My first inclination, on reading this book, was to feel smugly superior to her. Because there’s something satisfying about witnessing rich people getting knocked down a peg. Susanna’s big problem is that she was educated to believe that she was entitled to a life of relative comfort while not actually having the resources to do so.
Things are a little different now. We’ve educated the rich to keep their voices down when complaining about saucy servants. But who are the rich? Most of us don’t have to climb too far up the family tree to find very modest circumstances - but most of us possess a car and at least one bathroom, not to mention feelings of entitlement - so globally speaking, we are rich. But here’s the catch: we’re the younger son kind of rich. The kind that have all the expectations but not the inheritance. Unfortunately, our inheritance is tied up in the stock market and locked up in tar sands and tethered to the biodiversity of the planet. Our financial resources have vaporized as the last bubble has burst, we’ve squandered our supplies of cheap energy and we’re losing uncountable species every day.
No one pities the rich when they’re revealed to be skint. The population of the planet has far exceeded its capacity to provide a rich existence for everyone. In the not too distant future, some of us may well find that our expectations can no longer be met and the rest of the world is not feeling sorry for us. So if I’m ever faced with an angry mob of impoverished world citizens, I won’t look over my shoulder for the investment banker escaping in his BMW, because the target is just as likely to be me.