Confinement is the first of Katharine McMahon’s novels that I’ve read and didn’t love. consists of a dual narrative: one involving Bess Hardemon, the Victorian founder of a prestigious girls’ school and the other involving Sarah Beckett, who attends the school in the late 1960s.
Bess’s story was outstanding; a sort of anti-Jane Eyre (though conditions at the school are not quite as horrific as those at Lowood!) in which our heroine decides not to end by marrying “him” after which she experiences a horrible personal betrayal.
My problem with the novel, though, hinged on Sarah Beckett, who lets a short liaison at the age of 17 determine most of her adult life. We’ve all experienced the intense emotions of being in love at 17, but I daresay most people don’t make that particular love affair the lodestone of their subsequent life and measure all other relationships against that one. Although I feel sure I wasn’t meant to, I totally sympathized with Sarah’s husband and children, because she was, quite honestly, just annoying and whiny and I didn’t really care at all what happened to her.
(Read on March 28, 2010)