The Girl in the Gatehouse
by Julie Klassen
Release Date: January 1st, 2011
2010 Bethany House Publishers
Softcover Edition; 391 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
4 / 5 Stars
Banished from the only home she's ever known, Mariah Aubrey hides herself away in an abandoned gatehouse on a distant relative's estate. There she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how - by writing novels in secret.
When Captain Matthew Bryant leases the estate, he is intrigued by the beautiful girl in the gatehouse. But there are manyt hings he doesn't know about this beguiling outcast. Will he risk his plans - and his heart - for a woman shadowed by scandal?
The Girl in the Gatehouse was a delightful tale of a woman, hidden away from the world due to a broken heart and indiscretions that have shamed her family, forced to survive in a world with few options available for women to support themselves. Loosely based on characters from the Jane Austen novels, Ms Klassen draws on her admiration for female authors in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who often wrote under pseudonyms to hide their identities or anonymously, and introduces us to Mariah Aubrey, who secretly writes novels in order to support herself and her servants in her banishment.
One of the things I enjoyed tremendously in this novel was the description of life during this time period. I love learning about how life was in the past and the descriptions are wonderful. There are some bleak moments in this novel and some cutting scenes about society and the cruelty of the gentry, Mariah's banishment being a perfect example, as well as some discussion about how women seem to take the worst in a situation, but it never becomes too serious, just hints and inuendos. There is one telling scene that really highlights Mariah's plight and I love how the author handles it and how it all plays out in the end. The novel tends to be more light in nature and while people suffer, and have suffered difficulties in their pasts, there still remains a lighthearted feel to the novel in general. It reminds me much more of Little Women rather than Pride and Prejudice in nature in the sense that it's more light, rather than with Jane Austen's irony and cutting sarcasm.
While I liked Mariah and found her nature to be generous, the rest of the novel was peppered with so many interesting characters that I grew somewhat more fond of them than of Mariah and Matthew. Don't get me wrong, I found Mariah and Matthew's storyline to be interesting, and I was mostly happy with the resolution, but I felt like something was missing in their relationship and I can't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it was the spiritual aspect that wasn't resolved satisfactorily as neither character seemed to explore that aspect of themselves that was introduced early on in the novel, but I'm not sure. Anyways, Martin and Dixon's relationship I just loved and found it fascinating. Martin himself is a perfect example as to how you can't judge someone from appearances and I did right away. Yet, he continued to delight and amaze all the way through the novel and ended up being one of my favourite characters. And the poorhouse characters were a delight, from sweet Miss Amy with her words of wisdom, to Prince who likes to climb the rooftop signalling to others, to George putting string across a road to catch a lady for a kiss. I really enjoyed how Mariah and Dixon immersed themselves into life on the estate and became friends with people in the poorhouse, people who technically were below her position in life, despite her banishment. This led to a lot of discussion about propriety and reputation that was fascinating and so central to this time period, a time period that I find was almost unforgiving in its judgment of others. Ms. Klassen did a fantastic job in highlighting these discrepancies throughout her novel and giving the reader an insight into societal norms that existed at the time.
The Girl in the Gatehouse was a sweet, delightful story that combines some interesting romantic interludes, a dash of intrigue surrounding some mysterious journals and a trunk, and a variety of quirky characters. I enjoyed it tremendously and would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good historical fiction that is more on the lighter side, especially if you're a fan of Jane Austen.