A Notorious Woman

Malcolm MacDonald, Author
Malcolm MacDonald, Author St. Martin's Press $22.95 (635p) ISBN 978-0-312-02623-3
Reviewed on: 02/27/1989
Release date: 03/01/1989
In this novel set in mid-19th century England, Macdonald ( The World from Rough Stones ) ably blends cogent social commentary with romance. He depicts the era when females were expected to be benign and ``biddable''; those attaining gainful, non-domestic employment and personal autonomy often became pariahs. Such is the case with Johanna Rosewarne, an orphan living with her lecherous uncle, John Visick, and his wife. When Dr. Tony Moore arrives to court the Visicks' daughter, but instead declares his affection for Johanna, she leaves her relatives' home and finds lodging with a wealthy widow. Rather than encourage the attentions of the dependable doctor, however, Johanna capriciously plans to marry incorrigible womanizer Hal Penrose. After Hal heads for America, Johanna (now pregnant with his child) supports herself by housekeeping at an inn and soliciting orders for the innkeeper's beer. Though her occupationplus her shocking status as an unwed mother-to-beinvites scorn, Johanna's determination to succeed never wanes. With its emphasis on moral propriety, tart repartee, and the all-important social milieu, this book echoes 19th century fiction, but its portrayal of the degradation and oppression of women has contemporary relevance. (Mar.)
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