With four and a half stars on Amazon, being described as “a literary triumph”, and “a timeless romance”, as well as “not my cup of tea”, “a bit on the dull side” “boring” and “what a load of tripe”, this novel should be taken on its own terms: it is of its time, both in terms of what the reader wanted, and how the world was seen. The class system was taken for granted, dark people were more than a little suspect, and sexual desire was as monstrous as gin or opium. But brigands, starvation and death were alright, even quite nice. The reader of the time – 1847 – was a narrow-minded spinster with only the faintest grasp of the world’s realities; which makes one wonder at this novel’s perennial popularity. I suppose we’re still suckers for a story about an ugly girl who bags herself a rich man with a square jaw and a shaggy mane.