Review 1565: A Struggle for Fame

After reading The Uninhabited House, I looked for more books by Charlotte Riddell and came across the Recovered Voices series published by Tramp Press and this book, A Struggle for Fame. A Struggle for Fame is Riddell’s semi-autobiographical novel about the publishing industry.

Although Glen Westley is the main character in the novel, it follows the progress of two Irish young people who meet on the ship from Ireland and both end up in London’s literary milieu. Through poor investments, Glen’s father has lost the family home and all his money. She determines that they will travel to London so she can try to make a living as a writer.

On the ship, they meet Barney Kelly, a young chancer who is looking for a way to make money.

Glen works hard at good literary fiction and is repeatedly rebuffed by editors even while being told she has promise. Barney, on the other hand, falls into an opportunity to write articles for a journal. The novel makes clear that Glen has much more ability than Barney, but he is able to make a living at writing much earlier than Glen. It is clear from the beginning that the novel is about Glen’s rise and fall, but we are drawn in to see what happens.

A lot of characters are vividly drawn and quite Dickensian in their idiosyncrasies. It is fairly obvious that Riddell is depicting, sometimes satirically, publishers and authors she knew. Although written in 1883, the novel has observations about gender and ability that still apply today.

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2 thoughts on “Review 1565: A Struggle for Fame

  1. ilovedays October 24, 2020 / 11:41 am

    I’m guessing this was a contemporary novel in the 1880s – taking place in what was then the current time. Does it give a good sense, in your opinion, of what London was like then? Or Ireland? Interesting about artistic talent, same as it ever was in terms of talent and ability to make a living with it.

    • whatmeread October 24, 2020 / 12:03 pm

      Yes, it is contemporary to the 1880’s but no, it concentrates on the people and events in the literary world, not really on London itself, and it spends no time in Ireland.

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