I can't express the soap opera-ness of Wideacre by Philippa Gregory. The Shower Cap Guy from MadTV would probably say, "It's crazy as hell!!" Let's just say there is incest, murder, patricide, S&M, secret babies, angry villagers and a legless gypsy. It's as if Gregory had a big book of outlandish plots and threw them all in there.
If Wideacre was a sport there would be an X in front of it, as in X-treme! Everyone is X-treme in this book. The main character, Beatrice Lacey, doesn't just love the land of Wideacre, she loves it To The Extreme! At one point she tries to marinate herself in it's dirt. Everyone else tells her, "Dude, it's just land" but she's peeved about how her brother, who knows nothing about Wideacre, will get the land when their Dad dies. Beatrice meets up with a gypsy boy named Ralph. At this point they have sex and it's To The Extreme! And being X-treme Beatrice she doesn't just like it, she aches for it. It's agonizing!!! Ralph hatches a plan to do away with Daddy and make brother Harry dance like a puppet. Did I mention Harry has a fetish? We'll get to that later.
At the last minute Beatrice changes her mind but it's too late. Exit Daddy, stage right. So, now X-treme Beatrice is up in arms that Ralph would to such a thing and who does he think he is, etc, etc. She attempts to murder him in a ridiculously strange way but it doesn't take. Ralph becomes The Legless Gypsy: Scourge of the County.
I bet you think I gave away half the book but no we're not even through 200 pgs in of this 600+ page book! ("It's crazy as hell!!")
When Harry returns to Wideacre, X-treme Beatrice having lost her lover starts having yucky, yucky thoughts of her brother. She starts seeing him as The God of the Harvest (I swear it's in there!) and her ticket to staying on Wideacre. Brace yourselves... they have intercourse... and Harry likes to be beaten...To The Extreme! When Harry gets married to the Sweetest Girl in the County, things get even more entangled. Beatrice thinks it might be nice to have a stable full of little sibling/cousins to play with Uncle/Daddy and somehow help her keep Harry under her thumb. However, everything starts to come undone for Beatrice and the plot goes even more... To The Extreme!
Beatrice is Scarlett O'Hara on crack. She does crazy things to stay on Wideacre, but even Scarlett would draw the line at her schemes. I guess all the Extremeness is to point out how unfair it was to be a girl in the 1700's. You didn't get the land unless you had the Y chromosome. So this adds to her madness. I also don't think it helped that Daddy told her that she was a "Lacey of Wideacre" and could do no wrong. She tests that theory! Besides all the grossness of the incest, Beatrice is so in love with herself, so arrogant! This girl does nothing by halves.
This is a book to be taken in small doses, it's so overwrought. But I couldn't walk away from it. Don't you want to find out how Beatrice gets her comeuppance?
Hesitantly recommended to those who love melodrama and have a high tolerance for ickiness.