I first came across the name Monica Dickens from one of the recent articles I read commemorating Charles Dickens’ bicentennial—Monica’s great-grandfather. When I was looking through her bibliography, I thought The Landlord’s Daughter
would be particularly interesting since it was her take on Alfred Noyes’ The Highwayman
. Well...I don’t think there are any words to describe how much I disliked this novel.
On the one hand there is the story...Charlotte’s all consuming love for Peter—a person she barely knows. Like Elizabeth Taylor’s Angel, Charlotte builds up her own fantasies. However, this is where the similarities end. Angel has a strong sense of self. In contrast, Charlotte is overwhelmed by her insecurities, which in turn forces her to develop this fantasy life and love. It is very disconcerting, especially since she knows about Peter’s secret. In fact, it makes her love him even more, since she’s more titilated by it than disgusted. In turn, he takes pleasure in this. As a result their relationship is creepy and sadistic.
Yet, what really upset me was Dickens’ storytelling. She never really gives us enough explanations, especially concerning what led up to the conflict between Peter and the landlord’s daughter. It is left up to speculation. Yet, the explanations that are given, I found unsatisfactory. I didn’t quite understand the town’s reactions to this fairly significant event. As it’s described, it does not really make sense.
Ultimately, this is an extremely strange story, one that I unfortunately found completely disappointing.