Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch

by Anne Enright

“A powerhouse of vivid contrast and contradiction. . . . In a swashbuckling prologue replete with arresting sexual imagery, Enright lays bare her novel’s epic sweep. . . . Like her characters, Enright has a gambler’s instinct for raising the stakes as conflict builds. . . . Her peculiar genius for tapping into our subconscious hunger for images drawn from life that make the same kind of convoluted sense as the images that crowd our dreams is one of the many pleasures this novel has to offer.” —Conan Putnam, The Chicago Tribune

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date April 20, 2004
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4119-4
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $13.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date December 01, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9728-3
  • US List Price $13.00

About The Book

Anne Enright’s novels What Are You Like? and The Wig My Father Wore have established her as an original and important international voice. Now she delivers an astonishing, rich tour de force inspired by the life of a truly extraordinary woman: Eliza Lynch, the nineteenth-century Irishwoman who became Paraguay’s Eva Perón. The facts of her life are uncertain and hotly disputed—but from them Enright has fashioned an audacious tale that feels, The Spectator noted, “true in the way that only made-up stories can be.”

Beautiful, sophisticated, and adventurous, Eliza Lynch met Francisco Solano López in Paris, when she was nineteen and he was in Europe to recruit engineers for the first railroad in South America. She left for Paraguay several months later at López’s side, pregnant with his son. Reviled by Asunción society and her lover’s family, Eliza built herself a fine house, constructed a national theater for Paraguay, and had her son baptized although he was a bastard. In less than a decade, López became dictator of the nation and plunged Paraguay into a conflict that would kill over half its population. By then Eliza was notorious—as both the angel of the battlefield, inspiring the troops, and the demon driving López’s ambition. At one time the richest woman in the world, she played the piano as López executed traitors and despite widespread starvation held sumptuous banquets in her tent at the front.

Anne Enright has written a gorgeous, deeply resonant novel about a woman truly larger than life, a book that, London’s Daily Telegraph wrote, “might have been bodice-ripping material, but Enright weaves . . . an artful parable of corruption, degeneracy and the end of an established order.” The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch is a novel of epic love and epic destruction, and an accomplishment that brings Anne Enright’s immense talent to full flower.

Tags Literary

Praise

“[An] intense awareness of textures leads Enright into the mind of her imagined Eliza Lynch. . . . Water, an element as silvery and unpredictable as Enright’s extraordinary prose, connects the various parts of the story.” —Miranda Seymour, The New York Times Book Review, and author of Mary Shelley

“A powerhouse of vivid contrast and contradiction. . . . In a swashbuckling prologue replete with arresting sexual imagery, Enright lays bare her novel’s epic sweep. . . . Like her characters, Enright has a gambler’s instinct for raising the stakes as conflict builds. . . .Her peculiar genius for tapping into our subconscious hunger for images drawn from life that make the same kind of convoluted sense as the images that crowd our dreams is one of the many pleasures this novel has to offer.” —Conan Putnam, The Chicago Tribune

“With élan and an eye for sensuous detail. . . . Enright brings the colors, odors and thousand flavors of despair into sharp focus.” —Deloris Tarzan Ament, The Seattle Times

“The fascinating true story of the title character, a nineteenth-century Irish-born courtesan who, as the mistress of the Paraguayan dictator Solano López, became that country’s Eva Perón. Even readers not bound for Paraguay will enjoy the author’s reflections.” —Condé Nast Traveler

“[An] epic novel of love and destruction. . . . Anne Enright has written an engrossing novel about this extraordinary woman.” —Reader’s Edge

“Consistently engages and entertains, and Enright sets up numerous interesting echoes and parallels. . . . A stylish account of the rise of a Latin American Moll Flanders—and a further step in Enright’s increasingly promising career.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A sensual feast. . . . Enright reimagines the details, with virtuoso skill. The thoroughgoing pleasure of Eliza Lynch is the bright exactitude of the writing, and its capacity for surprise.” —Sam Thompson, The Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“Eliza Lynch, the protagonist of Anne Enright’s beautiful new novel, is a magnificent and dreadful creature . . . who lovingly holds the hand of a dying sailor on the Tacuará in 1854, [yet] is also a monster of ambition, sending thousands to their deaths while arranging elegant suppers. . . . It is impossible not to be moved. . . . In Enright’s deft hands . . . we are lured to the heart of darkness.” —Claire Messud, The Irish Times (Dublin)

