Maria Edgeworth is an author who escaped my notice until quite recently. Reading her was like tasting chocolate for the first time! Naturally, I compared her to other Regency women writers: Edgeworth writes with all of the satire of Jane Austen and the darkness of Emily Bronte.
This novel follows Belinda through her first interactions with society as those around her try to steer her towards a husband. The most dominant character, though, is Lady Delacour, who is deliciously beastly --think Mrs. Bennet meets Mr. Woodhouse, through whom we encounter much of the medicine of the day.
Funny and plot-driven, this book tells us much of the contemporary society, not only in terms of medical practices, but also social experiments, trickery and the role and constraints of women, and how these were fought against.
This novel is satisfying and ahead of its time in both its style and its content. It really is a work of art.