Victorian Chaise-Longue Time Machine

The Victorian Chaise-Longue

Time travel isn't all fun and games. Sometimes, instead of having sexytimes with a red headed Scotsman, you end up trapped in the body of a sickly Victorian woman. That's the situation Melanie Langdon finds herself in when she falls asleep on her antique-store find.

In 1953, Melanie is recovering from a bout of tuberculosis. Her disease was discovered during her pregnancy. She carried the baby to term but was forbidden by her doctor from seeing him. Now it appears that she will get to meet her baby, move out of her bedroom and unto her chaise-longue. Her nurse tucks her into the seat for a rest, and everything seems perfectly normal, but when Melanie awakes she finds herself in a strange house in strange clothes with strange people, who keep calling her Milly. Even though this Milly person is very ill, her sister Adelaide is gruff and even angry with her. Melanie tries to explain her situation, but the right words won't form. When she does manage in communicate some idea of what happened to her, people try to hush her up. Melanie is stuck inside this body in a time that is not her own.

The Victorian Chaise-Longue is a short novel, but it took me quite awhile to finish it. It gave me anxiety. Melanie is unable to get anyone to listen to her. She's treated either with anger, annoyance, or pity. Melanie isn't even able to figure how Milly ended up convalescing on the chaise-longue. She believes if she tells the right person, a clergyman or a doctor, then they would get her back to her own time. Not a successful plan.

It's interesting to read this as a woman in 2016. The 1950s wasn't the best time for women. Melanie is the wife of a lawyer, but she is spoken to like a child and her male doctor bans her from even seeing her new baby. The excitement would be too much for her. Exhibiting any kind of emotion is met with disapproval. Her TB will get worse if she's a little giddy? Melanie believes that men will solve her time traveling problem. After all, men are in the positions of authority in her world, why wouldn't they fix this for her?

Hashtag: Not all men
Melanie also has issues with sex. For some reason, she comes to the conclusion that losing control during sex (which she wasn't even having at the time this all went down), lead to her losing control over keeping herself in her own time.
It is the ecstacy that is to be feared, she said with a shuddering assurance, it is a separation and a severance from reality and time, and it is not safe. The only thing that is safe is to feel only a little, hold tight to time, and never let anything sweep you away as I have been swept...
Despite all this, Melanie's life is a cake walk compared to the Victorian era she ends up in. They do not have an understanding of how TB/consumption works or how to treat it. No one listens to her when she tries to explain treatment. The air is bad. The clothes suck. She doesn't understand the customs and acts inappropriately which enrages Milly's sister. She is treated roughly, even violently, for reasons she can't fathom, and no one bats an eye at it.

The author, Marghanita Laski, shut herself up alone in her house and created an atmosphere where she was able to replicate the terror Melanie felt in order to write the book. It worked. This isn't ghosts in the attic scary, but scary psychologically. The thought of being trapped not just on an ugly piece of furniture, but in another person's dying body is pretty disturbing. Also, maybe read this on a day that's a good one for women.

If only Melanie could have said this.

The Victorian Chaise-Longue


  1. Where did you find this one? I have never heard of it before, which isn't saying much, but still. I have to say I am a bit intrigued by it all. Not enough to go hunt down a copy but should a copy cross my path, I wouldn't say no.

    1. It's a Persephone Book. I ordered it from Book Depository. I read some book blogger reviews of it a long time ago and wanted to read it since then. It's old so you might find other editions at a used book store.

  2. It's a difficult read but such a good one for all that. So frustrating at times! I read it a few years ago and had forgotten Melanie's issues. Good comparisons :)


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