“Was [Eliza Lynch] an Irish heroine who helped [López] create a heritage and sense of national pride for the future Paraguay, or was she a sadistic and ruthless companion—a Mrs. Milosevic or a Mrs. Ceaucescu? . . . There’s something of [Angela] Carter’s sensual, self-fashioning adventuresses in Eliza. . . . [But] this is more like a feminist version of Conrad than like Márquez, as if Nostromo had been retold from a woman’s point of view.” —Hermione Lee, London Review of Books

“Eliza Lynch stands for all the women in history who have sold sex and hoarded gold and lost their hearts along the way. It is an ancient fable: Enright makes it fresh as paint.” —Claudia FitzHerbert, The Spectator (UK)

The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch has catapulted [Anne Enright] from ‘up-and-coming’ to ‘arrived.’ . . . Enright brings distinctly Irish literary virtues to her South American subject: a disciplined pen, an ear for the mot juste, a mordant, morbid sense of humor and a keen appreciation for the nuances of failure and despair. [A] daring and conscious stylist.” —The Dubliner (UK)

“Beautifully charted. . . . Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is the final venue for this mesmerizing tale, echoing wonderfully the Jekyll and Hyde nature of this prostitute’s rise in society and her ability to mask her past.” —Aly Burt, The List (UK)

“A fleshy text, full of musk and decay. . . . Enright’s style, at once quirky and complex, creates a relationship between today’s readers and a fantastic story from Paraguay: love and death in a half-built country where gold is more common than iron, a landlocked swamp ruled by an admiral. . . . Like a good interpreter, she invents and improves. She can move between male and female, now and then, self and other. She has the type of mind that keeps looking at everything from a new angle, turning it upside down for a fresh perspective. . . . Enright no longer needs to invent fantastic fictions. Her great skill now is her ability to find the marvelous hidden in the ordinary, and to bring it to light. The most everyday events contain miracles: she can dissect them without destroying them.” —Gerry McCarthy, The Sunday Times (UK)

“The prose runs like water, sure of its destination, and you are carried at speed downstream. The plot is an ambitious but vulnerable craft, rather like the boat in which Eliza sails from Paris to Paraguay. . . . Enright’s words, always eloquent, are here at the service of touch and sight. . . . She writes like a shrewd Irish Márquez—seeing to it that magic never overcomes realism.” —Kate Kellaway, The Observer (UK)

“With her racy past and ruthless devotion to her South American strong man, Eliza comes across as a precursor of Eva Perón. . . . A novel that, while telling us a great deal about a fascinating episode in Paraguayan history, never loses its momentum, or its sharpness of focus.” —Christina Koning, The Times (UK)

“Spectacular. . . . The magic realism of Gabriel García Márquez springs to mind. . . . [This] is a novel about the most dazzling sort of writing . . . [displaying] Enright’s white-knuckle grip on language, her excitable narrative energy, her eye for crunch and color. Enright’s descriptions—it’s hard at times to tell whether their wealth of detail stems from research or from her clearly extraordinary imagination—are flawless and absorbing.” —Julie Myerson, The Guardian (UK)

“Enright’s Eliza Lynch is . . . undoubtedly extravagant, manipulative, and at the center of a disastrous war and the downfall of people all around her. But she is also human, and susceptible to the pain of loss. . . . Enright vividly evokes the painful opposition of the forces of desire and disgust which this larger-than-life woman inspires in people. . . . She can also be cuttingly funny. Her evocation of the gossipy, parochial scene into which Eliza arrives is nicely observed.” —Roberta Gray, The Sunday Tribune (UK)

“Anne Enright . . . takes her spiky, eloquent narrative style to sea in The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch.” —The Birmingham Post (UK)

“A rich, flamboyant, mannered book, written with condensed, self-conscious stylishness, dazzling with images and sensations and violence, and daring you to resist it from its first outrageous sentence . . . An adventure story with a racy, opportunist and obscure protagonist . . . Like a feminist version of Conrad . . . as if Nostromo had been retold from a woman’s point of view.” —Hermione Lee, London Review of Books (UK)

