A Monstrous Regiment of Women
|A Monstrous Regiment of Women|
|Author||Laurie R. King|
|Publisher||St. Martin's Press|
|Publication date||Sep 1995|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Preceded by||The Beekeeper's Apprentice|
|Followed by||A Letter of Mary|
Explanation of the novel's title
The title is taken from a work by John Knox, published in 1558, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regimen of Women. Knox used the word regimen in a now archaic sense, meaning government or regime, and his book was written against the female sovereigns of his day, particularly Mary I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots.
Just one more week and Mary will turn 21. She will inherit property and money...but she will also be free of her awful aunt. Going in search of her mentor, Sherlock Holmes, she finds him on top of a hansom cab. Holmes reveals that he knows why Mary has sought him out - to ask him to marry her! - and he mocks her for it. Mary becomes upset and literally runs away.
By chance, she meets her old college friend Veronica Beaconsfield. Veronica talks Russell in to visiting The New Temple In God to hear a woman named Margery Child preach. Margery's speeches are all about love and empowerment of women, but Mary discovers that several young ladies have died shortly after making wills in favor of the temple. Mary must try to solve the mystery of Margery Childe while surviving mysterious attacks, newfound wealth, and uncomfortable (or maybe too comfortable?) new feelings for her partner, Holmes.
Feminism and Religion
The book deals heavily with the intersection of feminism and religion; more specifically, their combination in the form of the character Margery Childe. When Mary first hears her speak, Margery is discussing a passage from 1 Corinthians in the Christian Bible:
"Women should keep silence in church; for they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law says...It is shameful for a woman to speak in church."
Margery's conclusion is that men are afraid of the questions women might ask concerning religion, the bible, and God, and realize that women are not inferior. She points out that the bible describes both men and women being created in God's image - not just males. She dissects the "adam's rib" creation story, noting that humanity was not complete until woman was created. Mary, a theology scholar, mentions to Margery that in the original biblical manuscripts, there are numerous references to God in the feminine; using "She" and "Her" instead of "His and "Him". Mary has learned through her research that these references were removed as the works were translated into other languages, presumably so that God would appear as a wholly masculine being. In an author interview, Laurie R. King is noted to describe herself as a "...feminist-although that basically means I support the right of a woman to get paid for doing the same job as a man, not that I believe men to be inferior or superfluous."
There is a mention of Holmes having fathered a son, and to Holmes having gone through a very rough period while his son fought a drug addiction. There are also references to a relationship with Irene Adler.
In a paper examining the feminist narrative in a contemporary context, Lillian Doherty felt disappointed by the ending, believing Mary failed to "uphold the honour of the feminists" when she needed to be rescued by Holmes.
- Savage, Mary Ann, "Laurie R. King: an interview", The Rose & the Thorn
- Doherty, Lillian (2001), "The Snares of the Odyssey: a Feminist Narratological Reading", in S. J. Harrison, Texts, Ideas, and the Classics: Scholarship, Theory, and Classical Literature, Oxford University Press, pp. 117–119, ISBN 978-0-19-924746-2