Fiction: “Wideacre” by Philippa Gregory

WideacreI can’t believe I tried to read this again. Actually, wait, I take that back – I totally believe I tried to read this again. Because I? Am a masochist. Seriously, if there were a group for masochists, I’d be their leader. I would lead the masochists, and they would worship me, and they would worship me by giving me pain that I ask for, because that’s what I do – ask for pain. (Please don’t tell me if there is a group for masochists.)

I read Twilight twice. And then I continued and read New Moon and Eclipse. And when my stomach settles and things calm down and I can actually finish a freaking book again, I’ll most likely order Breaking Dawn from the library. So it really doesn’t surprise me that I attempted to read Wideacre again.

I read Wideacre the first time back in 2007, and finished it. I attempted to read the sequel, The Favored Child, that November, but couldn’t finish it. Wideacre is the first book in a trilogy, and the weird thing about me is that I couldn’t pick up another one of Philippa Gregory’s books until I felt that I had truly put the Wideacre series behind me. Which is why The Other Boleyn Girl has been sitting on my shelf for about three years.

So I’d been stuck when it came to Philippa Gregory. I really wanted to read The Other Boleyn Girl, but couldn’t, because I wanted to know how the Wideacre series ended. And so, I, the masochist, ordered Wideacre from the library, thinking that I could get through the entire series and call it good.

See, the thing with Wideacre is that you have no sympathy whatsoever for the heroine, who is also the narrator. Beatrice Lacey is the daughter of the Squire of Wideacre (the family plantation), and she loves the land more than life itself. She goes through childhood, believing that she will always live on Wideacre and be able to manage the land. But then her dreams are shattered when she realizes that as a daughter of an estate in Georgian England, her role is to be married off and taken far away from her childhood home. Well, Beatrice doesn’t like that, not one bit. So in a fit of passion and rage, she schemes with her boyfriend, the farmlad Ralph, and Ralph suggests killing her father, and because her brother Harry is an idiot when it comes to the land, Harry will put her and Ralph in charge and they can both master the land.

Beatrice doesn’t exactly agree, but she doesn’t exactly say no, either. The next morning when she realizes what she’s done, she tries to stop it, but too late – Ralph kills her father.

This is where I put the book down back in 2007. But then, the damn story grabbed me, and I wanted to know what happened next. I mean, there were five hundred pages left; something had to happen. Sure enough, Beatrice exacts her revenge on Ralph, and then she and her brother Harry rule Wideacre that summer.

Okay, things are going well. But then Beatrice develops an attraction to Harry, her brother, and realizes that this is the only way to keep herself on Wideacre, the land that she loves. So yeah, there’s incest.

And as if that weren’t enough, she gets pregnant. By her brother. But back in 2007, I was all, “Well, how the hell is she going to get out of this one?” Answer: by staying in France with Harry’s wife and asking Celia (the wife) to pretend the child is Celia’s, so Beatrice’s baby will be the heir to Wideacre. Except the baby’s a girl, oh shit, that didn’t work out well.

When they return to England, Beatrice falls in love with Dr. MacAndrew, a doctor from Edinburgh who actually loves Beatrice back. And really, Beatrice falls in love with MacAndrew because he fell in love with her first. But then – THEN! – she gets pregnant by Harry again, and I realize this is Georgian England and no one understood the merits of birth control, but people understood that you don’t fuck your brother, am I right?! But – you guessed it – back in 2007, I kept reading, because now it’s like, what the fuck, what happens next?!

Well, now in 2009, I know what happens next, and it ain’t pretty. Beatrice tries to pass off her second baby (a boy this time) as MacAndrew’s, but he figures it out because he’s a doctor and there ain’t no way that baby’s premature. He drinks a lot, and then Beatrice’s mother has a shock when she discovers Harry and Beatrice fucking in the library, so Beatrice lies to Celia about the proper amount of medication her mother needs and Celia ends up killing the mother, which disgraces MacAndrew because Beatrice makes it look like MacAndrew was too drunk to do it right, and then the crops fail and everyone hates Beatrice and Celia sends MacAndrew to the first Rehab center ever to get over his alcoholism, but Beatrice fucks that up because it would mean that he’d find out about her and her crazy mania for the land and she can’t have that, but then this dude named the Culler shows up and threatens Beatrice and Wideacre, and in the end, the Culler is Ralph, who is not dead, just a double amputee, and guess what? Beatrice doesn’t get the land anyway.

There is no redemption for Beatrice. She is evil, motivated solely by her need to have control of the land. She destroys everyone in her wake, and if I remember the first half of The Favored Child all those eighteen months ago, her legacy continues onto her children, Julia and Richard, who are not raised as the brother and sister they are. One of the reasons I stopped reading that one was because I was scared Julia and Richard would fall in love, and then realize afterwards that they were siblings. That would squick me out a lot.

I was going to tag this “Chuck Bass Disapproves,” but really, Chuck would be disapproving of me and my masochistic ways. And that’s bullshit. We all know that Chuck is King of the Masochists, much like George Costanza is King of the Idiots.

ANYWAY. Congratulations, Wideacre; you’re the first book not written by Stephenie Meyer to receive Twilight Stars.

(and yeah, after all that, of course I’m going to try to read The Favoured Child again. Because I’m a fucking masochist.)


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