“Eliza Lynch, the protagonist of Anne Enright’s beautiful new novel, is a magnificent and dreadful creature of near-mythic proportions, a grand courtesan in the tradition of Madame de Pompadour. . . . Tiny observations, like grand scenes, are illuminated by metaphor. The cumulative effect is languorous and dense, as befits the Latin climate and the courtesan’s meticulous self-construction. . . . We are lured to the heart of darkness by those very images which, larger than themselves, are glorious and ghastly revelations of Eliza’s soul made manifest, passionately to relive her extraordinary journey.” —Claire Messud, The Irish Times (UK)

“[A] sumptuously written story of sex, corruption and the end of the world . . . [An] exquisitely written epic based on the true story of the beautiful Irishwoman Eliza Lynch, who was briefly the richest woman in the world.” —Madeleine Keane, The Sunday Independent (UK)

“Eschewing the more magical-realist tendencies of Márquez, Enright nevertheless recalls his work in the rich, sensuous detail of her story. . . . This is an accomplished work . . . full of juicy nooks and crannies where the reader might take shelter from the onslaught of battling armies.” —Lesley McDowell, The Sunday Herald (UK)

“Enright has disinterred a magnificent heroine. . . . [Eliza] is shunned, feared, blanked, admired, and always watched. . . . This is Napoleon’s Josephine; part sybarite, part savage. The refugee from an occupied land holding the hand that signs the death warrant. Poacher turned gamekeeper. . . . Distinct, bewitching.” —Justine McCarthy, The Irish Independent (UK)

“As sensuous and polished as an ornate painting. . . . Eliza is a voluptuary of sensuality, an archetypal immoral heroine: saint and sinner, beautiful and evil, compassionate and cruel. . . . Enright is clearly a close reader of Márquez and Conrad and, in her opulent portrait of a declining feudal nobility, there is a further debt to Lampedusa’s The Leopard.” —Lisa Allardice, The Daily Telegraph (UK)

Excerpt

A Fish

Paris, March 1854

Francisco Solano López put his penis inside Eliza Lynch on a lovely spring day in Paris, in 1854. They were in a house on the rue St-Sulpice; an ancient street, down which people have always strolled in a state of pleasant imagining. In the spring of 1854, no imagination was needed as Francisco Solano López pushed his penis into Eliza Lynch and pulled it back again, twenty times in all. This was quite a lot of times for Francisco Solano López , but something about Eliza Lynch distracted him from the usual rush of his pleasure. Something about Eliza Lynch gave him pause.

Outside, the birds sang, trees rustled and fancy carriages rattled by. Inside, the four-poster bed was hung with turquoise, its enormous baldaquin billowing above them and gathered into a pucker of silk that mirrored, as she lay under it, the lovely navel of Eliza Lynch.

Apart from the magnificent bed, she had nothing.

There was a burled walnut box pushed into a corner, an ormolu clock ticked on a mantel of ordinary stone, a simple table of inlaid tulipwood was burdened by a statue of the flagellated Christ. The room was practically bare, if you did not count the bed. But the bed was overwhelming, it was a room within the room; it was a palace, across whose yielding floor López crawled, laughing, in order to engage more thoroughly with the laughing Eliza Lynch.

Which, without further delay, he did.

Many people would come to regret this moment. You might say that everyone came to regret it—except for the two participants, Francisco López and Eliza Lynch, Il Mariscal and La Lincha, Paco and Liz. Already unreal. They were the kind of people who attracted stories—not to mention bias, rumours, lies, rage: the whole tangle pulled into a knot by time, made Gordian by history. The details cannot be unpicked. But this much we may not doubt: there was a joining of parts, and it happened in spring, on the rue St-Sulpice.

Paco and Liz, laughing on the bed. Mme Lynch silently looking at the silently looking Señor López. The tart from County Cork turning towards the turquoise, as the little mestizo handles it into her. It was a moment that garnered the blame of nations, as if everything started here. Something did start here—there are such things as beginnings—but what? But what?

They became lovers. In jig time, in marching time, in twenty beats, they moved from strangers to the rest of their lives. And they knew it. Such luck!

Outside, the birds chirped themselves to sleep, while his hired horse blew into his oats and the coachman snored. The clock on the mantel said midnight, or five o’clock. The clock on the mantel was stopped. And all you could hear was the suck and pull of his breath.

