The Scandal of the Season

I am currently reading Sophie Gee's "The Scandal of the Season" and it is a bewildering read.

The plot outline: 18th century Britain. Catholics and Protestants live side by side uneasily. The young poet Alexander Pope is heading to London to make his name. He encounters a situation he'll later immortalise in the wonderful mock epic The Rape of the Lock. So, by all accounts you get literary history in the making, the (in)famous flirt between Lord Petre and Arabella Fermor (as immortalised in the poem), religious troubles and a look at the early 18th century landscape. Ms Gee knows a helluva lot about the period and therein lies the real problem of this book.

I cannot enjoy it as fiction. The characters speak wonderfully witty early 18th century English but they all speak in the same manner. There is no distinct turn of phrase, no subtle nuances to their voices and after a few pages it begins to grate. The characters are not fleshed out, they never leap off the page and the plot drags. Furthermore, because Sophie Gee has her characters repartee so beautifully, the more modern phrases she occasionally employs spring out and annoy. As an expert writing on the literary and political landscape of early 18th century London, Gee convinces, though. I wish she had written a nice, witty treatise on that subject - she has apparently written academic articles on the matter - but it's not very likely that little book would have made it to my little secondhand bookstore.

I did find Read for Pleasure through googling for Sophie Gee, so not all's lost.