Last semester my husband, a student at Rutgers, had the exciting opportunity to take a class with English professor Sophie Gee at Princeton University. While we are both interested in her academic title, “Making Waste: Leftovers and the Eighteenth Century Imagination,” I was drawn more immediately to her novel, “The Scandal of the Season.” How lucky for me that the library carries this deliciously witty, smart and steamy historical novel on CD, allowing me to hear Cameron Stewart's British accent for ten whole hours.
Setting her story in London in 1711 and featuring Alexander Pope as a main character, Gee deftly develops a plot of love affairs, the London literary scene, and treason that culminates in Pope's writing "The Rape of the Lock." Gee convincingly weaves together fact and fiction, focusing on the illicit relations between Arabella Fermor and Lord Petre, who assume they will marry some day, but waste no time becoming intimate.
Eventually they pay for their impropriety when a political scheme fails and Lord Petre is forced to publically reject Arabella. His choice of how to do this constitutes the main action in Pope’s poem. With one awkward situation stacked upon another, Pope takes his own, less than successful, steps toward love-making. Poetry, it seems, has already and forever stolen Pope’s heart. The book ends with a reading of “The Rape of the Lock.”
As they might have said in the early eighteenth century, this audio book is "quite diverting," an entertaining story, sure to distract listeners from bad traffic during a commute or from the labors of an exercise work out. And for what it’s worth, my husband liked it, too.