Geschichte des Fräuleins von Sternheim [The History of Lady Sophia Sternheim] (Sophie von La Roche)

Geschichte des Fräuleins von Sternheim is an epistolary novel by Sophie von La Roche.
Finished on: 11.12.2018

Plot:
Sophie grows up very sheltered. Her mother died when she was very young and her father did the very best to bring her up good and decent. But he, too, dies when Sophie is only 19 years old. Her aunt and uncle, Countess and Count Löbau, take her in and move her to the city and bring her to court. Sophie is overwhelmed with the intricacies of court and her virtues are constantly tested. To make things even harder for her, she catches the eye of two men, tough and correct Lord Seymour and manipulative Lord Derby.

For me, Sophie von La Roche – one of the few (German-speaking) female writers who are still remembered 250 years later – was an exciting discovery. I really loved Geschichte des Fräuleins von Sternheim and finding another successful, historical female writer.

The book cover in simple yellow, no frills.

I’m a sucker for epistolary novels and Geschichte des Fräuleins von Sternheim – which is actually the first epistolary novel by a German writer – works the form so well, it’s really impressive. There are nice changes of perspective here and it’s simply a good read.

I was really engrossed and felt with Sophie so much, hoping for only the best for her. And since everything that happens to her is so super DRAMATIC, her story is quite a page-turner. Now, if you somehow can’t get into soapy levels of DRAMA, it may be a little too much for you, but I really enjoyed it.

Probably the best thing about the novel though is Lord Derby. He is such an interesting character, conflicted and layered, a definite villain, but also honestly in love with Sophie. He simply does not know what to do with that love, it has no place in his life that is ruled by conspiracies and double-entendres. He was fascinating.

Given that it is a novel written by a woman in the 18th century, La Roche had to emphasize the morality of her protagonist as much as the morality of her novel. Nothing untoward is happening here, Officer Male Literary Establishment, move along, move along. From today’s perspective it got a bit much, although it wasn’t quite as annoying as the notes from the first publisher (Christoph Martin Wieland) who felt it necessary to explain some things in the novel or comment on them in a very lecturing tone. Best to ignore those comments, or at least read them with some ironic detachment.

But other than that, it’s such a great novel. I absolutely loved it.

Summarizing: Really good.

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