Hilda Wade, a Woman with Tenacity of PurposeJuly 8, 2014
I never wrote anything about Hilda Wade, did I?
So, obviously I’m pretty into Miss Cayley’s Adventures. So into it that I was kind of terrified of reading anything else by Grant Allen, which is why Hilda Wade has been languishing on my Kindle (and then my other Kindle) for several years. I shouldn’t have worried, though. Hilda Wade is good and bad in almost exactly the same ways as Miss Cayley’s Adventures is good and bad.
It’s narrated by Dr. Hubert Cumberledge, who is to doctor-narrators what many of Carolyn Wells’ protagonists are to lawyer-narrators, except that unlike most Carolyn Wells protagonists, he is capable of seeing women as people. Most of Grant Allen’s characters are capable of seeing women as people. Grant Allen’s female characters command respect.
Anyway, Hilda Wade is a nurse, and she and Dr. Cumberledge work at a hospital with Professor Sebastian, who is a Great Man. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good man, though, and Hilda Wade knows he’s not. It’s pretty clear to the reader early on that Hilda a) does not like Sebastian, b) had some special purpose in coming to work for him, and c) probably wants revenge for something he did to her father. Eventually these things also become clear to Sebastian, and even, eventually, to Dr. Cumberledge.
Dr. Cumberledge is only moderately bright, compared to Professor Sebastian’s genius and Hilda’s superhuman intuition, but he’s pretty likable, mostly because his awe of Hilda turns out to be greater than his awe of Professor Sebastian. Early on, he’s skeptical of her concerns about Sebastian, but she slowly convinces him, and it works because he respects her and listens to her and is willing to see her point of view. And for all that the novel goes way downhill once he is convinced, that’s a really nice thing.
After that, the book gets adventurous and racist and sentimental, but wound to a close entertainingly enough that I never wanted to put it down. Apparently the last chapter was written by Arthur Conan Doyle from Grant Allen’s notes after his death or during his final illness. I have to say, I wasn’t a huge fan of the last chapter, but I don’t know that him not dying would have helped–he has a tendency to fall apart toward the end of a book. That’s the thing about Grant Allen, though: he starts off so strong, and builds up enough good will, that he’s free to make a mess of things later on–it doesn’t really matter that much. I guess Grant Allen’s heroines are better than his books, which doesn’t bother me at all, because the opposite is so much more common.
Lois Cayley is still better than Hilda Wade, though. She’s funnier.