The Romance of a Shop
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 out of 5 stars
When Mr Lorimer died, he left his four unmarried daughters in a difficult economic situation. Despite offers of help from friends and relatives, the sisters decide to fend for themselves and open a photography business…
The Romance of a Shop by Amy Levy is a rare read, known chiefly to experts and literature students. Written in an unusual, brief style, it’s somewhere between classic Victorian novels and modern fiction. The plot seems quite simple, as it follows the Lorimer sisters in their controversial endeavour. The charm and importance of this book come from understanding how much it says about the situation of contemporary women.
In traditional Victorian society, the woman’s role was restricted to the domestic sphere. They were economically dependent on their fathers and husbands. When Mr Lorimer dies, it would be natural for the sisters to accept the help of their relatives and move into their houses until they are married. Amy Levy challenges this practice by making her female characters open a business and become financially independent. Many more traditions are questioned, for example, the necessity of marriage or a good reputation. Levy understands that in the changing society, where women take a more active part in social life and try new occupations, the rules of behaviour or propriety must be adjusted accordingly. For example, her characters need to meet men in a strictly professional environment, which must be understood and normalised.
To summarise, The Romance of a Shop is an interesting, if not especially exciting position. Still, I believe it should be readily available, as any other valuable Victorian novel. I recommend it to all interested in New Woman or proto-feminist fiction.