Robin Wiley's Reviews > Meridon

Meridon by Philippa Gregory
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's review
Apr 21, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read in January, 2002

If you like Jane Austen, but wish it wasn't quite so vanilla - this trilogy is for you!

Each book is the story of a daughter of the grand estate, Wideacre. Meridon is our heroine for this book. I can't say much without spoiling, but this one gives us a much different perspective on Wideacre, and it's little village. This is the best book of the trilogy, by far.

If you are just looking for an easy period romance, I think you can have that here. My stepmother enjoyed this series, and she has no use for themes and discussion of those themes. Give her pretty dresses, pretty gardens to stroll in, grand balls, handsome men and fine marriages. She's a happy camper.

However, if you need more from your period novels, like me, you will be VERY satisfied. This is where Phillipa Gregory really stands out from the pack. This is what puts her up there with Jane Austen, in my opinion (except there's lots of sex! Yay!)

Like most Gregory books, she explores the restrictive world of the female sex. These women live in a world where the only skills and talents that are valued are 1) the ability to marry well, and 2) the ability to produce healthy male heirs. Nothing else really matters. Your family's fortune can increase or decrease with every marriage and birth. You feel the pressure.

She has another theme that is pervasive throughout all her books - the responsibility of the ruling class to care for the lesser classes. It's extremely relevant even today - as congress debates restrictions on corporate greed, the progressive tax system, universal health care and the role and size of government.

In her other books, we watch the English monarchy and how it rules England and cares for it's resources on large scale. In this series, Wideacre is a microcosm of England itself. Fields don't plow and plant themselves, food doesn't get harvested and stored by itself. A noble family uses the local village population on it's land to get everything done. They are a resource, like trees, water, or soil. But they have to be managed properly for maximum long-term benefit for all, including the noble family.

Each book, and each daughter of Wideacre has a different tactic, with a different effect on the health and wealth of the village people, and Wideacre itself.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Karla Great comment about Wideacre being a microcosm. I totally agree. I had to take a break between books 2 & 3, so much drama!, but I'm ready to finish this trilogy up. :)

Gertrude Stein Can't believe it's been compared to Austen, it's unbelievable drivel

Robin Wiley Although it's tough for any period female author to rival Austin, I do think some of the themes are similar. Austin always questions and pushes at the female role, and it's pressure to marry well and produce male heirs. In the background there is always the state of the "fortune" and the "estate" but rarely care to create wealth. For me, I really appreciate that Gregory brings those closer to the forefront. Plus, I always dream of my Elizabeth and Darcy going happily beyond the wedding... Of course, I can't and don't judge as a literary critic. Like any art - I like what I like, or don't. God bless Goodreads for giving us a chance to figure it out!

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