Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Know My Own Heart Review

I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister 1791-1840
edited by Helena Whitbread

I have a fondness for Regency novels and personalities that is kinda tied up in my love for the Victorian era. The philosophy and atmosphere is very different, but the "punk" elements of steampunk have a similar ring to the Enlightenment values of the Regency. So, yeah, that's why I'm going to talk about this book here.

I found myself falling a little in love with Anne Lister, for all that she was a touch too conservative and snobbish for my tastes. It's hard not to feel affection for someone who you learn so much about and come to know so intimately. Reading this diary convinced me that I would have loved to have a pint with Miss Lister, even if that meant we'd end up arguing about the rights of women or the safety of coal mining.

Those who get bored by journals, or who are not interested in the minutiae of Georgian gentry life, should probably steer clear of this one. Anne records her daily activities, her clothing, the health of herself and her family, and outlines of her exhaustive programs of study in excruciating detail. I was utterly absorbed, but I'm a giant geek.

More importantly, these diaries tell the story of all her love affairs with women. I couldn't help but laugh at her ridiculous flings with acquaintances (think tool shed), and shake my head at the unending drama of her long-term romance with the married Marianna Lawton.

Read it if you'd like a window on a different time, and into the mind of a woman decidedly ahead of her time, who lived her life courageously.

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