Mistaken by Annie S Swan

BiblioBazaar, 2009, 100 p. Returned to a threatened library.

Mistaken cover

This is an odd little book. The oddness begins with its printing. I picked it up in a Fife Library and discovered it seemed to be photocopied. The publishers BiblioBazaar make a virtue of reproducing the original texts (in this case from 1883) as they found them – with whatever minor errors of blurring, indistinct pictures, missing or marked pages that may entail.

The oddness doesn’t stop with the reproduction though, as the novel itself (well it’s more of a novella) strikes a really strange note. It’s as if Mistaken is a religious tract that discourages the following of religious instincts. The “heroine” Margaret Wayland is a proselytiser spreading the word among the “arabs of Hackney” but the author would have us believe the true heroine is her mother, Mrs Wayland, who has devoted herself selflessly to the family and has been brought to sickness by it. Margaret’s brother and fiancé both want her to forego her missionary efforts and run the house instead to relieve the mother’s burden. Her indulgent father has educated her – perhaps beyond his means – and is at first unwilling to demand she takes her mother’s place.

The book – under the guise of honouring your father and mother – seems to be arguing that education of a woman is unwise as it leads to her thinking thoughts of her own and perhaps escaping male control. Not very sisterly. But Swan was a Victorian and makes Margaret bend to her authorial dictat.

Apart from this emphasis on religion (can there be an apart from that?) the only connection to Scotland in the book is that Mrs Wayland is sent to the isle of Bute for a rest cure and falls in love with the place.

Pedant’s corner:- Missing end quote on the title page, knit as a past tense, arabs of Hackney (presumably street arabs,) an opening quotation mark where none was required.

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