The Resource Becoming Belle, Nuala O'Connor

Becoming Belle, Nuala O'Connor

Label
Becoming Belle
Title
Becoming Belle
Statement of responsibility
Nuala O'Connor
Title variation
Becoming Belle
Creator
Author
Subject
Genre
Language
eng
Summary
A witty and inherently feminist novel about passion and marriage, based on a true story of an unstoppable woman ahead of her time in Victorian London. In 1887, Isabel Bilton is the eldest of three daughters of a middle-class military family, growing up in a small garrison town. By 1891 she is the Countess of Clancarty, dubbed "the peasant countess" by the press, and a member of the Irish aristocracy. Becoming Belle is the story of the four years in between, of Belle's rapid ascent and the people that tried to tear her down. With only her talent, charm, and determination, Isabel moves to London alone at age nineteen, changes her name to Belle, and takes the city by storm, facing unthinkable hardships as she rises to fame. A true bohemian and the star of a dancing double act she performs with her sister, she reigns over The Empire Theatre and The Corinthian Club, where only select society entertains. It is there she falls passionately in love with William, Viscount Dunlo, a young aristocrat. For Belle, her marriage to William is a dream come true, but his ruthless father makes clear he'll stop at nothing to keep her in her place. Reimagined by a novelist at the height of her powers, Belle is an unforgettable woman. Set against an absorbing portrait of Victorian London, hers is a timeless rags-to-riches story a la Becky Sharpe
Storyline
Tone
Writing style
Review
  • O’Connor wrote about Emily Dickinson in Miss Emily​ (2015); here she vividly reimagines the life of another nontraditional historical heroine. Though certainly less well-known than the poet, Isobel Bilton nevertheless leaves an indelible mark on the Victorian-Edwardian world she inhabited. The daughter of a middle-class military family, she chafes against both the familial and societal expectations that decidedly restrict the breadth and scope of her life. Making her way to London, she claws her way to the literal and figurative top, as she morphs herself into Belle Bilton, toast of the London stage and object of fancy to a bevy of well-heeled admirers. Falling hard for William Trench, Viscount Dunlo, she must overcome the objections of his disapproving father as well as those of society at large. Defying both class and convention, Belle engages in a magnificent spiritual battle that pits her desires and emotions against the restrictions placed upon her gender and her social status. Grounded in real-life characters and events, this passionate tale of ambition and love has cross-genre appeal for fans of historical fiction and romance. -- Margaret Flanagan (Reviewed 6/22/2018) (Booklist, vol 114, number 20)
  • In this lively novel from O'Connor (Miss Emily) the story of Isabel Bilton is tracked from a dull Hampshire upbringing under her mother's thumb to a giddy yet difficult life as a Victorian music hall entertainer and Irish countess. Isabel follows her dream to move to London, cajoling her sister Flo to join her. The two find success as a music hall sister act, and Isabel becomes entangled with a con artist claiming to be a baron from America; her subsequent pregnancy causes him to flee. A good friend, Mr. Wertheimer, sets her up in his country home, where her pregnancy progresses far from the scandal sheets, and helps her find a nursemaid to raise her son. After returning to the stage as “Belle Bilton,” she takes up with an Irish viscount. But after their marriage, his dismayed father forces him to leave the country and eventually sign divorce papers. Awkwardly written sexual encounters and the tedious back and forth between the lovers during their separation are a drawback, but O'Connor skillfully captures the mores of the time and tops it off with a wonderfully suspenseful court case. This is a transportive, enjoyable novel. (Aug.)
			 --Staff (Reviewed 06/18/2018) (Publishers Weekly, vol 265, issue 25, p)
  • /* Starred Review */ In 1897, Isobel Bilton dreams of leaving her home at a Hampshire military base for London. The oldest daughter of a British officer and his formidable wife, Isobel struggles against the familial and social expectations that diminish her. At 19, she fulfills her ambition to go to the capital, where she becomes Belle Bilton, star of the London stage. Though she relishes the nontraditional artistic and social freedoms offered by city life, Belle still has to contend with people who seem compelled to control her. This remains a theme throughout her life, even after she marries the dashing Irish aristocrat William Trench, Viscount Dunlo. Their marriage scandalizes Trench's family and London society. Undeterred by malicious legal action and the threats of disinheritance, William and Belle relocate to the Trench family demesne in Ireland, their romance triumphant. VERDICT As with her debut, Miss Emily, O'Connor offers a stunning historical reimagining. Her eye for details, including Victorian dress, food, and technology, enhance her mastery of character and inner dialog. [See Prepub Alert, 2/26/18.] --John G. Matthews (Reviewed 04/15/2018) (Library Journal, vol 143, issue 7, p64)
  • A late-19th-century music hall artiste dares to assail class boundaries in a novel based on a sensational court case. Isabel "Belle" Bilton, daughter of a military officer and a frustrated actress, leaves the barracks town where she was raised to seek her fortune on the London stage. Theater buffs, hoping for an insider look at the antecedents of today's musicals, be advised: There is very little backstage drama and even less about Belle's day-to-day challenges as a singer, dancer, and actor. Billed as the Sisters Bilton, Belle and her sister Flo are an instantaneous hit—although O'Connor tells rather than shows readers that the sisters' talent is not just skin-deep. Flo quickly settles for a safe but dull marriage, but Belle frequents bohemian nightspots like the Corinthian Club, where she succumbs to the blandishments of Alden Weston, a self-proclaimed baron, who is later convicted of fraud and imprisoned. Pregnant by Weston, Belle is helped by her only true friend, wealthy antiques merchant Isidore Wertheimer, who, as a gay Jewish man, inhabits a demimonde of another sort. After farming her infant out to a wet nurse, Belle soldiers on with her career. Her romantic zeal is reignited by William, an Irish viscount who takes up with her in defiance of his father, the Earl of Clancarty, who threatens to disinherit him. They marry in secret, but the Earl sends his son to Australia almost immediately thereafter. Isidore again shelters Belle as she anxiously awaits William's return—only to hear that, despite the occasional fervid love letter, William has petitioned for divorce. The ensuing jury trial is the most compelling portion of the book, which has thus far languished without much of a plot. Belle's characterization is anemic: Is she naïve? An opportunist? A gold digger? A slave to love and/or lust? Her emotions, traits, and intentions are duly cataloged, but Belle's essence remains decorative and unknowable. Despite the novel's faults, the period setting comes alive thanks to O'Connor's lively prose and dialogue. (Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2018)
http://library.link/vocab/ext/novelist/bookUI
10685202
Cataloging source
DLC
http://library.link/vocab/creatorDate
1970-
http://library.link/vocab/creatorName
O'Connor, Nuala
Dewey number
823/.92
Index
no index present
Literary form
fiction
http://library.link/vocab/resourcePreferred
True
http://library.link/vocab/subjectName
  • Marriage
  • Social conflict
  • Aristocracy (Social class)
  • England
  • FICTION / Biographical
  • FICTION / Historical
  • FICTION / Romance / Historical / Victorian
Target audience
adult
Label
Becoming Belle, Nuala O'Connor
Instantiates
Publication
Copyright
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Control code
1967658
Dimensions
24 cm
Extent
370 pages
Isbn
9780735214408
Lccn
2017033071
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
Media type code
  • n
System control number
  • (Sirsi) i9780735214408
  • (OCoLC)995162375
Label
Becoming Belle, Nuala O'Connor
Publication
Copyright
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Control code
1967658
Dimensions
24 cm
Extent
370 pages
Isbn
9780735214408
Lccn
2017033071
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
Media type code
  • n
System control number
  • (Sirsi) i9780735214408
  • (OCoLC)995162375

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