Anya Seton’s novel Dragonwyck preceded E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey by sixty years. However, Seton’s story was prescient of the current runaway best-selling trilogy!
I came upon Dragonwyck after reading Seton’s The Winthrop Women and was quickly drawn to the story of an innocent Connecticut farm girl being catapulted through circumstance into becoming the young wife of the wealthy and dominating patroon of Dragonwyck Manor. The similarities to the Fifty Shades of Grey plot become quickly evident. Fifty Shades of Grey has Christian and Anastasia, Dragonwyck, Nicholas and Miranda! Fast cars for Christian and Anastasia, a fine coach and six for Nicholas and Miranda. No bondage and handcuffs in Dragonwyck to be sure, however eighteen year old Miranda Wells quickly learns there is a tremendous price to be paid for releasing the bonds of hardscrabble New England farm life for an aristocratic lifestyle of limitless wealth as the submissive mistress of Dragonwyck Manor. Dragonwyck emits echos of the great gothic novel Jane Eyre.
Set in the mid-nineteenth century, Dragonwyck begins in Connecticut, then moves to the wealthy estates of the Mid-Hudson region of New York and the social whirl of New York City. Dragonwyck is not a historical novel of the scope of The Winthrop Women but it does open to the reader much of the social and economic lifestyles of many of the founding Dutch families of New York as they shared their time between mansions in New York City and their castles on the Hudson. Landed gentry supported by an old world feudal system of subsistence tenant farmers who worked the land.
For further insight into Seton’s The Winthrop Women, see my September blog post. You may also wish to consider Seton’s novel Katherine for which many overviews are available on-line. It was the most popular of all of her novels and is on my “futures” list.