Review: The Victorian and the Romantic: A Memoir, a Love Story, and a Friendship Across Time


Title: The Victorian and the Romantic: A Memoir, a Love Story, and a Friendship Across Time
Author: Nell Stevens
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
Source: Publisher
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

History meets memoir in two irresistible true-life romances–one set in 19th century Rome, one in present-day Paris and London–linked by a bond between women writers a hundred years apart

In 1857, English novelist Elizabeth Gaskell completed her most famous work: the biography of her dear friend Charlotte Bronte. As publication loomed, Mrs. Gaskell was keen to escape the reviews. So, leaving her dull minister husband and dreary provincial city behind, she set off with her daughters to Rome. There she met a dazzling group of artists and writers, among them the American critic Charles Eliot Norton. Seventeen years her junior, Norton was her one true love. They could not be together–it would be an unthinkable breach of convention–but by his side and amidst that splendid circle, Mrs. Gaskell knew she had reached the “tip-top point of [her] life.”
In 2013, Nell Stevens is embarking on her PhD–about the community of artists and writers living in Rome in the mid-19th century–and falling head over heels for a soulful American screenwriter in another city. As her long-distance romance founders and her passion for academia never quite materializes, she is drawn to Mrs. Gaskell. Could this indomitable Victorian author rescue Nell’s pursuit of love, family and a writing career?
Lively, witty, and impossible to put down, The Victorian and the Romantic is a moving chronicle of two women each charting a way of life beyond the rules of her time.


I’m not usually a fan of nonfiction. The stories have to be very intriguing for me to read them. I loved this book and I couldn’t put it down!

The narrative switched between Nell’s modern story and the story of Elizabeth Gaskell’s life. The story of Elizabeth’s life was unique because it was written in second person, as if you, the reader, are Elizabeth Gaskell. The other stories I have read which are written in second person come across as commanding, but this one sounded like a story that you are a part of.

I’m a huge fan of Victorian literature, so I could relate to Nell’s love of it. I haven’t read any of Elizabeth Gaskell’s work, but her biography of Charlotte Bronte is on my TBR. I’m even more interested in reading it now, after learning about the controversy around it.

I could also relate to Nell’s PhD work. I’m currently working on my Master’s in Creative Writing, so I understood her need to write constantly, but it can be hard when life gets in the way and you don’t feel inspired.

Though this book is nonfiction, it reads like a fictional story. I absolutely loved it!

What to read next:

  • The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell


  • Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World by Nell Stevens


Have you read The Victorian and the Romantic: A Memoir, a Love Story, and a Friendship Across Time? What did you think of it?

3 thoughts on “Review: The Victorian and the Romantic: A Memoir, a Love Story, and a Friendship Across Time”

  1. This sounds like something I’d really like, especially since I’m also not really a non-fiction fan typically (although I don’t like to rule out any book). But something about this intrigues me. Thanks for the review!!

    Liked by 1 person

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