A Writer's Journey

December 16, 2013

Book Analysis: “The Heiresses” by Allison Rushby

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
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It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. So, let’s give it another go, huh?

Reminder: This is not a review. In my analyses, I go through a book and look at the writing. I discuss what I think worked and what I think didn’t work. Which means…

Warning: There will be SPOILERS!

“The Heiresses” tells the story of three young British women: Erato, Thalia and Clio. They are brought to London to meet with a long-lost aunt, Hestia. She reveals they are sisters, triplets who were separated upon their birth. Their mother died in childbirth and their father pretended they had died as well, sending them off to other relatives instead. Hestia reveals they are the heirs to their mother’s fortune but they have to wrestle it from their half-brother, Charles. However the girls struggle to work together and try to solve the mysteries of their birth. Will they come together as sisters? Will they get their money? And will they find love?

The characters of Erato, Thalia and Clio are fascinating. Rushby did a very clever thing with them—each represents a different aspect of the human psyche. Clio, raised by a minister and his wife, is the superego—concerned about what is proper. Thalia, left with a cruel, neglectful and strict family, is the id—concerned about enjoying her freedom and indulging her every whim. Erato, raised by a professor and his wife, is the ego—the logical one who tries to balance the id and the superego.

This was a great decision by Rushby. It gave the girls distinct personalities as well as conflicts amongst themselves. Clio and Thalia clash constantly and Erato (or Ro) finds herself playing peacemaker amongst her sisters. She is also attracted to science, which also plays a big part in the novel.

I am a fan of One Life to Live. And the book featured a plot point familiar to me—multiple babies, multiple daddies, one pregnancy. On One Life to Live, it was twins—Jessica and Natalie, both born to Viki. But Jessica’s dad was Mitch while Natalie’s was Clint. Some fans didn’t accept the explanation, though the condition is real if rare, and were happy when in the final episodes of the soap’s broadcast run, it was revealed Jessica was Clint’s as well. I didn’t mind the plot. And I don’t mind it here either except for a few quibbles.

Quibble one: The example they kept using to explain the triplets’ case. It was of a woman who gave birth to twins in Jamaica—one was white, the other black. But it was never stated that they were certain there were two fathers. One of the parents could’ve been a light-skinned black person who had passed as white. Or descended from someone who had passed.

Quibble two: Do we know Ro and Thalia’s father was definitely Charles’ father and not Clio’s? Ro and Thalia are said to be the spitting image of their mother while Clio takes after her father. I know DNA tests didn’t exist, but I think this was a question which could’ve been shored up a bit more.

But once again, quibbles. Let’s move on to the romance.

Does the romance work? Yes, I do believe it does. Why? Let’s look, shall we?

First, we have Ro and Vincent. And I think I may have fallen a bit in love with Vincent. He’s handsome, smart and a bit awkward…he’s the Doctor. I just realized it. No wonder I like him. But there’s still something off about him. Rushby is smart to lay down some hints early on, like when Vincent follows the girls to a party. It makes the reader suspicious. How did he find out where they were going? Was he stalking Ro? And how did he know what type of party it was? Very suspicious indeed. So when it is revealed that Vincent is already attached, the reader is even more inclined not to trust him just as Ro throws caution to the wind.

My only quibble? How he betrays her. Thalia lures him into her bed to show that he’ll sleep with anyone who promises him money and opportunity to continue his studies. But did he know he was sleeping with Thalia? As I noted earlier, the two were described as identical. And there was nothing to suggest he definitely knew which sister he was sleeping with. To me, it would’ve made more sense—or been more definitive—if it had been Edwin’s sister instead. It would’ve be in character for her.

Onto the other romance, which causes more tension between Clio and Thalia, though unintentional on Clio’s part. She didn’t pursue Edwin, he pursued her. And I think the readers wanted them to be together. Their first encounter on the roof of a party is sweet. One can see the person Edwin wants to be—someone who is beyond silly partying. Who wants someone to see him for who he is and not his wealth. He still has his moments of frivolity, but it seems to be to get a rise out of Clio. He enjoys it. And I think he is attracted to someone who stands her ground and holds on to her morals. It’s a good case of opposites attract.

Let’s talk setting now. London in the 1920s. A fascinating time across the board, in my opinion—after Tutor England and Colonial/Revolutionary America. Through Thalia, Rushby illustrates the fashions and partying of the era. With Ro, she illustrates the changing thoughts and scientific discoveries during the era. And Clio represented those still trying to hold on to the old ways of thinking.

I will admit I would’ve liked to see a bit more to collaborate the setting. Not that it took place in London, mind you. Rushby made that quite clear. I meant about the 1920s. I felt there could’ve been a few more pop culture references. A few more popular songs, maybe a few mentions of celebrities, etc. But once again, a quibble.

So there’s “The Heiresses.” Granted, there’s a lot more I could’ve discussed. But these were the aspects that I felt applied to me as a writer. I encourage everyone to go out and read the book. It’s a great read.

the heiresses


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