Friday, May 17, 2013

The Paying Guest  -  1895
George Gissing
70 pages
genre  -  General Fiction
my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

In an effort to put money away for a rainy day or retirement, Mr. Clarence Mumford mentions to his wife that he saw an advertisement in the newspaper.

 "A YOUNG LADY desires to find a home with respectable, well-connected family, in a suburb of London...Can give excellent references. Terms not so much a consideration as comfort and pleasant society."

After discussing the idea, they decide to respond to the advertisement. A week passes before they hear from Miss Louise Derrick.  Mrs. Mumford meets with Louise, and it is agreed that Louise will move into the Mumford home in a few days.

What follows is typical teenage drama, either a hundred years ago or now.  The Mumford's first clue that their boarder was going to be trouble should have been when Louise admits she has a temper and has been arguing with her mother, stepsister, and boyfriend.  Introduce a second love interest, trips into London for shopping, staying out until late and you have a lot more turmoil.

The story was easy to read, but there wasn't much depth to the characters or plot.  I enjoyed reading the tale, but I won't read it again.  Maybe the author's other works are better. 

About the author  - 

George Gissing was born on 22 November 1857 in Yorkshire, England.  Gissing's father died when he was 12 years old, and he and his brothers were sent to a boarding school.   In 1872, after an exceptional performance in the Oxford Local Examinations, Gissing won a scholarship to Owens College.

Gissing's academic career ended in disgrace when he fell in love with a young prostitute, Marianne Harrison. He gave her money in an attempt to keep her off the streets and when funds ran short he stole from his fellow students. Gissing was prosecuted, found guilty, expelled, and sentenced to a month's hard labor in Belle Vue Gaol.

After serving his time, he travelled to the United States, where he spent time writing and teaching.  In 1877, Gissing returned to England.  He found and married Marianne 2 years later. They separated in 1884, although Gissing continued to support her financially until her alcohol-related death in 1888.

On 25 February 1891, Gissing married Edith Underwood. The marriage was not successful. Edith was prone to fits of temper and violence.  The couple separated in 1897; in 1902, Edith was certified insane and was confined to an asylum.

In July 1898, he met Gabrielle Fleury. Ten months later, they became partners in a common-law marriage as Gissing was unable to divorce Edith. They moved to France.  Gissing died from emphysema on 28 December 1903 after catching a chill on an ill-advised winter walk.

Gissing once said of himself, 'I carry a desert with me'.

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