The Coquette by Hannah Webster Foster follows a cast of characters through the epistolary form as a young woman named Eliza Wharton deals with societal rules in a time when women were put under a lot of pressure. When she meets two men: Boyer a pastor and Sanford the town’s rake she finds herself having to choose between the right and rebellious choices that are presenting themselves in her lives. Despite the people around her continually warning her against her actions, she continues to ignore and ignore. When Eliza makes the wrong decision she falls into societal disgrace and pays with something very dear to her in the end.
It might be that I had to read this for class but I did not enjoy this novel as much as I thought I would. The epistolary form made it hard to tell the difference between the characters. There did not seem to be distinct differences between the different characters and there were a lot of letters being written to and from quite a few characters. After a while, though it was a bit easier to determine who was writing to who, it was still a struggle to fully determine who was writing to who. I did enjoy the writing in this novel. I thought it was fairly easy to understand the writing and what was going on in the novel, but the way it was written did not click with me. I don’t think I was supposed to, but there were a few moments that I found downright funny when I think I was supposed to find them distressing or sad. The characters were all interesting, however. I liked the contrast between Boyer and Sanford as well as the contrast between Eliza and her friend Lucy. It is probably the feminist in me, but I did not care for the ending of the story, and if you read it, you’ll see why.
Overall, I enjoyed the book but I am not sure if I would ever pick it up again unless I had to. It was still a fairly good book though and one that points the time period it’s written in into greater perspective. I do also think that having to read this for one of my college classes definitely influenced how I read it and how much I enjoyed it, so I have taken that into account with my rating of this novel.