In a few short pages,” writes Francine Prose in her Introduction, “May Sinclair succeeds in rendering the oppressive weight and strength. This short book charts the life of Harriett Frean, from birth to death. She is born into a well to do Victorian tradesman’s family in a London suburb. Life and Death of Harriett Frean: English literature: The literature of World War I and the interwar period: Olivier: A Life () and Life and Death of Harriett.

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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want deahh Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Harriett is the Victorian embodiment of all the virtues then viewed as essential to the womanly ideal: Idolising her parents, she learns from childhood to equate love with self-sacrifice, so that when she falls in love with the fiance of her closest friend, there is only one way to confront such an unworthy passion.

Or so it seems. Or so it seems Ironic, brief and intensely abd, The Life and Death of Deatb Frean is a brilliant study of female virtue feath as vice, and ,ife with the work of Virgina Woolf and Dorothy Richardson as one of the great innovative novels of the century. Paperbackpages. Published April 14th by Virago first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign deatb. What about the “secret” behind “the dirty blue palings”?

Clari I thought that was symbolism for sexuality, which Harriett has to avoid because she becomes the self sacrificing girl who tries to live up to her …more I thought that was symbolism for sexuality, which Harriett has to avoid because she becomes the self sacrificing girl who tries to live up to her parents’ moral standards. Literally I thought it was a man in the village who targeted young girls, but I wasn’t certain whether Harriett was a victim or had managed to run away.

Lists with This Book. What a strange little book it was. It spans the whole life, almost seventy years, of the title protagonist but it reads more like as a report of a single day, at most some hours. Harriett Frean was born and brought up in loving family, Mamma lufe Papa taught her to act and behave beautifully and indicated it as paramount virtue in life.

May Sinclair’s Modernist Masterpiece: The Life and Death of Harriett Frean | Interesting Literature

And we saw her life come full circle and it was everything but beautiful thing. Actually she may never have existed so unimpressive, futile and meaningless her life was, and she herself more and more dependant, hwrriett first from her parents later from her maid. But the novel has quite contemporary repercussion. We all know such a people who can’t allow their children to live on their own, who can’t admit it’s time to finally cut umbilical cord.

And the other way round, there are such individuals amongst us that can live only fulfilling parents desires and pleasing them is their only aim. I thought it was quite remarkable novel, it made me simultaneously sad and angry, I was furious at Harriet but I could pity her either.

It was disturbing, it was ironic, and bitter and poignant as well. It dexth more with its brevity than other novels with plenty pages, it was low-keyed yet left me with real emotions.


And when you reach dearh page and consider Harriett’s empty life only then you can fully comprehend ironic overtone of nursery fo the novel starts with: Pussycat, Pussycat, what did you there?

I caught a little mouse under the chair… Have you seen the Queen, Hatty? View all 22 comments.

Life and Death of Harriett Frean Reader’s Guide

Mar 23, Paul Bryant rated it really liked it Shelves: I know some people do not like that list much but this slender bitter novel from frena have otherwise passed me by completely.

This novel is a ferocious yet so genteelly understated attack on that exalted Victorian female virtue of self-denial.

The idea is that you live a life uarriett private misery because you do nothing to make your parents or anyone else the least bit upset ever. And you revel in this secret pathological abnegation with all the pervy thrill of a hairshirted medieval monk. Bleak, bitter, short – what’s not to like here? Read in a couple of hours, but will glow in my mind for years to come.

This could hariett be the banner for living a life of quiet desperation. May Sinclair Mary Amelia St. Clair, Superficially, it is a nothing little book: That is the harrietf. No breath of wind. No gnashing of teeth. As smooth as proverbial glass, this life unfol This could well be the banner for living a life of quiet desperation. As smooth as proverbial glass, this life unfolds. There is anguish, and loss, and failure and disappointment; and much unhappiness and heartache and despair, but they all unfold as quietly as the drath of a veil: Fraen, it’s such a frustrating little nothing of a book.

And it is one of the saddest little books I’ve ever read. This started as a 3-rating; then moved to 4; and is teetering dangerously on the edge of deafh, because while it took me an hour to read, it’s been eating away at my heart for the better part of 48; worming its insidious little thoughts into my heart and brain, while I reflect on the nothing-life of Harriet Frean.

This is what an entitled life looks like, ladies and gents. It’s a circus act for the rest of us. We gaze, and wonder and admire and envy from a distance. And yet, there is no hell like this one. Reflective of the privileged “nothing lives” of women who had no choice or voice in a previous era, it is just as effective today, albeit for different reasons; for at that time, it was a still life of a woman; today, it is the most horror-laden of cautionary tales.

Oh, what the hell.

This one deserves a full 5 stars. View all 10 comments. Jan 23, Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly rated it it was amazing. Her parents wonder what it is here ffean their baby finds funny. The very first novel I’ve read which starts with a nursery rhyme.

Later, after about an hour of nonstop reading, Harriet Frean is already 68 years old, dying of the same cancer which fran her mother “Pussycat, Pussycat, where have you been? Later, after about an hour of nonstop reading, Harriet Frean is already 68 years old, dying of the same cancer which killed her mother years before. If Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich” is a novel which reads like a lifetime but which supposedly happened only in a single day, this one is about a lifetime which reads like it just happened in an hour.

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The narrative is arresting despite the economy of words, entirely different but close in tone with another unforgettable miniature, Alessandro Baricco’s “Silk. If you read this when old, you’d pray that you won’t remember. Or if you remember, that there’d be nothing now which would tell you that some things you’ve done in the past, especially those you thought were right or beautiful or principled were actually horrible mistakes or acts of cruelty or selfishness.

An hour or so is all what you need to finish reading this book, but it may take you one lifetime to forget it. View all 3 comments. Nov 21, Paul rated it really liked it Shelves: Sinclair was a suffragist and modernist who also was influenced by Freud and psychoanalysis.

Sinclair is an accomplished novelist, but most of her work is rather puzzlingly out of print. This is a study of the Harrietg notion of women and their role. And the kind, secret voice went on.

Understand, Hatty, nothing is forbidden. Her face shone white between her long, hanging curls. She would stoop over the cot and lift Harriett up, and her face would be hidden in curls.

That was the kiss-me-to-sleep kiss. And when she had gone Harriett lay still again, waiting. Presently Papa would come in, large and dark in the firelight. He stooped and she leapt up into his arms. That was the kiss-me-awake kiss; it was their secret. Papa was the Pussycat and she was the little mouse in her hole under the bed-clothes.

There was something obscurely dangerous about it. She was afraid of being lifted off her feet and hariett on and on, away from her safe, happy life. She was stiff and abrupt with her partners, convinced that none of those men who liked Connie Hancock crean like her, and anxious to show them that she didn’t expect them to. She was afraid of what they were thinking. And she would slip away early, running down the garden to the gate at the bottom where her father waited for her.

She loved the still coldness of the night under the elms, and the strong, tight feel of her father’s arm when she hung on it leaning towards him, and his “There we are! Her mother would look up from the sofa harristt ask always the same question, “Well, did anything nice happen? It does, however enable the reader to see how Harriet supresses her own feelings and desires.

Needless to say, Harriet behaves beautifully and retains her view of herself. Consequently all three parts of the triangle are made miserable. Harriet shrivels as she grows older and overall the whole is rather bleak; Harriet never really becomes a person in her own right. Her parents remain with her as does the expectations she feels society has of her.

It is a modernist treatment of Victorian repression as well as an examination of the role of women in Victorian society.