Who was he? He was heir apparent to Paraguay, a country that no one had ever heard of. Who was Eliza? She was very much herself. He had come to her house in order to improve his French, or so he said. The words he learned that evening were “King of Diamonds,” “Queen of Spades,” “trick.” He learned the French for sons of bitches, then truffles, pig’s nose, and tongue. Also a phrase: “If I win, you will not like me.” After which pleasant nonsense, they went to bed.

Oh Eliza. In fact, she did speak many languages: she romped in French, married in English, and she ate in the Irish of her childhood kitchen. She had school Latin and spa German, but her fate, now, was in Spanish, and she would die in Guaraña, which is to say, obscurely. The lover in her head spoke Russian, in whispers. The devil in her head spoke Portuguese.

And so, Francisco put his penis, son peñis, su penis, into the nameless part of Eliza Lynch. He put that thing, which is the same in English, French or Spanish, into a part of Eliza Lynch that is, in any language, obscene.

One:

He was rich. Two:

He was immensely rich.

He had ordered, that day, seventy pairs of silver-tipped boots—with presumably elevated insoles; because he was small, there was no gainsaying the fact that he was really quite small, but he was stunningly rich, so she, spilled out beneath him, must be magnificent.

Three:

She was silent.

It would not do to shout. Whatever surprise she felt at this, most surprising, intrusion must register as a mere stretch of her eyebrows, a fullness of her jostled mouth; her forehead suffused with a kind of puzzled tranquillity, as though the question—whatever question it might be—answered itself.

Four:

There was no telling how long he would take.

His hair smelt of lilacs and horses. His breath smelt of decay. His shirt was pulled impatiently open at the neck and a filthy leather pouch dabbed at her chest. Money? No—his money was folded and stuffed down the side of his boots. Vast sums. There was a flurry of paper when he dumped them, all unheeding, on the floor. Then his short military jacket; crusted with gold braid and held to lopsided attention by the remarkable epaulettes. After which his pants. His legs very thick and gnarled. His shirt dangling down.

She was wearing her sapphires. Also a peignoir of shrugged-off silk. It flowed down her arms and moved under her, like water.

Five:

Her lips jolted apart.

She must be his first woman in weeks. In Paris the whores would laugh at him, of course—that is why they were paid so much. Cora Pearl with her whip. Or Dolores at the Café Anglais with her diamonds and a bloody cough. Because they were all dying. Death in the bedroom and death again at the card table, where they would take his money, trick after trick. Here is the fool in from the colonies, let me introduce you to . . . M. le Duc de something he would not catch. Some ghoul of a German banker. A tart with diamonds in her hair, sitting in to watch. And if he tried to touch her, she would laugh in his face. The game continuing in silence. The stakes going up and up. The tart not laughing, any more. Up, and up and up.

He reared away from her.

She might bite him. She might tear at his bottom lip, if it were not for the terrible breath. When he walked into her drawing room, you could smell it from the doorway. No idea of where to sit or how to stand, until she took his hat in her own hands and said, quite natural-like, that he must leave it beside him here on the floor. This was what they did in Paris, she said to him, these strange Frenchmen, they left their hats on the floor so everyone could see their names in gilt letters written on the band—she spent her first weeks in town convinced that everyone was called Ruget, which was the name of the hatter. She laughed. Tra la la. Then she paused, rising in a rustle of silk, as though arrested, briefly, by the sight of his lap.

Easy.

She pulled the shirt, with rough fingers, up the length of his back.

Seven:

She arched her own back and said, “Oh.”

Everyone must take a lover, so they would know how to sigh and when to turn. It was an investment. Everyone should love once; there was no other way to learn. Eliza had wanted to love sweetly, hopelessly, but she loved like bad weather. And she only loved once. There was no use closing your eyes and thinking it was him. There was no use closing your eyes and thinking. But she did close her eyes, and saw López’s head briefly above her, his eyes red coals, his brain molten, his hair black flames. She opened them again, quickly, and was relieved to see flesh. Only flesh. Francine, outside, forgetting to bank the fire for the morning, as she always did.

Eight:

Who was counting?

She was counting. The first man in Paris, the second man in Paris, two men in Algeria, a man in Folkestone, Kent. Outside, Francine was clearing away the card table as, above her, López held his breath. Silence. The clock on the mantel had stopped. She counted them out to herself. The man who gave her the sapphires, the man who gave her the bed. Two men in Algeria, a man in Folkestone, Kent. Their memories rising now, as a scent might rise when you crush a flower. Each time he drew back, a name provoked—Raspail, Quatrefages, Misha, Bennett—and then hammered home.

