Mixed Relations

An Unusual Childhood

Non-Fiction - Historical
193 Pages
Reviewed on 10/29/2020
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Author Biography

I am not Gertrude Mueller von Deham, I am her great-granddaughter. I was cleaning out a cupboard in my father's house and found a box with loose leaf writings and 2 case bound books. Upon reading them, I realized that my great-grandmother had written her life story. What a privilege it has been to meet this remarkable woman and to watch my grandmother grow up through her eyes. I hope you find the characters and settings as gripping and compelling as I did.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Edith Wairimu for Readers' Favorite

Mixed Relations: An Unusual Childhood by Gertrude Mueller von Deham follows Deham’s (identified as Evelyn in the chronicle) saddening but inspiring story. The first book in a trilogy, the story covers her life from 1877 to 1938. Despite her royal heritage, she grows up in a confining home, deprived of the right to an education. After her father’s passing, Evelyn is raised by her mother who is cold-hearted and violent. Her abusive childhood does not limit her imagination. Instead, she finds comfort in her ability to identify the beauty of life around her. Though her mother is resolute in her decision not to educate her daughter, Evelyn finds ways to remain in school. Her remarkable resilience carries her through the struggles of pursuing an education while taking care of her manipulative mother.

For someone who grows up in a painful and traumatizing environment, Evelyn’s positive attitude is inspiring. Though she is greatly unexposed to the outside world, Evelyn understands the value of education in impacting ideas and knowledge. She reads everything around her and even outshines other students who come from better circumstances. She battles through rejection by her own mother and the alienation of her peers at school. Despite these hurdles, her kindness does not diminish and her loyalty to her mother continues as Evelyn takes care of her throughout her agonizing illness. I also found the storytelling to be engaging. It captures the characters’ perspectives and emotions. Historical detail also adds depth to the novel. Mixed Relations is a powerful historical autobiography about one woman’s endurance and fortitude which is evident from her ability to overcome her limiting, isolating childhood.

K.C. Finn

Mixed Relations: An Unusual Childhood is a work of non-fiction in the true-life stories, autobiographical and historical sub-genres, and was penned by author Gertrude Mueller von Deham. In this opening book in a trilogy which chronicles many events in the life of the author, we are introduced to the central figure’s childhood during the late nineteenth century. Written in her own hand, the work explores the demanding and cruel nature of her mother, the young woman’s desire to achieve more than the simple expectations put upon her by her gender, and how her imagination and courage see her through an initially very lonely and bitter existence before she is unleashed on the world.

Author Gertrude Mueller von Deham tells a touching story, one which is beautifully chronicled and delivers everything you could want from an emotional and inspirational autobiography right out of the pages of history. Published posthumously by her great-granddaughter Jennifer Cowie, the stories are beautifully presented and lovingly restored to a smooth and enjoyable narrative style, all the while retaining the true to life sense of persons and place. More than anything, I really enjoyed the sense of spirit which comes through in waves. Reading first-hand the experiences of a young woman who feels constrained by her gender and wants to break free of its shackles is a true inspiration and empowerment for us all. Overall, I would highly recommend Mixed Relations: An Unusual Childhood for any reader seeking a vibrant and realistic autobiography that sheds light on a very special time, and a very special person indeed.

Lesley Jones

In Mixed Relations by Gertrude Mueller von Deham, based on a true story, the first book of this trilogy begins in the late 19th century. A 15-year-old girl rebels against her strict parents and elopes with her new, older lover. When the marriage fails, the girl is shunned by her family. Desperately poor and hungry, she joins a traveling troupe. Within weeks she is the only remaining performer. A year later, she gives birth to an unwanted, illegitimate child named Evelyn Barret Brockhurst. Throughout her childhood, Evelyn knew her father was a member of the British nobility, who had left her a huge inheritance. Evelyn had been conditioned by her hateful, resentful mother that she was unworthy of any love or kindness. Evelyn was determined to gain an education and escape the torment from her ever-increasingly volatile mother. As her fight for education becomes out of reach and the constant torments from her mother that she would be better off dead, Evelyn considers suicide. A kindly Major reassures her that her life is precious and offers to take care of her. Her mother refuses and once again, Evelyn is taken away from anyone who shows her kindness. Now living in London, Evelyn is nearing her 25th birthday, the year she will inherit her wealth. She meets an Austrian man and despite her mother's best efforts, they plan to marry. Evelyn looks forward to a future away from her mother's control but is she marrying out of desperation or love?

Mixed Relations by Gertrude Mueller von Deham is such a compelling read. I thought the inclusion of the mother's backstory in the beginning helped a great deal in understanding the reasons for her erratic and vicious behavior towards Evelyn. I loved Evelyn's personality; she was extremely intelligent and her lust for life and knowledge was endless. Throughout the entire story, I was reminded of how difficult it was for females to gain an education. Evelyn fought hard and her determination to succeed was inspiring. It was also shocking to learn how inadequate and misinformed medical professionals were when diagnosing mental health issues. There were some amazing characters throughout the novel, such as Martha and the Major. The relationship between Evelyn and her mother was extremely toxic and unhealthy and I admired Evelyn's loyalty to her mother but found it desperately sad too. I really didn't want the story to end and I am intrigued about what is going to happen to Evelyn as she enters the next phase of her life.

Vincent Dublado

This is a true-to-life tale of a woman’s childhood spent in Victorian England. Gertrude Müller von Deham’s recounts her difficult childhood in “Mixed Relations: An Unusual Childhood.” Growing up without the knowledge of her illegitimacy, her nobleman father passed away during her infant years leaving her with a sizeable inheritance. She grew up well-cared for, but growing up with an embittered mother, the Lady of the Manor, made her childhood tumultuous. The troubles in her world are often associated with her ordeals with “The Woman” that continued to grow worse, often having difficulty to converse with her mother wherein her responses were often confined to a yes or no. But her cheerful mien has helped to overcome her growing pains, making forging genuine friendships with others and finding her own purpose.

One of the fascinating accounts of this book are the detailed narratives of Müller von Deham’s relationship with her mother and in the way she was brought up. The emotional content can move you to tears. The volatile nature of the girl who had taken so much oppression at her tender age gave her almost no glimpse at what the future would provide for her. It is interesting to note that Müller von Deham changed all the names in this book, I assume it was to protect the identities of the parties concerned. In reading this stunning account of her sentimental upbringing, you can look forward to reading her subsequent life adventures, as this is only the first in the trilogy of a life that is well-told.