Una L Silberrad’s Desire is the story of an Edwardian New Woman who finds fulfilment in work and love after rejecting high society. First published in 1908, Una L Silberrad’s novel of professional integrity and feminist aspirations for the right to work was praised by contemporary reviewers because ‘it satisfies the intelligence at the same time as it appeals to the emotions’.
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Desire Quebell is the illegitimate daughter and only child of a wealthy financier. He brings her up in luxury, and she enjoys the pleasures of society, yet she is not a conventional Edwardian daughter. She rebels intellectually, and admires the work of provincial first-time novelist Peter Grimstone. But her father has neglected to make provision for Desire in his will, so when he dies unexpectedly, she has to leave her home without a penny of her own.
She moves to a boarding house and studies secretarial work, intending to find a job before the last of her jewel money runs out. But her class bars her from employment, and she can’t make new friends with being misunderstood. Will Desire consider leaving London to be a book-keeper in a small Staffordshire town, away from everyone she has ever known?
This is a classic and forgotten New Woman novel, exploring how women could live and work independently at a time when this was a daring idea for middle-class women. In her introduction Cornelia Waechter shows how Silberrad’s feminist vision deserves to be rediscovered, and her practical insights appreciated.
Shiny New Books described Desire as ‘more than a romance, more than a coming of age book; it is a strong narrative of a woman and man whose strength of purpose rises above the normal, who therefore threaten the status quo in an ultimately positive way’.
Watch the video in which we explain who Una L Silberrad was, her colourful family, and the wonderfulness of this novel.