Nine:

“If I win,” she said. “You will not like me.”

He spread his cards down on the table and looked at her. A good hand. A very good hand. He took the ace of hearts and started to cut out the centre of it with his little knife.

“I have kissed the hand of the Empress Eugénie,” he said. He described the ring she wore—a sapphire set with diamonds in a fleur-de-lis, over more diamonds and a pearl.

The Emperor Napoleon had pinned a ribbon on his breast. He put his arm about his shoulders and walked him personally to the door. Along the enfilade, thirty footmen pretended not to notice the fraternal kiss, man to man, soldier to soldier, nation to nation, as he took his leave.

Then he threw the empty-hearted card at her, across the baize.

This was a man who needed nothing.

This was a man who needed it all—but he did not need any one thing, except, and absolutely, to be inside her. As he now was.

Ten:

The dressmaker on Rue de Rougemont. Short and quick like a jockey, with burning, slithery eyes. She might like him. In another life, she might quite take to him. He looked her over and the deal, he seemed to be saying, was either her or 20 per cent. So she settled on the spot—lay herself down amid the silks and stuffs; a spool of Bruges lace still grasped in her hand. The lace cost, in labour, a metre a week. She thought about this—about how long it would take some Flemish hag to finish a fancy cuff, an entire dress, and the thought of the hag made her want to cry. She looked at the side of his head and her hand tightened on the wooden spool. She saw his blood on the hammered silk; she saw black blood seeping into the bombazine. When they were done, she asked him about the dresses, and he—as open in his love of warp and weft as he was closed in love (a grunter, a face-puller)—took her round the room, and romanced her with cloth. Nankin, taffeta, piquée, foulard. And so she got, on tick, five of everything, morning, afternoon and evening. Her under-linen, she must supply herself. She owned nothing, not even the peignoir she lay down in. She was not yet nineteen and she lived like a countess—on credit.

The money! The money! It was running through her hands like water. She tried to catch it, hold it: clutched instead at his neck, or his throat, or his mouth.

Eleven:

His hair smelt of Lilac vegetal by Pinaud. His shirt smelt clean. She would be rich. She would have a caléche like Cora Pearl, the English tart who dyed her dog blue to match her dress. A man said that her pearls were fake—she broke the string and let them scatter. The pearls sloughed from the string with a pull of her hand, spitting out all over the floor. Who picked them up? The pearls bouncing into corners, rolling under tables and little love seats. What fine young man paused at the door and silently stayed behind, then dropped on to his knees and grubbed around on the Turkey carpet, picking them up? Eliza caught her breath. The blue dog, the cale`che upholstered in sky-blue kid. She would have to change the curtains now, on her fabulous bed, because blue was Cora Pearl. A starving man she saw once, his legs set wide, and his thing hanging down in the gap, lush and fat. Eliza cried out. She had tried to be good, had wanted to be good, but the curtains had cost her a month of fucking and they were far too blue, and the pearls were scattering and rolling all over the floor.

Twelve:

Oh. Her voice in the room. A shudder in the hanging meat of his face, his eyes behind their closed lids like he was trying to squeeze something delicate and large through a very small gap—but only if he could find it. It was in there somewhere, in the centre of his head, and she wanted to kiss him; help him gather it up. A man he saw once, dragged by a horse; the bones sticking out of his ruined back. The man looking at him as though bored by it all, he said. Then slightly distracted. Then dead.

She was writhing away from him now, her eyes fixed.

Reading Group Guide

An astonishing, rich tour de force novel inspired by the life of a truly extraordinary woman: Eliza Lynch, the nineteenth-century Irishwoman who became Paraguay’s Eva Perón. Anne Enright has written a gorgeous, deeply resonant novel about a woman truly larger than life. The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch is a novel of epic love and epic destruction, and an accomplishment that brings Anne Enright’s immense talent to full flower.

1) Consider the title of this novel; to what kind (or kinds) of “pleasure” is Enright making reference? To take the title literally, what kinds of things bring Eliza Lynch pleasure? Do you think the title is meant ironically? If so, why?

