The Beloved by Alison Rattle (Hot Key Books)
PB RRP $15.75
Reviewed by Dianne Bates
Sometimes mothers and daughters don’t bond from the outset. So it is with Alice Angel and her strict mother Temperance, who is from humble origins and wife of the very wealthy Alfred.
It is 1848 and sixteen-year-old Alice, a rebellious and spirited teenager, is trapped in an unloving Victorian home with a mother who punishes her cruelly. When the book opens, the girl is strapped by the wrists overnight in her bed because she did not want to sleep in her tight corset. Papa, whom Alice loves, is often absent on business but weak when it comes to dealing with his beautiful wife. Alice’s brother Eli sides with their mother who adores him -- until a dramatic turn of events.
Escaping one day from home, Alice witnesses an enigmatic, charismatic man preaching in town. She feels strangely drawn to him, but later at home events conspire against her even more when there is an unexpected family tragedy. En route in a carriage to the madhouse, Alice escapes and eventually finds herself in the community run by the preacher who is always referred to as ‘The Beloved’. At first she feels free and happy but things are to change to such an extent she does not know where to turn.
Sometime it is difficult to find sympathy for Alice as she reacts angrily to situations, but who knows how one might act given such a restrictive life as hers? Certainly her mother comes across as a selfish, self-centred and vicious woman whose aim in life is to fit into the upper echelons of society. The Beloved explores what freedom and friendship mean and how manipulative people can behave when their wants are not met. Full of drama – sometimes melodrama – this easy to read, well-plotted and fast-paced novel is recommended for young adult (and older) readers.
Alison Rattle’s other novels are The Quietness and The Madness.