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1791)
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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldHamlet by William ShakespeareJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëPride And Prejudice by Jane AustenThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Oxford World's Classics
54th out of 198 books — 48 voters
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary WollstonecraftSongs of Innocence and of Experience by William BlakeJacques the Fatalist by Denis DiderotThe Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Jan PotockiCritique of Judgment by Immanuel Kant
Best Books of the 1790's: 1790-1799
54th out of 104 books — 9 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,475)
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Aug 14, 2016 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book!
The back gave nothing away , a well paced story with a few twists.
Gothic in parts.
Loved the last volume where all ends happily.
Dec 09, 2007 Scarlettfish rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing novel. It's very different from most 18th-century novels. It's way more naturalistic, in that it's not as mannered and self-consciously 'literary' as a lot of the other novels of the time. Which is not to say that they are bad, it's just that this is just so different. It's amazingly realistic. And astonishingly sexual. The latter half of the novel, which deals with the heroine of the first half's daughter, is very different, but the force of sexuality from the first half of t ...more
May 03, 2016 Moriartyandherbooks rated it really liked it
Oh my gosh I LOVED THIS! ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS! It didn't change my life, but this was SUCH an unexpected piece of work! The back does not even begin to tell you the full plot of this story, which is good because I ended up being pleasantly surprised! I expected the usual "she confesses her love, and then they marry" which either takes forever or happens quickly and then the rest of the book it just talks about how their marriage is doomed. BUT NO, this book had a great pace, and I dare say it w ...more
Dec 29, 2015 Carm9n rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You can read my impressions here...
May 12, 2010 Margaret rated it liked it
Elizabeth Inchbald was a late 18th-century actress and playwright who also wrote two books, of which this one is the better known; the other, Nature and Art, is hard to find nowadays, though you can read it at Project Gutenberg.

A Simple Story is a penetrating character study, of the passionate Miss Milner and her love for the stern Dorriforth, her guardian, who is also a Catholic priest. The plot becomes a little didactic, but Inchbald's gift for characterization is evident on every page: Miss
This was an effective and enjoyable novel. I preferred the last two volumes compared to the first two, but I think the structure and plot of this novel were my favourite parts, the dual timeline worked really well, and was used in a way that emphasised the differences between the various characters. Other than that, the characters felt flat, and the story wasn't my favourite. I'd recommend it if you're looking for 18th Century novels to read though.
Jan 28, 2016 Patrizia rated it it was ok
«If we were to inquire how happened that the true value of Mrs. Inchbald's achievements has passed out of general recognition, perhaps the answer to our question would be found lie in the extreme difficulty with which the mass of readers detect and appreciate mere quality in literature»: questo giudizio, che ho aprioristicamente condiviso, accompagnato da straordinarie informazioni riguardanti la vita reale dell'autrice mi ha spinto a tuffarmi senza esitazioni nei quattro volumetti che compongon ...more
Andrea Lundgren
Jul 01, 2014 Andrea Lundgren rated it it was amazing
I would recommend this to Jane Austen fans as well as those of Georgette Heyer. Inchbald combines the strong heroine that Heyer is known for while writing during Austen's time period. (And thus just writing a novel instead of a historical novel.)

I was impressed by how real the characters were, how close I felt to them and the action, despite the lack of description or extensive narration, both of which I had expected (the former is used heavily by Heyer, and the latter can be found in Edgeworth
Nov 21, 2013 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not bad, and as a book has been severely overlooked for a number of years, but I feel that the two halves of the book (originally conceived as separate novels), don't quite sit together. Further, the ending seems a bit of a let down after the denouement which precedes it.
Dec 23, 2013 Ulfah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this ofc because of Jane Austen, and I wonder what other writer wrote during her lifetime, especially since some people say it sort of 'inspire' Jane. And once again I'm overwhelmed by Jane's genius! hah! I like the first half of the book, it's at times terribly frustrating because if only people can be true to each other... geez. And I also somewhat hate Mr Sandford by his rudeness towards miss Milner until the last chapter of second volume, and how incredibly uncomfortable it is to see ...more
Mar 15, 2014 Eugenia rated it liked it
I did not enjoy the beginning all that much, but it gets very interesting around the middle of Volume II. It's surprisingly "modern" in its focus on psychological realism and thought processes, but its interiority does make it less witty than Burney or Austen or Edgeworth or Ferrier or any of your other favorite novelists from that era. I had always heard she was a moralist, and I suppose you could read it that way, but I thought it was actually quite racy in parts. It's certainly franker about ...more
Oct 05, 2012 Caitlin rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 06, 2014 Trish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Elizabeth Inchbald's A Simple Story was a long overdue read for me. I love women novelists from this period, but for some reason this book kept slipping under my radar, or I just couldn't seem to pick it up. Now I'm wondering why it took me so long.

