Monday, June 29, 2015

A Classics Club Selection: The Rector's Daughter by F.M. Mayor (1924)

I had high hopes for The Rector's Daughter by F.M. Mayor (1924), having read that Virginia Woolf felt it was an important work. In reading about what others have written about The Rector's Daughter, my views on the book are a bit different. It's not the best book I've ever read nor do I think it's a forgotten masterpiece. However, my experience of reading the book was similar to other readers in that the book brought up feelings of sadness. 

Mary Jocelyn is a spinster at 36. She has cared for her ill sister who has died and now cares for her controlling and elderly father, Canon Jocelyn, in their shabby home. Mary's circle of friends is small, and most of the people who know Mary pity her because she's unattractive and unmarried. Her life is made up of various good works she does for people in the village. 

Mary has given up hopes of getting married until she meets and forms an attachment to Mr. Herbert, the vicar from a nearby village. It looks as though happiness might come Mary's way, but it's not to be. This is the first of several disappointments for Mary.

[Spoiler Below]

An interesting twist to the story comes through the character of the the woman Mr. Herbert decides to marry, the beautiful and vivacious Kathy. She brings a bit of the Jazz Age to the story. Younger than the vicar, Kathy's clearly not suited to being a vicar's wife. She uses slang which shocks the vicar and others, she laughs in church, she shuns the church duties that bring Mary such pleasure, and Kathy's passion is hunting. As the failure of the marriage becomes apparent, Kathy takes off with her friends to Monte Carlo for some "razzle dazzle." 

[End of Spoiler]

The novel made me question what the point of the story was--unrequited love or unattainable love perhaps? This is an area where Barbara Pym excels, especially in Some Tame Gazelle. The Rector's Daughter certainly highlights what life was like for women at a time when there was very little in the way of choices, which made for a dreary existence. 

Have you read The Rector's Daughter?

I read The Rector's Daughter as a selection for The Classics Club.


  1. This does sound sad. A similar theme of a clergyman who has married an unsuitable wife comes up in Elizabeth Goudge's The Dean's Watch, but with a very different result.

  2. Well, that does sound sad. I've been curious about this book, but have a feeling I should stick to Barbara Pym.

  3. I've never read this book...never even heard of this author, I'm sorry to say. But it does sound sad. Poor Mary. Did it leave you feeling dissatisfied at the end?

  4. It sounds sad and very depressing that there was no way out or chance of happiness for Mary.