While I have sort of stopped reading historical fiction as I grew older, there have been a few rare gems that I do come across now and then. The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann by Virginia Pye is one such amazing book. A love letter to readers, writers, and librarians, The Literary Undoing Of Victoria Swann is an inspiring story about a woman who chooses to defy patriarchy with her written stories.
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~ The Literary Undoing Of Victoria Swann Synopsis ~
Set in Gilded Age Boston, The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann tells the story of a successful woman author of romance and adventure novels who becomes a champion of women’s rights as she takes on the literary establishment and finds her true voice, both on and off the page.
Everything changes for Victoria Swann when she goes against her publisher’s expectations and abandons her frivolous writing style in favor of telling her own story. This seemingly personal decision causes her to lose her standing with her publisher, her income, and her marriage, as she joins the legions of hard-working young women who have been her most faithful readers.
Her new young Harvard-educated editor becomes her surprising ally as she fights on behalf of these same women, while he dares himself to become a more liberated, modern gentleman. The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann shows how writing and reading, like all acts of defiance, can liberate us from narrow, constrained lives—and how revision in life and revision on the page are intimately entwined.
Release Date: 3rd October, 2023 Trigger Warnings: Drug abuse, child death, death of parents, child death, death of parents
~ The Literary Undoing Of Victoria Swann Review ~
The story starts out as one woman’s fight for equal pay as a published author, and the simple freedom to write the stories she wants to tell. However, from that point on, The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann by Virginia Pye dives deep into crucial social commentary beyond feminism–there are beautiful, thoughtful explorations of the plights of immigrants and their place in America, and there are conversations about the need for representation for all diverse people, including the LGBTQ community.
I think the best part about this book is that the author touches on themes that are one hundred percent relevant in modern times–including abortion rights, equal opportunities, representation of diverse and minority communities, protection for immigrants, and much more.
And what’s truly amazing, is that she carefully weaves all of these themes slowly but surely into the plot, in a way that perfectly fits the context of our characters and the events they experience throughout the novel.
All my life, I’ve known I wasn’t much. Every girl knows it in her own way, But those gentleman authors seem to believe they’re the first to have discovered the absolute torment of being an intelligent woman in this day and age, or any other.Virginia Pye, The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann
There’s also a lot of focus on overcoming grief and trauma, with several chapters showing our own character’s struggles with mental health and suicidal thoughts.
In particular, there is one interesting parallel that I cannot help but point out: throughout the novel, a common criticism of Victoria’s novels is that they are very exaggerated, steeped in melodrama, and they all have the same pattern: a hapless heroine with a too-perfect, too charming and luxurious life, followed by a sudden crisis that turns escalates too quickly thanks to a stereotypical mustache-twirling villain–all of that coming right before a rosy, happily ever after that reassures the reader that good will always triumph.
In some ways, The Literary Undoing Of Victoria Swann follows the same pattern too–the story begins by presenting Victoria as a glamorous woman of class, money, and elegance, but we quickly find out how hard she hard worked to reach and maintain that lifestyle.
Too quickly, all of Victoria’s hard-earned wealth and comforts are snatched from her, and we witness her trying to return to her roots after her sudden fall from grace. And while the ending of the story certainly is not the victory that our protagonist had wanted, it is still a happy ending, one that inspires the reader and leaves them hoping for a better future.
For too long, the lives of women have been kept narrow and constrained. It is time to take our rightful place at work and as equals in the home. We New Women must stake our claim in the vast, wide world.Virginia Pye, The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann
I loved the relationship between Victoria and Jonathan. The trust and absolute faith they have in each other, and the way they understand each other despite having very different experiences in life was incredible. I found it particularly amusing how every other character seemed to think that they had chemistry–in fact, even in the pages of the book, they did have chemistry and for a very short while, I too was fooled into thinking Jonathan would become Victoria’s love interest.
I wonder, Jonathan, if romance doesn’t exist in novels, where can we find it? Not with any certainty in life–at least not mine.Virginia Pye, The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann
But as the story progressed, it became clearer that Jonathan and Victoria had the kind of chemistry that is born of mutual understanding and respect, rather than sexual tension, and I loved the way they both complemented one another as editor and author.
While The Literary Undoing Of Victoria Swann does have a bit of queer romance, it is certainly not the main focus of the plot. In fact, The Literary Undoing Of Victoria Swann actually feels more like a love letter to readers and authors alike, with several plot points focusing on the importance of representation in literature and how the stories we read shape us and help us understand one another with more compassion and empathy.
In several chapters, we even see a searing criticism of the impact of high literature–while they are no doubt valuable for enriching culture, fantastical and adventurous stories, stories about romance or the supernatural, all of these stories have an important place in the hearts of the readers who read them and should not be cast aside as being frivolous.
In the pages of a story, we enter into the lives of people we might not otherwise meet, and we grow only the wiser for it.Virginia Pye, The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann
A truly mesmerizing story that celebrates the joy of reading and writing stories, The Literary Undoing Of Victoria Swann is an unforgettable feminist story that I would strongly recommend to everyone, especially for those who are fans of the historical fiction genre.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own (my opinions are not for sale anyway). Thank you so much to Virginia Pye, Regal House Publishing and NetGalley for giving me a free copy of this book. <3
Have you read The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann? If yes, let me know your thoughts in the comments below!