Red Pottage – Mary Cholmondeley

This is Mary Cholmondeley (1859-1925) whose novel ‘Red Pottage’ (1899) is, in my opinion, a neglected classic.

It tells the story of two very different female friends, Rachel West and Hester Gresley.

The main plot revolves around the consequences of adultery: at the husband’s behest, he and his rival draw lots. The loser is honour bound to take his own life.

This supposedly secret arrangement is overheard by the wife, who confides in Rachel. But they know only that lots have been drawn, not the result. Subsequently, Rachel and the adulterer fall in love.

Meanwhile, Hester is struggling to write her second novel while living with her brother, a bigoted vicar, and his equally obnoxious wife.

The principal characters are complex and carefully drawn. The plot is beautifully constructed.

As an added bonus, we are treated to a biting satire on clerical life and a fascinating treatise on the evolution of the ‘new woman’ – a prevalent theme in so many novels of this period.

I thought it was simply wonderful!


April 2023

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