Was Irene Adler really the woman for Sherlock Homes?

Was Irene Adler really ‘The woman’ or could there have been someone else?  What sort of a woman would it take to capture such a closed heart as the one belonging to Sherlock Holmes? writes Charlotte Anne Walters.

For me, Irene has never been quite good enough to be the one to make Holmes feel genuine love.  I think it was exactly as Watson describes – ‘It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler.’

Personally I don’t really see that she did anything particularly exceptional.  Ok, so she rumbled Holmes when he gained entry into her house pretending to be an injured clergyman and realised that she had inadvertently shown him where the incriminating photograph was stashed, but it’s hardly a surprise that she then removes the photo and takes flight.  Is this really outwitting Holmes or just common sense?

And for Holmes to fall in love, the woman needs to be very exceptional.  But what kind of woman would it take?

This is one of the questions about Holmes which I wanted to address in Barefoot on Baker Street and I was sure that Irene Adler wasn’t the answer.

I have never imagined Holmes with a ‘lady’, however clever and adventurous she was.  For me he is too bohemian, too unconventional and generally unfettered by the conventions of society to connect himself with someone unless they also exist on the peripheries.

The protagonist of Barefoot couldn’t be more different to a conventional Victorian lady.  Red is born in the Whitechapel and Spitalfields Union workhouse and grows up through the harsh workhouse and orphanage system.  She is not taught the conventional ways for a young girl to behave and is a raw, feral, almost androgynous being; honed by physical labour and hardened by circumstance.  By the time she meets Holmes she is a streetwise and sassy teenager full of attitude.

Red matures into a fiery, highly intelligent woman; extraordinary but damaged.  Her knowledge of crime and the London underworld (gained through personal experience) makes her a perfect match for Holmes, along with her deep personal complexities and unconventional nature.  But to find out whether this meeting of two such strong personalities is a recipe for disaster or dynamism, I’m afraid you will just have to read the novel.

About barefootonbakerstreet

Author from Shropshire
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4 Responses to Was Irene Adler really the woman for Sherlock Homes?

  1. New York Gal says:

    I can see that Holmes may have preferred a woman who defied the rather strict gender and class roles of the 19th century. Although I don’t think Irene would have been considered a “lady” by Victorian London standards: “the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.” She was had been on the stage and although a highly talented singer, the Victorians did not consider women of the stage to be “ladies” which is of course ridiculous by modern standards. Nonetheless “actresses” and “dancers” were often regarded as no better than prostitutes. She also had a romantic entanglement with the King of Bohemia, and that would have excluded her from “well-bred” society. Being an American was a further impediment. Considering how Irene would have been regarded, it’s easy to see how difficult life would have been for an orphan from the poorhouse. I’m glad we’re not quite so judgemental nowadays!

    • I do agree, perhaps Irene wasn’t a conventional ‘lady’ but she doesn’t come across as working class either (I don’t think the king would have attached himself to a working class person). In writing my novel, I felt strongly from the start that Holmes would respond better to a woman of poor birth because she would have a freedom of spirit and raw energy which would match his own. I just hope my readers will agree!

  2. Alex says:

    Some believe that psychic “Marjorie” was Irene. She was introduced by Doyle to Houdini, the latter of which proved her to be con. Part of the reason Marjorie was successful is that she would play footsies and other risk-aye allurements with the men during mystic practices. Her husband was a Dr. and possible pedophile / murderer.

  3. Pingback: BBC’s Sherlock’s A Scandal in Belgravia – simply wow | Barefoot on Baker Street

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