The Doctor's Dilemma

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Author: Hesba Stretton (Sarah Smith)
Published: 1872
Language: English
Wordcount: 159,906 / 437 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 79.7
LoC Category: PN
Downloads: 715
Added to site: 2006.11.17 15265

ed to alight. I lingered till the last, and sat still till I had unfastened my gold-piece. The wind drove across the open space in a strong gust as I stepped down upon the pavement. A man had just descended from the roof, and was paying the conductor: a tall, burly man, wearing a thick water-proof coat, and a seaman's hat of oil-skin, with a long flap lying over the back of his neck. His face was brown and weather-beaten, but he had kindly-looking eyes, which glanced at me as I stood waiting to pay my fare.

"Going down to Southampton?" said the conductor to him.

"Ay, and beyond Southampton," he answered.

"You'll have a rough night of it," said the conductor.--"Sixpence, if you please, miss."

I offered him my Australian sovereign, which he turned over curiously, asking me if I had no smaller change. He grumbled when I answered no, and the stranger, who had not passed on, but was listening to what was said, turned pleasantly to me.

"You have no change, mam'zelle?" he asked, sp


Average Rating of 3 from 3 reviews: ***
E. L. Kelly

Considering the time period it was written in, I was surprised at the liveliness and directness of this quick-reading Victorian novel.

While the parochial themes (Will that cad get her fortune?) characterizations (oh, feminine jealousy! Angelic female lead!) and hyper-emotional actions (ladies weep a creek!) are par-for-the-course Mid-Victorian, Stretton's writing is actually lively from the first sentence, rolling along at a pace averaging the speed of thought, with very few purple-prose passages.

The rather stereotypical characters moved along at a pace that allowed me to appreciate an action they've taken, then get on to the next development. While they are a bit stiff, main characters Martin Dobree and Olivia Foster are likable. I can root for them, and by association, their rather two-dimensional friends as well. Folks get swifted off to foreign countries to evade nasty baddies - and get chased to their exact locations. Marriage seems to be a biological (re: plot advancing) weapon. And at least Stretton *tried* to justify those coincidences, even if she did it only halfway.

In reading "Dilemma," I became painfully aware that Stretton was either recalling information at the outer edge of her knowledge base or wasn't doing it right: descriptions of all medical terminology related to Dobree's doctoral career are vague; foreign words are shoehorned into sentences to denote other language speakers;

Reading up on author Stretton (real name, Susan Smith), I find she was a devout Christian as well as a vigorous charity-worker, and every light wave of her traditional Christian belief spectrum shines through in every character and development. Christ's name or image is invoked many times, and there are some Biblical allusions. This ought to be a nice tale for a Christian reading group - the nits to be picked about the weak characterizations and hokey plot will supply much critical discussion fuel, but Stretton's heart is in a very moving place.

Overall, I call "The Doctor's Dilemma" a pleasant surprise. Apparently this is not her best or most famous work. I guess she's no Dickens (a wannabe, perhaps), but it would be unfair to sweep her under the rug as she's been.


Too long, melodramatic romance novel. The characters weren't well- developed, so I had a hard time caring what happened to any of them.

The story centers on a young woman who runs away from her captors in London and hides out on nearby Sark island. After gravely injuring herself there, a young doctor is brought to the island to restore her health. He falls in love with her, but unfortunately the doctor is engaged to be married - hence the "doctor's dilema". Which woman will he choose?



This book held my attention all the way through. Although rather melodramatic and a long drawn out story it is well written and the characterizations quite believable. And I'm a sucker for a happy ending!

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