Pure Juliet was never published in the author's lifetime and was only discovered by her daughter in 2014. To all Stella Gibbons fans, of which I am one, this was great news and I awaited the arrival of the book with great anticipation.
Now, we all know that Jane Austen, when writing Emma, said "I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will like". Of course, she was wrong in the end as many of us have come to love Emma, despite her snobbery and interfering habits and the reason for this is that, in the end, she realises her mistakes and has been wrong. In Pure Juliet we have a heroine who I find totally unlovable. She is clever, has an inquiring mind and seems to have two ghastly Wayne and Waynetta parents who do not understand her at all. Her teachers find her odd, she has no friends and spends hours studying mathematical textbooks and trying to work out insoluble problems. She may be a genius. Or maybe she is not and has a very limited outlook which others do not understand and, therefore, they think she is something extraordinary.
She has made friends with a highly gullible old lady who wants to 'adopt' her and have her come and live in her house and be a companion to her and, without a backward glance, she packs her suitcase and leaves home only letting her mother know some time later where she is.
Juliet is the supreme egoist and thinks of nobody but herself. She is lucky in that she has fallen among those who will mentor her and look after her and allow her to concentrate on her increasingly esoteric mathematical ideas and as she goes to University, achieves fame and is regarded as a leading light in her field (though I have to say I really have no idea what this field is and not sure that Juliet does either) her disregard for all around her reaches proportions that I found totally objectionable. While writing this post I suddenly thought of Saga, the chief character in the wonderful series The Bridge, who has the same viewpoint and attitude. There have been many discussions as to whether she is autistic or not and there is a rather unsettling similarity in this character's creation.
But at the end, she seems to realise and be grateful for the love and affection she has received all her life and never returned. Offered a prestigious fellowship at a University in the Middle East, which is fiercely opposed as she is a woman and not deemed fit, she flies there to attend the ceremony but does not take up the post and returns to England. And on the way back, she tells her 'family' who have looked after her, without thanks, for years that she was not staying:
"But why didn't you accept?" said Frank leaning forward looking earnestly into the tired sallow face from which all trace of youth had faded "I would have thought.."
"Oh, I couldn't. You're my family like" She looked round and slowly smiled "I couldn't leave you all now, you and my animals. Oh no I couldn't stay there"
I found this a very odd book. I used to work in a library at Highgate back in the sixties and Stella Gibbons was a regular reader. Charming lady, very quiet and polite to everyone, she came in one morning looking cross and told me that she had had an idea for a story in the middle of the night, but she had not written it down and now she had forgotten it. If it was this story, I cannot help but think it would have been best left forgotten.
I am attaching a link to a review of Pure Juliet from one of my favourite blogs, Desperate Reader, here and Hayley certainly has a viewpoint and opinion on this title that far exceed my response. Do read it.
An odd book but worth reading if you are interested in this author's work.