Convalescence in the Nineteenth-Century Novel: The Afterlife of Victorian Illness by Hosanna Krienke (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2021) 227 pp., hardback, $85.55


  • Calinda C. Shely


When people fall ill in the twenty-first century, many are driven by the notion that they must recover as quickly as possible so they can get back to their normal life, namely work. Things were different in the nineteenth century, however, as Hosanna Krienke demonstrates in Convalescence in the Nineteenth-Century Novel: The Afterlife of Victorian Illness, a recent instalment in the Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture series. In it she explores the relationship between nineteenth-century conversations about convalescence, the uncertain, extended period of rest and recuperation following illness or medical treatment, and its representation within five Victorian novels: Bleak House, Ruth, The Moonstone, Erewhon, and The Secret Garden. Krienke argues that these works demonstrate what she terms ‘convalescent time’ (p.1) as part of a process of training readers in a process of reading that emphasises the ‘slowly emerging and contingent meanings of the unfolding plot’ (p.1) above the novels’ often tidy conclusions. Fictional depictions of convalescence therefore serve as a means through which readers become more comfortable with prolonged uncertainty necessitated by the process of novel-reading itself