Review: Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth

61816951With her satire on Anglo-Irish landlords in Castle Rackrent (1800), Maria Edgeworth pioneered the regional novel and inspired Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley (1814). Politically risky, stylistically innovative, and wonderfully entertaining, the novel changes the focus of conflict in Ireland from religion to class, and boldly predicts the rise of the Irish Catholic bourgeoisie.

I can see why this book is so important in the history of women writers and political satire, however, I just found it quite a boring book. At least it’s a short boring book. There was little to interest the modern reader, and Thady Quirk was really not the most interesting of unreliable narrators.

Maria Edgeworth herself is a very interesting woman, and one whose works I would like to explore with more detail, in the vague hopes that it will be more interesting than this novella. Her writing really hasn’t translated well to modern life, and I think someone who was not familiar with the practice of rack renting and the absentee landlord system in place in Ireland during the 18th and 19th centuries would find this book completely boggling without further context.

Thady tells his story with quite a dull narrative voice, though there are parts where he is comically thick. The story of his son’s rise to riches is pretty implausible, though I kind of felt like he was one of the more reasonable characters, since he didn’t seem like a total idiot… money snatching and devious, but not as thick or cruel as others.

Regardless, I was glad to get this book over with, which didn’t take too long, since it’s only around 100 pages long, with extensive footnotes. I felt like there could have been magic there, but it fell pretty flat in comparison to less heavy handed satires of society at the time.

2/5 stars.

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6 thoughts on “Review: Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth

  1. Great review. I actually just started reading Castle Rackrent (for “Reading Ireland Month”) and I’m sorry to say that I’m having to force myself through it. It’s not an awful book, but I am finding it pretty dull so far, and the humor in it seems too contrived to be funny. I think I might ditch this one so I can spend more time on the authors I’m really interested in (W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, and–one that’s brand new to me–Lady Augusta Gregory).

    • At least we’re not alone in finding it a dreadful slog. Thank god it’s so little! I didn’t really bother with reading the footnotes either, coz I just wanted it over.
      I felt like it was too forced too, and Thady just doesn’t react in a vaguely realistic way to any of it either. There’s so many better Irish writers to read! Tobin is my bae =P McCann and Heaney are amazing too!

  2. Agreed that if it’s boring, at least it needs to be short. Don’t think I’ll be searching this one out….. 🙂

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