Review 1862: Strange Journey

Polly Wilkinson, a middle-class suburban housewife and mother, is leaning on her garden gate, tired from housework. She sees a woman in a Rolls Royce stopped in traffic and wishes she was that woman. For a moment, she is, but it doesn’t last long and she thinks the experience is a daydream.

After that, Polly is periodically removed from her life and takes the place of aristocratic Lady Elizabeth Forrester. After some initial confusion about what is happening, she believes Elizabeth is causing this exchange, and she is put in some awkward positions, such as finding herself in the middle of a fox hunt when she can’t ride. She purposefully makes Elizabeth do things she doesn’t usually do, such as play bridge brilliantly, in a sort of revenge. She also returns home to find the furniture moved and her children demanding stories she’s not familiar with. What could be causing these body exchanges?

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this novel, which reminded me of The Victorian Chaise-Longue, but it grew on me. It wasn’t as dismal as the other novel, and I liked how Polly’s more open and positive personality had an effect on Elizabeth’s life while Elizabeth’s confidence helped Polly and her husband’s career.

Of course, the novel comments on class issues, but Cairnes’s representation of Polly’s suburban life is so realistic that I was surprised to find Cairnes came from a background closer to Elizabeth’s. She doesn’t skewer or patronize the suburban characters. If anything, Polly’s frank kindness opens Elizabeth’s eyes to some truths. Sadly, (small spoiler) the class divide is still strong enough in 1930’s England that the women can’t remain friends in the future.

I received this novel from the publishers in exchange for a free and fair review.

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4 thoughts on “Review 1862: Strange Journey

  1. piningforthewest May 28, 2022 / 3:27 pm

    I received this one from BL too for review but haven’t got around to it yet, I skim read this one but I see you ended up quite liking it, I hope I do too, I had never heard of the author before.

  2. Liz Dexter May 30, 2022 / 1:56 am

    I loved this one and reviewed it yesterday myself. I always say I don’t like magical realism but I really liked the magic in this one, very well done and also making a point, as you say, about class. I was also struck that Cairnes was from the upper class as she captures Polly so well.

    • whatmeread May 30, 2022 / 10:37 am

      I often have a problem with magical realism myself but not so much with this one.

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