More Unconventional Pairings (Not Just From Westeros): A Mashup

Following the success of ‘The Most Unconventional Pairings in Westeros,’ Her Ladyship digs into her own bookcase/DVD rack for some more hooking-up of odd couples.

Arthur Kipps (The Woman in Black) and Amy Dorrit (Little Dorrit)



Judging from the brief flashbacks to Arthur’s deceased wife in the film of The Woman in Black, Arthur has a very Victorian concept of what an ideal woman is: angelic, gentle, childlike. Bleh. One should also consider that after his experience at Eel Marsh House and the subsequent death of his wife and child (we’re talking about the book now), this may indeed be the kind of person that Arthur needs if his shattered nerves are to survive another day in this world. Amy Dorrit is just such a person: frequently called a ‘little mouse’, she is deeply devoted to the people she loves, particularly her rather selfish father. She’s gentleness and sweetness personified, and feels a need to save each person that she observes suffering, her mere presence often convincing the sufferer that they’ve experienced something spiritual. She’s not a walkover, though: having grown up in the Marshalsea Debtor’s Prison and spent her entire life in the poorest neighbourhoods of Dickensian London, she’s streetwise, outspoken when driven to anger and stubbornness incarnate. Thus, she’d be perfect for Arthur when he’s at his most miserable, but would also be indispensable in making him see that there is an entire world out there that can’t and won’t tiptoe around him; that he has lost everything, but that he can still find a way to live and not let his awful losses ruin him. Arthur would also be extremely good for Amy: when it comes to men, she’s attracted to people who have experience of life rather than those who don’t know much about it, but unlike her father, Arthur wouldn’t expect her to give up her entire life to look after him. In this way, Amy can live by her natural instincts to take care of people, but she wouldn’t be doing so with a person who takes advantage of it and who tries to prevent her from living.

George Emerson (A Room With A View) and Sansa Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire)


It has often been observed on this blog that Sansa would profit considerably from a relationship with somebody who blows her cutesy ideas regarding love and chivalry out of the water. George Emerson is just such a person. Quirky, unconventional and just a little bit weird, George likes climbing trees to yell things like ‘Beauty’ and ‘Liberté’ (he calls this his creed of the eternal Yes), arranging his food in the shape of a question mark and running for miles in the pouring rain. He’s also devoted and protective when he falls in love and is hectically into all that ‘all of you or none of you stuff’, even when it’s one-sided. So why would he fall for a prig like Sansa? Lucy Honeychurch behaved like nothing but a prig for almost all of their acquaintance, but he married her all the same when she came round: he could sense that there was someone else in her shut up behind all that poor-Charlotte-induced crap. Like Lucy, Sansa is also a person shut up behind a load of crap, half of it idiotic adolescent dreaming, the other half blinding fear of abuse and possible death. It’s only now that she’s been robbed of both of those things (well, sort of – she still believes in fairy tales) that she has a chance to be herself, something that’s probably not going to work out being shut up in the Vale with Littlefinger. It’s the real Lucy that George fell in love with despite her faults – the same thing could happen with the real Sansa, whoever she actually is. It’s also only a person entirely free from caring what other people think who could really fall in love with an oddball like George; becoming such a person in this kind of way would do Sansa the world of good.

Marian Halcombe (The Woman in White) and Athos (The Musketeer Novels)

Marian pictured left

Marian pictured left


Androgynous, highly intelligent, well-read, resourceful and driven into fits of frustration by the limitations imposed on her by her sex and by men in general, Marian would have a whale of a time with Athos. Effortlessly charismatic, noble, virtuous, loyal and gorgeous into the bargain, Athos is also an awfully narrow-minded aristocratic snob whose admittedly traumatic experience with his wife Milady has led him into a pathological distrust of the whole of womankind and a relationship with humanity in general that, on good days, only just borders on civil. Him and Marian would fight endlessly on issues of philosophy, metaphysics, literature, mercantilism and the thousands of things they would no doubt find lacking in each other’s personalities and views of the world before the age-old truth that great men are turned on by intelligent women (for evidence, see anything from Caesar and Cleopatra through Diderot and Sophie Volland ending with Tolstoy and Countess Sophia) would finally ring true, and the appeal of Marian’s glorious and witty mind would finally surpass the trauma of Milay’s fleur de lis brand. Marian would loosen Athos up, he would calm her down, she’d probably heal his poor tormented soul and they could spend the rest of their days having lots of sex and titanic intellectual arguments.

