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Excerpt from Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Mrs. Engels

by Gavin McCrea

Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea X
Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2015, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2015, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

Phase the now
1870


I. Fair Warning

No one understands men better than the women they don't marry, and my own opinion—beknown only to God—is that the difference between one man and another doesn't amount to much. It's no matter what line he's in or which ideas he follows, whether he is sweet-tempered or ready-witted, a dab at one business or the next, for there isn't so much in any of that, and you won't find a man that hasn't something against him. What matters over and above the contents of his character—what makes the difference between sad and happy straits for she who must put her life into his keeping—is the mint that jingles in his pockets. In the final reckoning, the good and the bad come to an even naught and the only thing left to recommend him is his money.

Young lasses yet afflicted with strong feeling and seeking a likely subject for a tender passion will say that money has no place in their thoughts. They make exceptions of themselves and pass on good matches, for they believe that you must feel a thing, and that this thing can be pure only if it's a poor figure it's felt for. To such lasses I says: Take warning. This is a changing world, we don't know today what'll happen tomorrow, and the man you go with will decide where you're put, whether it's on the top or on the bottom or where. The fine feelings love will bring won't match the volume of problems a pauper will create. Odds are, the handsome fella you go spooney on will turn out to be a bad bargain, white-livered and empty of morals; the gospel-grinder is sure to have his own blameworthy past and will drag you to the dogs; the flash charmer will come to act the tightwad, insisting you live on naught a year; the clever wit will loiter away his hours believing others must provide his income, and the happiness you anticipated will never turn into happiness enjoyed; there'll always be something wanting.

Better—the only honest way—is to put away your hopes of private feeling and search out the company of a man with means, a man who knows the value of brass and is easy enough with it. Make your worth felt to him, woo his protection as he woos your affections, in the good way of business, and the reward will be comfort and ease, and there's naught low or small in that. Is it of any consequence that he isn't a looker, or a rare mind, or a fancy poet, as long as he's his own man and is improving you?

This must be calculated on.

Love is a bygone idea; centuries worn. There's things we can go without, and love is among them, bread and a warm hearth are not. Is it any wonder there's heaps of ladies, real ladies, biding to marry the first decent man who offers them five hundred a year? Aye, young flowers, don't be being left behind on the usedup shelf. If you must yearn for things, let those things be feelings, and let your yearning be done in a first-class carriage like this one rather than in one of those reeking compartments down back, where you'll be on your feet all day and exposed to winds and forever stunned by the difficulty of your life. Establish yourself in a decent situation and put away what you can, that, please God, one day you may need no man's help. Take it and be content, then you'll journey well.

II. On the Threshold

And there's no doubting this carriage is high class. The wood and the brass and the velvet and the trimmings: I see it in bright perspective, and though we've been sat here since early morning, my mind has been so far away, up in the clouds gathering wool, it's like I'm noticing it now for the first time: a sudden letting in of daylight. I reach out to stroke the plush of the drapes. Tickle the fringe of the lace doilies. Rub the polished rail. I twist my boot into the thick meat of the carpet. I crane my neck to look at the other passengers, so hushed and nice-minded and well got up. None of this is imagination. It is real. It has passed into my hands and I can put a price on it all.

This extract is taken from the novel Mrs. Engels, which is available now from Catapult Books and appears courtesy of Scribe Publications.

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