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Deerbrook by Harriet Martineau
By: (1802-1876)

Like the later and more famous novel Middlemarch, Deerbrook describes the life of country people in a fictional English town. The Grey family live in one of the loveliest houses in Deerbrook, but a change in their lives is going to take place... The Ibbotson sisters, Hester and Margaret, orphaned distant cousins of Mr. Grey. Like in Jane Austen's novels, we see how the sisters are trying to advance themselves. In Victorian England, the chief way for women to "advance themselves" is to marry well. But will they succeed? And if they succeed, will they be happy?

First Page:

Deerbrook, by Harriet Martineau.

Harriet Martineau was the daughter of a Norwich textile manufacturer of Huguenot descent hence the name and trade. In 1829 the bank in which she, her mother and her sisters, had placed their money, failed and she was forced to earn a living through writing, at which she was very talented, particularly on political issues, such as the poverty facing a family on the death of the wage earner. In 1839, after her travels in America, she wrote two long novels, of which Deerbrook was one, and a book about Toussaint L'Ouverture the other.

This book, therefore gives great insight into the lives of upper middle class families of the mid nineteenth century. No one in families these days talks to the rest of the family in the polite, perhaps over polite, terms used in this book. For this reason, though it was not meant to be taken as such, this book is a true social document.

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