Lisbeth Salander (Millenium Trilogy) and Henry Winter (The Secret History)


Henry Winter artwork by crown-and-glory on tumblr

Henry Winter artwork by crown-and-glory on tumblr

This is the kind of match that could turn out surprisingly well, probably because Lisbeth and Henry seem very different at first glance, but aren’t actually so dissimilar. Both possess a somewhat warped moral compass, with Lisbeth not batting an eyelid at torturing or killing people who deserve it and Henry referring to murder as ‘redistribution of matter.’ They’re definitely on an intellectual par, though in different fields, and each is intelligent enough to quickly learn the work of the other if help is required. Most importantly, neither of them is fond of other people meddling in their lives. When he’s working, Henry doesn’t answer the door or the phone regardless of previous engagements or friends needing to talk to him. Lisbeth is fond of dropping off the radar for months at a time and isn’t great at treating people with much consideration for their feelings. Something tells me Lisbeth wouldn’t be at all averse to having no conversations for months while Henry translates Paradise Lost into Latin and that Henry wouldn’t mind getting quietly on with his Greek homework while Lisbeth’s on an extended tour of the Hacker Republic. Both of them would maintain the independence and solitude that is so important to them, while at the same time being assured of somebody being there for them when they want them to be, not when they don’t want them to be. The very idea is screwed up, but then so are they.


The Small Hand by Susan Hill (Book Review)

Much like its illustrious predecessor The Woman in Black, Susan Hill’s The Small Hand gives us a rational, mildly religious narrator whose initial spine-chilling experience takes an age to develop into something more horrible as his everyday life and his own reason delay him in delving into what he has experienced. ‘Something more horrible’ then ends in an abrupt sort of deus ex machina that restores calm and normality, before Hill rolls out her horrifying pièce de résistance and we end the novella in a complete panic with our hands over our mouths. Most of these qualities, however effective they were in making The Woman in Black so iconic, tend to turn The Small Hand into a small incidental more admirable for the technical mastery of its narrative than for its ability to shock, the latter being something we can, not unnecessarily, consider indispensable in a novella subtitled A Ghost Story.

It is on his way to pay a visit to a rich client in the country that antique book dealer Adam Snow first encounters the White House, a derelict mansion with an enormous, overgrown garden that bears signs of a glorious past. Drawn to the place by some inexplicable force, Adam soon jumps out of his skin at the feeling of a child’s small, cool hand taking his; a ghostly gesture that seems to have no intention but a benign one; perhaps the greeting of another human being by a spirit long left to itself. Adam recalls the incident with fondness and determines to go back to the White House and to explore its past. That’s before the small hand begins to pull him towards cliff edges and pools, demonstrating an apparently malevolent urge to ensure Adam’s departure from this world through suicide. Add some ghastly nightmares and hallucinations, a brother incarcerated in an asylum for a year and a grand old house that was once the toast of the kingdom, and you have classic Susan Hill dynamite in a little package that can be read in two hours.

Hill is especially good at writing convincingly about ordinary, unexceptional people, and much of this is to do with her highly developed command of narrative voice. In The Small Hand, we’re consequently perfectly convinced that we’re dealing with plain old upper English middle class Adam Snow, antique book dealer. Adam’s attitude to most things is one of habitual restraint, and he doesn’t seem to talk about anything with unabashed enthusiasm except books and libraries, though even these instances are not as marked as they would be in a more extroverted person. He is a man firmly grounded in reason and rather lacking in imagination. This shows itself in controlled, well-expressed, matter-of-fact prose, even at moments of high emotion and accounts for much of Adam’s conduct: his rather calm initial acceptance of the small hand as a thing whose real existence he does not doubt, his delayed rather than immediate supposition that his experience is the result of insanity, and the constant, infuriating way that his acting on this experience is continually delayed and shoved into a corner of his unconscious mind by the most mundane distractions imaginable. A consequence of this is that the novella’s plot takes the length of The Kalevala to develop without there being much in the way of character to fascinate us in between, Adam himself being rather boring, but not so boring that we don’t care what happens to him.

'Deciding to Sink' by Pete B on

‘Deciding to Sink’ by Pete B on

When the plot does finally manage to get going, The Small Hand is shocking and mesmerising, with seemingly unimportant details suddenly assuming great significance. The last part of the novella is like a horserace against the pages themselves, all the suspense that has been building up (and sometimes lacking) exploding in one small, psychological place that could lead to a great variety of paper cuts on the reader’s part. The inevitable final twist is thrilling and brilliant, with Hill never losing control of the narrative poise that she has so often demonstrated.

The Small Hand’s great qualities do not quite succeed in overshadowing the duller sheen of its earlier pages; in making the wait worthwhile. One often feels that Hill requires a lesson from Bram Stoker, or indeed from her earlier self, in the correct way to gradually build up suspense and hold the reader’s interest: it’s not enough to disjointedly imply here and there before dumping a tidal wave on our heads. A more interesting protagonist may have greatly assisted a plot that takes such a long time to unfold; nevertheless, it’s an exquisitely well-written book that is very well characterised and in many ways, particularly its last part, shows a consummate knowledge of how to portray a classic ghost novel plot that fools a reader into believing they’re reading it for the first time.