2) Storytelling—whether it takes the form of reminiscence or gossip—is used by these characters as both a weapon and a form of currency; think of Madame Cochelet’s fantastic stories about Eliza Lynch (p. 51) or how Eliza and her traveling companions play a card game with stories instead of money. Why do you think stories are so precious to these characters? What do the stories and their importance tell us about the society in which Eliza Lynch lives? Consider, too, the elliptical way in which this novel unfolds; what might the author herself be saying about the nature of storytelling?

3) Consider the ways in which the characters—especially Eliza, Lopez, and Stewart—think about and discuss their offspring. How would you characterize their attitudes towards their children? What might this tell us about their children’s relative worth in their segment of society?

4) The long route that Eliza and Francine travel to Paraguay is an arduous physical undertaking. But it is also a transformative journey, a boat ride that is taking the two women from one state of life to another. How does Eliza’s attitude—and confidence—change from the first part of her journey to the last? Also consider Francine, who, as Eliza tartly observes, “started this journey as a maid and will end it as a lady’s companion.” How do you think Eliza feels about Francine’s transformation? Does anyone else on the ship undergo a similar metamorphosis in status or identity?

5) On page 45, Eliza’s history—of her thwarted childhood and early marriage—spills out of her in a rush. How do these details and facts of her life differ from the earlier, more segmented narrative of her life that we receive in the first chapter?

6) On one hand, Eliza has no interest in courting the favor of the snooty society women in Paraguay. On the other, though, she never loses hope that Lopez might someday marry her and make her his legal wife. How important is it to Eliza that she be thought respectable? What does legitimacy mean to her? How do her actions—building her grand theater, disgracing the women on her picnic at sea—contradict her private thoughts about belonging? On page 94, she both openly desires and mocks the sort of respectable life she cannot possess; which instinct—if either—sounds more sincere, or is Eliza truly ambivalent about her liminal status?

7) Why do the women in Eliza’s life—especially in Paraguay—despise her so much? How are their feelings about her different than men’s? How are they similar?

8) What is Eliza’s attitude toward Francisco Lopez, her “dear friend”? What, if anything, does she expect from him? How is her attitude toward him different than her attitude toward other men (p. 99)? Eliza talks a great deal about how she “must” love Lopez (p. 211)—what might she mean by that?

9) One of the most interesting parallel relationships in The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch is that between Stewart and Eliza, both of whom are European expatriates and far from home. But although both have different roles in Paraguayan society, both also remain apart from and above it. Stewart, for one, remains well aware of his—and his peers’—class and familial origins, even far from home. (Consider Stewart’s scrutiny of Eliza’s particular kind of Irishness, on page 141, or his speculation about Whytehead’s origins on page 112.) Are Eliza and Stewart similar? What do their attitudes about the Paraguayan people reveal about their prejudices and sense of relative self-importance or worth?

10) Stewart has complicated feelings towards Eliza; he both loves her and loathes what she represents. He also has a sort of grudging respect for her. Compare that to the way he feels about his wife, Venancia (pp. 133 and 185); how are his attitudes towards these two women different?

11) How might you characterize Eliza’s and Lopez’s relationship? Is one more powerful than the other? Does power ever trade hands between them? Compare Eliza’s attitude toward Lopez in the first part of her journey (p. 19) against that in the third part of her journey (p. 157). How, if at all, have the dynamics between them shifted? Similarly, how would you characterize Eliza’s feelings about Francine? Is she jealous of her? Sympathetic towards her?

12) Dressing up—in elaborate, lovingly conceived outfits—is one of the only entertainments afforded Eliza on her long trip to Paraguay. But does her costuming have another purpose or meaning as well? Are there other characters who, in donning different costumes, also assume different—or enhanced—identities?

13) How does Eliza feel about her childhood, particularly the women of her childhood? What sorts of lessons have they imparted to her, and how have they shaped the way she views men, and women, and society? Consider Eliza’s impassioned outburst to one of her teachers, Miss Miller (p. 215)—what might this tell us about the lessons Eliza learned in childhood? Do you think she has strayed very far from the lessons in propriety she was taught? Think too about how Eliza was married off to her first husband; how do the events of her childhood contradict the values about virtue and respectability she was taught?

Suggestions for Further Reading:

Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron by Nicholas Fraser, Marysa Navarro (Contributor); Mary Shelley by Miranda Seymour; The Final Confession of Mabel Stark by Robert Hough