Simply put, this novel does a lot in a relatively short amount of space. The plot is interesting, the characters are intriguingly stereotypical yet somehow subversive, and I would argue it is hard to determine what Inchbald really wants you to take
Feb 13, 2015 Carrie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: boone
I am typically not a fan of reading novels from this time period, nor this region of the world, but I found myself guiltily enjoying Inchbald's work. From a biased standpoint, I would have only given this novel three stars because the topic and genre just do not pique my interest, but Sandford as a character earned the novel the fourth star. His candor was refreshing in a time when deceit and coquettish behavior were common in the social class that this novel makes its subject matter.
The title A Simple Story amused me, because this novel is so much more than that. While on the surface it teaches the contemporary moral don't flirt OR ELSE YOUR LIFE IS OVER , Inchbald is subtly critical of the stern moral guidance imparted by the novel's patriarchal figures Dorriforth/Elmwood and - at first - Sandford. (view spoiler) ...more
Aug 17, 2011 Valerie rated it liked it
This book had promise and even though I didn't like too many of the characters, the first two volumes of the book were quite entertaining. Miss Milner, though a bit of a lame floozy, kept the story going. When she dies (oops spoiler) and the narrative shifts to her daughter, Matilda, everything just gets really boring. Though she is a "better" character as she is more demure than her mother, she annoyed me so much more. She just kind of weeps and cries a lot about her hardships. The worst part o ...more
Jenna M
Aug 07, 2012 Jenna M rated it it was ok
I find this era of novel a struggle at time, with moralising and dull narration being common, but I nevertheless enjoyed this. The book is split in two parts, the first is about a sassy, witty young woman, by all accounts based on the author herself, who has a forbidden passion for her guardian-priest. Oh, la. Lots of fun. She comes to ruin, of course. Her hubby turns to a tyrant and locks his daughter in another house, with the threat that to see him would mean expulsion and poverty. Very gothi ...more
Feb 01, 2008 Kat rated it liked it
I was somewhat disappointed with this book. Inchbald was clearly a very intelligent and very witty writer, and her language has a great sense of activity to it which comes from her being a playwright. But I feel like, while she touched on some great things and wrote some particularly inspired passages, the cohesiveness of the novel as a whole lacked. People in my class would argue that this is part of what makes the novel so great, that Inchbald purposely surprised the reader with unorthodox met ...more
Aug 26, 2015 Juliana rated it liked it
I rather enjoyed this book, more so than I imagined I would. I actually think that this story has tremendous potential of being a very good movie today.
Aug 27, 2012 Nurul rated it liked it
Oh man. This book. I should've seen the irony in the book's title a mile away -- this story is anything but simple. Dry and unmemorable at the beginning, somehow Miss Milner and Dorriforth's passion ensnared me as soon as I started envisioning the latter as Tom Hiddleston dressed in clothing of that era. I blame Tom for everything, including the strong desire to throw the novel across the room once I'd reached the end of its first plot. Fortunately, I refrained from doing so; the library would'v ...more
Zen Cho
Feb 19, 2015 Zen Cho rated it liked it
Dorriforth is such a douchebag >:( Would make a good steamy romance novelette!
Jul 19, 2014 Melissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my first Inchbald novel, and I loved it. It's got both elements of the domestic novel and the gothic, and a lot of very improbable occurrences. The Broadview edition uses the original 1791 text, but footnotes Inchbald's later revisions. The first edition is slightly more melodramatic than subsequent editions, it seems, but I think it worked in this novel. Even if it was a bit predictable, it was great fun and never lagged, and the characters, if a little unrealistic were less one-dimens ...more
Amazing! Not at all what you would expect from a book published in 1791. Inchbald is quite forgotten today, and totally undeservedly so. Inchbald makes a very strong point in favour of a rational, equal education for women.
May 29, 2012 David rated it really liked it
This was a sensational book (in both senses) that I ended up writing a paper on. I presented it at the BWWC in Columbus, in 2011.

A priest falling in love, a young woman overcome by books, plenty of dissipation and masquerade, and an eventual second-generation redemption that reinforces typical gender roles that have earlier been eviscerated by the much livelier first half. Lots to talk about.
Feb 20, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely worth a read. It is a nuanced look into the difficult and complex world of marriage and love. Don't be fooled into thinking it outdated because the heroine powders her hair - it raises interesting questions about independence. If you like Austen, give it a try although it made me think more of Jane Eyre and faithful Griselda of Chaucer.
Laura Leilani
Mar 29, 2016 Laura Leilani rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
Just because a book is old doesn't make it a classic. The characters were flat, motivations are muddy, the writing was florid, and the plot was weak. The tone of the book is seen easily in the first few sentences. The characters and descriptions are so dramatic that it is almost comic. The writing was more suited to a play.
Liz Bernardo
Dec 18, 2013 Liz Bernardo rated it it was ok
Nope. This book was definitely an educational read, but I never would have read it for pleasure. I really didn't enjoy the story and the characters didn't really actively work to do anything.
For all those costume drama lovers out there, this is a salacious read of Austen's era. The melodrama and angst may indeed prove a good tipple to those addicted shades of contemporary monotone as well!
Sep 20, 2011 Jessy rated it did not like it
I can't even begin to describe how awful this book was.

The writing format bored me to sleep. I had to read this for a class and to be honest I couldn't even finish it.
Jul 04, 2016 Sophie rated it liked it
This very much made me think of Austen, but with a touch of gothic. Though not as enjoyable as an Austen to me personally, it was still a story I would read again.
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18th Century Enth...: A Simple Story by Elizabeth Inchbald 1 3 Oct 19, 2012 05:26AM  
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Elizabeth Inchbald (née Simpson) (1753–1821) was an English novelist, actress, and dramatist.
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