WIDEACRE by Philippa Gregory
GENRE: Historical Fiction
SETTING: England, 1700's
SERIES: Wideacre, book 1 of 3
NARRATION: First person
MY GRADE: A+
From Publisher: She lived in an 18th-century England where women were forbidden to inherit wealth or land. But Beatrice Lacev was an extraordinary woman. Tempestuous, cunning and beautiful, she would seduce, betray, deceive, destroy to possess Wideacre. In the lush, dramatic tradition of GONE WITH THE WIND, WIDEACRE plunges us into a world of splendor and tragedy, of wickedness and obsession. Filled with vivid, compelling characters, here is a tale of a rich, fascinating time; the unforgettable story of a fateful love; the brilliant, spellbinding saga of a woman ruled by neither law nor man... a woman who lived to the fullest, wildest call of her own unbridled passions.
SEMI-SPOILER SUMMARY: This book begins with 14 year old Beatrice who lives at Wideacre in England. It's told in the first person.
She and her lover Ralph began their sexual relationship when she was fourteen. For her 15th birthday, he gave her a little owl figurine. That owl will come back to haunt her later on.....
That same year, they came up with a plan to kill Beatrice's father so that all of his property, money and all that will then become her older brother Harry's. They then planned to bankrupt Harry some way so that Wideacre would become Beatrice's. She loves Wideacre much more than Harry and wants to own it. Ralph later tells Beatrice that he want's to marry her, but she doesn't want to ever be married. The next morning, Beatrice decides that she couldn't go through with murdering her father. She rushed to the home he shares with this mother to tell him to NOT kill her father, but Ralph was already gone. Later on, her father was brought home dead. Ralph had smashed him in the head with something. Beatrice pretended that she was happy but secretly she was furious and planned to pay Ralph back somehow......
One day she came up with a plan. She set up an animal trap outside near his home. She knew if a human got caught in it, they'd lose their leg/legs. One day as she was leaving Ralph's, she yelled his name in hopes he'd come running. Sure enought, he came running to see what was wrong and walked right into the trap, pun intended. Ralph didn't see Beatrice at all while he was in the trap but he knew she'd planned it. Months went by with no word about what had happened to Ralph. He just up and disappeared with this mother, horse and two dogs. Beatrice lived in fear everyday knowing he'd show up again one day to get revenge on her.
Soon after that incident, she began an incestious relationship with her blonde haired brother Harry, who was one year older. Harry began to date a girl named Celia. That made Beatrice very jealous because Wideacre would become Celia's when she married Harry.
Celia asked Beatrice to come with her and Harry to 'Europe' after they got married, to keep her company. Beatrice agreed because she planned to continue her affair with Harry even though he was married. So that's what happened. They continued to have sex with each other every night, with Celia none the wiser. Harry even had sex with Beatrice on the night he 'deflowered' his wife. Beatrice soon after realized she was pregnant by Harry. She came up with yet another plan. She told Celia she was pregnant, but didn't say who the father was, and said that Celia could pass the baby off as her own. Harry went back home to England to see their sick mother, so while he was away, he'd never know that Celia wasn't really pregnant. He'd never know too that Beatrice was pregnant. The joke would really be on him, the fool. Beatrice's excuse for not traveling home to Wideacre with Harry to see their mother was that she just got too sea sick to travel if she didn't have to. So while Harry was away, Beatrice gave birth to Julia and gave her to Celia to raise as her own. Beatrice and Harry's relationship continued on and Beatrice got pregnant AGAIN, the moron.
She started dating a man named John MacAdams. He wanted to marry her but she didn't want marriage, since it would take her away from Wideacre, which she was completely obsessed with; had been her entire life. She lives for the day she'll own it, but that's not likely to happen (or is it?) since Harry is still in the picture. When she discovered she was pregnant again by Harry, she told Celia that she could have that baby too and raise it as her own, with only the two of them knowing it wasn't really hers. Celia was scared of the marriage bed and rarely had sex with Harry. That's why she wasn't getting pregnant on her own. Celia told her no, she couldn't lie to Harry again. Beatrice tried to abort the baby twice by taking some drug but it didn't work. Beatrice's deceiving mind came up with another genius plan; start having sex with John, even though she was five weeks pregnant, and make him believe he's the father. She gave birth to Richard. Weeks before, on her 19th birthday, she received a little package at her home that had been sent anonymously. Well, what do you know!, it was an owl figurine. No one but Ralph could have sent it. Before Ralph was born, she'd heard a rumor that the leader of a group of smugglers rode a black horse and had two dogs. She assumed then that it was Ralph. Someone then told her the unknown smuggler had grown up around Wideacre. She knew for sure that it was Ralph!
When Beatrice gave birth to Ralph, he husband John had been in Scotland. Being a doctor, he could see that Richard wasn't premature, like Beatrice had said. John confronted her about being pregnant when they married. She lied and told him that she'd been raped by the gang leader. That same night John confronted her, Harry kept pestering her to have sex with him. She gave in and while they were having sex on the floor, their mother walked in, saw them then passed out. They carried her to her room and Beatrice watched over her. John gave Beatrice a bottle of laudaum. He told her to give her mother four drops, no more, ever hour. After awhile, Celia came in to watch her mother-in-law so Beatrice could have a break. Beatrice LIED to Celia and told her to give her mother the entire vile of laudaum in thirty minutes. She wanted Celia to killer Beatrice's mother so that she couldn't tell Celia that she'd seen her and Harry having sex.
Beatrice went to check on her husband John. John was upset at being deceived by Beatrice about the pregnancy, so he'd been drinking a lot. He'd even thrown up on himself and the room was a mess. Beatrice wanted everyone to see the room the next day so that she can say John told her, in a drunken state, to give their mother the entire vile of medicine, thus blaming her mothers death on him. John had probably been drinking too because after Beatrice's mother came to after passing out, she kept yelling out, "Harry, Beatrice, NO!" John figured out something must have gone on with the two of them. Now because John may suspect their incestous relationship, Beatrice wants him dead. She's trying to destroy him with alcohol, since he'd got a drinking problem anyway. She's blaming John for their mothers death. She's using that as the reason for her dislike of him. Beatrice keeps supplying him with alcohol. John confronts her about it and she says this, "But I will never ban drink from where you are because I am content to watch you destroy yourself." Beatrice is trying to keep him drunk too so that she can have him committed to the nuthouse, making Harry power of attorney over John's money. Beatrice then plans to use John's money to buy Wideacre from their cousin Charles and to help pay all the legal fees of having Julia and Richard made join heirs of Wideacre, should Harry die.
For some unexplainable reason, my notes left off there. Strange. I think they got thrown away accidentally years ago. I'll have to pick up from there after I reread the book, then come back here and finish where I abruptly left off. This is one great novel! I couldn't put it down and couldn't wait to turn each page. Beatrice is such an anti-heroine.