The Widow’s Fire by Paul Butler

The following guest review is by Naomi MacKinnon of the Consumed by Ink blog. She focuses on reading books from Atlantic Canada, but will also read books from other places as well. So you think Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth live happily ever after? Well, Paul Butler wasn’t so sure. He saw a side of Mrs. Smith that the rest of us missed. Is she really the caring, innocent widow that Anne adores, or is she just manipulating us all into thinking she is? I was curious to see what Butler had done with such a beloved classic. Plus it gave me an excuse to re-read Persuasion after almost 20 years!

One thing Butler did not do was change any of what Jane Austen wrote in Persuasion. What he did do was imagine a longer, darker ending to the novel. His story starts as Anne and Frederick become engaged, and from there he brings in characters from the lower classes; those who are all but invisible in Jane Austen’s books. A sinister plot emerges – secrets, blackmail, lies, and murder – and we fear for the happy union of our couple.

Though we will journey into capital crimes and sins of the deepest disgrace known to humankind, love, in all its variations, will remain in our sights. The neatly patterned shell of romance might overturn to reveal the dark underbelly of blackmail and desire, but still love remains. Without love we are no longer living and our story is at an end.

The story is told through the narration of four characters; Mrs. Smith, Nurse Rooke, Captain Wentworth, and Plato (a freed slave who is not seen in Austen’s Persuasion, but was very likely there nonetheless; and who better to see all that goes on than someone who goes unnoticed?).

Each of them dragged around a dungeon of their own choosing. They said that slavery was going out of fashion but it only applied to the kind of slavery recognized by law, the kind that could lead to beatings and manacles. Slavery of the mind and soul was alive and well and would remain so in this country for many years to come.

Did Naomi enjoy The Widow’s Fire? You can read the rest of her review here at Consumed by Ink.

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Naomi MacKinnon is a mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend, pet-lover, reader, walker, camper, and Nova Scotian. Naomi has contributed several guest reviews over the years to The Miramichi Reader. Her book review blog is Consumed By Ink.