Every book is a new journey to embark on. I mainly read romances, but I dabble in other genres too.
Darkness and Daylight
by Mary J. Holmes
Source: Free from Project Gutenberg
First published: 1864
First words: Collingwood was to have a tenant at last.
I wanted to start reading old books that weren't necessarily classics. I thought it would be cool to see what else was published way back then, hopefully something with romance.
Lo and behold I stumbled across Darkness and Daylight by Mary J. Holmes on Project Gutenberg. According to Wikipedia, Holmes was a bestselling author. Her first novel sold 250,000 copies and during her lifetime she sold over 2 million books. Wow!
Surprisingly, Darkness and Daylight wasn't hard to read. The writing was easier to understand compared to some classics I've read. The only thing I found pesky were the typos in the copy that I downloaded from Project Gutenberg. There were a number of them, and I almost considered switching to a scanned book version. I should have done that in the first place since it's cool to see the actual printed pages, but I was too lazy, and I wanted to read this on my Kindle.
Mental illness was a big part of the story. You eventually find out that Arthur's wife is mentally ill. I wasn't exactly sure what her disorder was, but she says she sometimes has a buzzing in her head that causes her to lose reason and make her throw tantrums, hit people, and pull her own hair out. I felt pretty bad for her.
Even sadder was how Nina sees that she's holding back Arthur from being happy since he's married to her but is in love with Edith. Nina is not upset by this since her marriage was done on a whim, and she wasn't completely for it in the first place. Throughout the book, she was kind and understanding and wanted Arthur to marry Edith.
I thought this book was melodramatic. People collapse whenever they're overcome with emotion. Edith fainting when she learned Arthur's secret (him already being married and that Nina is his wife) comes to mind.
The story was frustrating since everyone was so stubborn. Edith and Arthur are in love, but they don't want to take act on it, because they both want to stick to their duties. For Arthur it was to stay loyal to Nina, and for Edith it was to stay loyal to Richard, her guardian.
So they stay miserable and things don't really start to happen until Nina dies, which is sad since like I said before, Nina wanted Arthur and Edith to be married and happy.
Then Edith promises to marry Richard, because he rescued her from a river when she was baby. After he rescued her, he caught a fever (river was icy cold) and he lost his eyesight. Edith views Richard as a father or an older brother, but she feels that she owes him. So the misery continues...
It wasn't until when Richard reads Nina's letter telling him that Arthur and Edith are in love that something big finally happens, because that's when Richard finally reaches his senses and allows Edith to marry Arthur. This didn't happen until the about the very, very end.
Drawn out? Yes I would say so.
And that ending! Richard was somehow able to see again!
Keep in mind that this book was published in 1864. There were quite a few mentions of the n-word, which made me uncomfortable. It wasn't used maliciously by the characters though. It seemed to be another everyday word they use to refer to the black servants and slaves. That doesn't make the word any better, but it was interesting to see.
The black characters were treated well. No abuse or anything like that. And they had an actual presence in the story. They weren't brushed off or just in the background. Some characters talk and reveal important information that moves the story along. It's just too bad they were stereotypically written (like talking in bad English) and were stuck as servants. Again 1864 this was published.
Overall an interesting read. I was mainly intrigued how the author dealt with the subject of mental illness. In the future, I'll give Holmes's Tempest and Sunshine since that is said to be her most popular work.
RATING: 3 out of 5