Source: Project Gutenberg
The scene opens with a typical sort of day in a genteel rural family –a physician with a number of well-loved children. Children of all ages with their own strength and foibles –each and every one of them unique and yet traces of each parent are visible in each. I just started to settle down thinking of a leisurely read when disaster struck! The pillar on which their lives evolved around has been removed and all felt lost…
This story is told from the perspective of Etheldred. She is not the oldest or the youngest. She is not the most intelligent or the dullest. She is, however, possibly the second most intelligent child and yet, the most intelligent of female child. Along with her intelligence, she also has inherited most of her father’s characters and they were thought to be unseemly in a girl child. I understand certain things like tidiness of oneself needed to be ingrained in oneself by habit and Etheldred needed to pay more attention to things like that however, it was most interesting that her mind is the analytical sort which needed a reason as to why things are a certain way prior to being able to apply herself to do things correctly! And yet, despite her intelligence and her analytical mind, because of her sex (and therefore, her position in the family), she had to give up her studies to serve her family.
It certainly is a humbling experience to read of Ethel’s sacrifice. Whilst it was, at first, with a heavy heart that she gave up her time from studies to household & other duties, she loves her family in such a way that she was willing to do so. And at the end of the book, you do not see her only willing but to have been transformed to be a humble serving young woman (I don’t mean like a servant but one who serves others out of love) that even if it is not an ending I would have preferred, I do admire her for her character improving work to become who she is. Etheldred is a character to warm your heart.