Friday, November 12, 2010

No Priest But Love Review

No Priest But Love: The Journals of Anne Lister from 1824-1826 edited by Helena Whitbread

This book is a follow up to Whitbread's previous collection I Know My Own Heart, which excerpted Anne Lister's diaries from five of the most tumultuous years of her life. No Priest covers three years, but in greater detail.

Whereas the first collection often buried the "juicy bits" amid more commonplace entries, this second book focuses almost exclusively on Anne's love affairs. Though it covers a shorter time period than the first, there is more to cover, as this was a very intense and important period in Anne's life.

Specifically, it deals with her affair with Maria Barlow, a woman she met, then lived with, in Paris. This relationship is held in contrast with her continued engagement to the married Marianne Lawton. She finds herself torn between them and, strikingly, at one point she writes, "I have a wife and mistress of my own."

I wrote before that I fell a little in love with Anne Lister while reading I Know My Own Heart. After reading this, well, the honeymoon is over. The book itself is a more engrossing read than the first, with a quicker pace and more events chosen to be of interest to a modern reader. However, Lister herself suffers in this light. She was a selfish, womanizing, hard-assed woman. She was astounding, but incredibly complicated, and not someone most people would want to deal with now.

All that being said, you should read this. Yes you. I don't care who you are. This book is fascinating, and the fact that it's all true makes it even more absorbing. I invite you to meet Anne Lister yourself, and judge her by whatever standard you wish. Whatever conclusion you come to, you will not regret the experience.

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