Review Blog

Aug 21 2015

The Beloved by Alison Rattle

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Hot Key Books, 2015. ISBN 9781471403798
(Age: Mature senior secondary) Themes: Role of women in society (1800's); Abuse - emotional and sexual; Historical drama; Family drama. Set in 1848, this is a tale of family abuse, powerlessness, betrayal, exploitation and family dysfunction threaded with a link to religious abuse, heresy and corruption. Alice Angel, lives in a household dominated by a manipulative mother who emotionally abuses her daughter. Alice's responses to the abuse and the perceived lack of love from her mother, which from the reader's 21st Century viewpoint seem reasonable, are deemed to be evidence of her mental instability and she is at risk of being sent to a mental asylum.
This uncertainty leads Alice to escape into an uncertain future, and then into the unfortunate arms of an in itinerant preacher who manages to convince her, and many other women, that he is their Saviour - The Beloved. The servitude that follows is spiritual abuse, and yet the vulnerable women from rich and poor backgrounds succumb to the seductive charms of the enigmatic leader willingly. Gradually Alice discovers that all is not what it seems, and the abuse is revealed in all its horrors.
This is a sad tale and reveals how a woman's position in the world was often easily manipulated in the 19th Century. The willingness of the women in the tale to succumb to the spell of the charismatic religious leader, who deceptively claims divinity, was immensely sad. The fact that this is based on a piece of English history (Agapemonites) is disturbing.
Some maturity is required to read this book, both as the result of the descriptions of abuse (including sexual abuse), but also to sift through the irreverence and false claims of the religious leader. (Note: Christians will find the warped and corrupt expression of their beliefs to be distressing but not surprising, as it still continues today.)
Carolyn Hull

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