Review by Choice Review
About the time of the ascension of Queen Victoria (1837), narrative fiction, the novel in particular, began seriously to supersede poetry as the preferred vehicle for propaganda and personal causes. Childers (Univ of California, Riverside) illuminates this "rise of the novel as message bearer." He divides the book into three parts, each focusing on major work(s) as agents of change and influence: Benjamin Disraeli's Coningsby; Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain, by Edwin Chadwick; and Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton and Charles Kingsley's Alton Locke. Childers uses these important if not canonical works to support the thesis that the novel not only reflected and interpreted but also shaped and influenced some of the main social and political opinions of the time. This thesis is most capably sustained in part 3, where the Gaskell and Kingsley works are discussed: both books concern the effects of industrialism on the individual and describe the well-intentioned but futile efforts of the Chartists. Childers believes that these social-problem novels give the reader the best possible window into the severe problems that accompanied the rise of industry. Unfortunately, Childers often lapses into academic doublespeak, especially in the first half of the book. Recommended for large undergraduate libraries and for graduate programs and research libraries interested in Victorian studies. P. W. Stine Gordon College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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