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That Inevitable Victorian Thing

Review

That Inevitable Victorian Thing

E. K. Johnston, author of EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR, brings to readers her latest novel, THAT INEVITABLE VICTORIAN THING. Set in an alternate history where the British Empire never fell and diversity is encouraged through genetic matchmaking, three teens on the brink of adulthood cross paths to enjoy one summer of freedom before their lives of responsibility begin.

Victoria-Margaret cannot wait to spend a summer free from her royal wig and away from the looming presence of her future as queen. Disguised as a relative of a family friend, Margaret enters the city of Toronto with little hope of building lasting relationships; however, she finds herself pleasantly surprised by the true friends she encounters. Still, even so far away from London, Margaret must hide her true identity from her newfound friends --- especially from Helen, who notices more than anyone realizes…

Helen is a practical girl, but also uncomfortable outside of her hometown, having prepared her whole life for her future with her soon-to-be fiancé August. Whisked away to the upper-class society of Toronto to attend the debutante balls, Helen is out of her comfort zone and out of her league. Just as Helen begins to feel less like a common small-town girl and more like she belongs, she receives her genetic chip, a device that holds her DNA as well as the key to another part of her identity she never knew existed.

"THAT INEVITABLE VICTORIAN THING is a delightful read, filled with secrets, suspense and blooming romances; a perfect read for curling up on the couch or relaxing at the beach."

August, training to take over his father’s trading company, has already entered adulthood, and found it much harder than he was prepared for. Swindled by American pirates while trying to protect his ships, August’s hands are tied and is faced with making a choice: trying to solve the problem on his own, or asking for help.

Between the political mathematics of tea parties, wild dances and enjoying time alone in the countryside, the young adults build a once-in-a-lifetime bond. In a compelling story of self-discovery, the new friendships of Margaret, Helen and August are challenged amidst deception and the prospect of becoming adults. Will each of them choose to follow their own path? If they do, then they just might have the chance to achieve what they desire.

Johnston’s world is wonderful to step into; a near-futuristic novel with an alternate history, Johnston explores the possibilities of “what might have been,” a fresh breath of a society where issues of ethnicity do not plague the world as they do now. The narration, with a proper tone much like the dialogue between the characters, is descriptive in explaining social customs the reader might not understand. Social formalities such as the debutante balls, a social recognition of coming of age, provide insight into a world where tact and social awareness are key attributes for a respectable person. Every chapter includes documents that expand this world, such as maps, journal entries and correspondence. Though the beginning was a little slow, the pace allows readers to not only visualize the setting but also to comprehend the complex social system that guides the actions of many characters.

Luckily for the three young adults, they are supported by a diverse range of family and friends. The most prominent figure is Elizabeth Highcastle, whose sincerity and carefree attitude bring light even in dark times. Exhibiting social “know-how” while also following her heart, Elizabeth represents social grace as well as the conflict between the expectations of society and her own expectations for her future life. Other family members, such as Helen’s unpretentious Aunt Theresa, guide the young characters through their transition into adulthood. As the conflict escalates and Margaret, Helen and August are removed from the constraints of society, Johnston focuses on developing the ultimate conflict of being faced with the responsibility of their own decisions. Inevitably, in a twist like a Shakespearean play, there is a surprising answer to a seemingly unsolvable problem.

THAT INEVITABLE VICTORIAN THING is a delightful read, filled with secrets, suspense and blooming romances; a perfect read for curling up on the couch or relaxing at the beach.

Reviewed by Lauren C., Teen Board Member on December 14, 2017

That Inevitable Victorian Thing
by E. K. Johnston