Literature Reviews

Short Story Review: Half a Life-Time Ago



Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Title: Half a Life-Time Ago

Author: Elizabeth Gaskell

Genre: Victorian

Publication Date: 1855*

Publisher: Unknown*

Where to buy: Half a Life-Time Ago

Summary: A reflection on a Victorian woman’s life and how she has been formed by hard decisions in her life.

Trigger Warnings: death, abuse.

*The original short story was published in the mid-1850s, but the edition I read was published in 2007*

Disappointing protagonist

The Victorian short story left me unmoved by the end. I was rather disappointed by the character development of Susan Dixon, the main protagonist.

In short, the narrative follows Susan Dixon whose life is overwhelmed with loss, responsibility, and loneliness. The short story begins with an older Susan, who has aged considerably due to hardships, then takes the reader back to Susan’s adolescence where the troubles begin.

There were parts of the novella that troubled me, in particular, Susan’s younger brother, Willie. His storyline was indeed tragic, but the story focused on Susan too much for me to really care. I did not like the fact that the narrator focused on Susan’s emotions, rather than young Willie.

Why did I read it?

I only picked this short story up due to being on holiday and the fact that Elizabeth Gaskell’s reputation has preceded her with her major works, for example, North and South.

Does the author have other works?

Elizabeth Gaskell has written other fiction, such as Cranford, North and South, and Wives and Daughters. 


I felt compelled to give this short story two stars as I connected to some of the themes, which I won’t reveal for spoiler sake, and the themes in question were addressed well. However, I will not be reading this in a hurry again.

– Melissa Jennings


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