In her novel, What Empty Things Are These, Judy L. Crozier makes a statement about social issues of the 1800s with a young woman who is forced by circumstance to develop a backbone.
It has been said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Nothing could be truer than patriarchal treatment of women over the centuries, and the way the upper classes often treat what they see as the lower classes, especially women of the lower classes. What Empty Things Are These exposes this, yet again.
After a childhood of sexual abuse, Adelaide Broom is forced by her father into a loveless marriage to her father’s close business friend, George Hadley. She lives in luxury with her abusive and domineering husband who she calls Mr. Hadley. When she dares to read a book that does not meet his approval, he begins to beat her – again. It seems the universe has intervened because, in his extreme anger, he has a stroke. Adelaide feels at once joyful and guilty for her feelings of joy. As he lingers helplessly in bed, and at her mercy, she takes good care of him, but anxiously awaits the day she will be free.
When George finally dies, Adelaide learns she has been left all but penniless. She soon realizes she is as helpless as Sobriety, her lady’s maid. Together, these two set out to even the score for women in Victorian London.
Fabulously wealthy men draw other men into financial fraud schemes, leading them to ruin, just as today. Those same wealthy men prey on widowed women. Adelaide finds herself contemplating how much of business practices are sleight of hand or trickery. Again, sounds much like today.
When she decides to seek publication for her writings, she submits them under the name of “A. Hadley” knowing they would be disregarded as the ramblings of a woman, if her full name were to be used. Has Adelaide become a brave and spunky woman ahead of her time, or has she become “an unwomanly meddler in men’s affairs”? That’s for you to decide.
What Empty Things Are These is a wonderful story of historical fiction, but is told in the cumbersome language of 1860s London. There is far too much description for my taste, but the history, as well as the strength of character of these women is there.
What Makes This Book Reviewer Grumpy?
- Consistently using “further” instead of “farther” – in American English, they are not interchangeable;
- misplacement of the word “only” within sentences;
- split infinitives;
- missing commas.