Here are two gemlike novellas in one volume, written in May Sinclair’s clearest and cleverest prose and exploring the many ways in which a woman can be held captive, held back from the “intoxication of freedom.” In “The Cosmopolitan,” Frida Tancred is a wealthy heiress trapped by family obligation in a dismal provincial estate, hopelessly longing to see all the glories of the world and with no way of escape but the conventional one of marriage. In “Superseded,” spinsterish Miss Juliana Quincey has been teaching arithmetic in a London girls’ school for twenty-five years when she suddenly falls in love with a much younger man and begins to question the assumptions of her life. So dramatically different in terms of characters, plot, and style, both novellas are united in a passionate quest of freedom and a like determination on the part of two very different women to achieve freedom on their own terms. The “Question” of which Sinclair is demonstrating the “Two Sides” seems to be this: Does a woman need a man in her life in order to define herself? In coming to her conclusions, Sinclair explores many layers of human life: art, philosophy, education, science, social class, religion. The marvel is that she is able to do all this in two such small, luminous novels. ( Expatriate)
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