The Victorian Chaise-Lounge by Marghanita Laski

The Victorian Chaise-longue

The Victorian Chaise-Lounge by Marghanita Laski chronicles a peculiar event in the life of Melanie. It is the 1950s and she is recovering from tuberculosis and has recently delivered her first child. She is thus confined to her bed with frequent visits by her husband, doctor, and Sister Smith. After a promising report from her doctor, Melanie is allowed to have a change of scenery. The old Victorian-chaise lounge with “wine-red felt…embroidered roses… carved wooden frame” that Melanie bought at an antique shop on a whim before her illness is the decided place of respite. Melanie goes to sleep on the chaise-lounge and wakes up in Victorian England. She does not recognize her surroundings and is horrified that everyone calls her Milly. Melanie cycles through phases of grief and slowly begins to realize that she is not dreaming and tries to sort things out. The only connection that Melanie can find between herself and Milly Baines is tuberculosis and the chaise-lounge on which she is trapped, both physically and mentally in Milly’s body. At the end however, their existences seem to blend.

There are a few ideas swirling around in this short novel particularly about the treatment and position of women during these two periods: women should be made to rest and refrain from excitement, that women are trapped or confined by convention, and possibly that women are prone to mental illness.

Laski does a wonderful job of taking us right into her character’s experience. I felt the same way with her character Hillary in Little Boy Lost who is trying to relocate his son a few years after World War II.

5 responses to “The Victorian Chaise-Lounge by Marghanita Laski

  • Verity

    I am really keen to read this but it is one of the Persephones that I don’t yet own. I still haven’t read Little boy lost either, but I did enjoy The village.

    • LeaningSun

      I ordered it straight away after hearing good things about it during Persephone Reading Week. I haven’t read the village, I will have to add that to the list.

  • Claire

    The Village is the one I haven’t read either, Danielle, so I am hoping to read that at some point although it’s not at the top of my Persephone wish-list currently.

    I wasn’t overly impressed by The Victorian Chaise-longue the first time I read it this time last year but it has grown on me, especially reading about it during Persephone Reading Week and since. Little Boy Lost was exceptionally powerful, however, and I am more and more appreciating the subtleties and underlying horror of women’s confinement (in more ways than one) in this. Have you read The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman Perkins Gilman (VMC)? I was struck by how similar The Victorian Chaise-longue was in its exploration of trapped women and the evocation of claustrophobia.

  • To Bed With Grand Music by Marghanita Laski « Leaning Toward the Sun

    […] read The Victorian Chaise-Lounge and Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski and enjoyed them. So I was particularly excited when […]

  • richardbbc

    I hope you don’t mind my coming so late to your review. I actually found it by searching ‘Barbara Comyns’ and your page came up at the top of the result list. My eye was then caught by ‘Marghanita Laski’ in your tags.

    I knew nothing about her until recently when I came across a Persephone edition of The Victorian Chaise-Longue. The description of it as a “jewel of a horror” made me read it straight away and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Your reviews of other novels by her have encouraged my intention to read some more of her work.

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