Dirty Domesticity

Sophie Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess is a quick read for commuting and equally as amusing as her other books. I enjoyed Samantha Sweeting’s character much more than I did Lexi Smart. I also didn’t see as much of Becky Bloomwood in this character as I did in Lexi Smart. Kinsella has a fine talent for getting to the heart of high-powered career women who forget about the finer things in life while they are competing (and winning) in a male dominated profession.

****Spoiler Alert***
Samantha Sweeting is a powerful attorney in London, who much like her mother strives to be the best at her job. To accomplish her goal of becoming a partner at Carter Spink, Samantha works more hours than the other attorneys and barely has a social life. When she finally manages to get time off to have dinner with her mom and brother, she ends up having dinner with two cell phones, an assistant, and singing group of waiters. Suffice to say, her personal life can’t get much worse. That’s what you would think, but then the senior partner from the firm, the one she does not have a cordial relationship with, moves into her building, two floors up.

Early on, something goes terribly wrong at the firm and she panics. Heads out of town to the countryside where she is mistakenly hired as a housekeeper. At first she takes the job because she is still in a state of shock, but as she learns of the fallout from her “mistake,” she decides that being a housekeeper could be a fine change of pace. After many dirty domestic mishaps, Samantha realizes she needs some cooking and cleaning lessons. Nathaniel, the gardener, offers his mother’s services after laughing at her expense when she fails to start the washing machine and can barely make toast and coffee. Iris, his mother, sets about helping Samantha become domestic. She teaches her how to make food, bread, pastry, and other items, but most importantly, Iris helps her slowdown and relax…take in the little things about life and cooking. The scenes with Iris and Nathaniel on the weekends are fantastic.

***End Spoiler Alert***

I won’t go into all the details of the book, but there is a great scene in the garden between Samantha and Nathaniel that just made me swoon. Yes, I said swoon. I wish that romance of that caliber were real. Don’t get me wrong, love is still here in my life, it’s just different. The puppy love of this scene made me reminisce. The resolution of the book is exactly what you would expect; well, maybe not exactly as you picture it. But you get your just desserts.

Also reviewed at:
A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore
Book Escape

A Soldier’s Promise

I’m not one for audio books, but the husband couldn’t resist this one when we were browsing through the discount book section. The audio book, A Soldier’s Promise, chronicles the struggles of our troops in Iraq, particularly those of First Sergeant Daniel Hendrix. I probably would never have picked up this book off the shelf because I tend to find these stories drawn out and boring in parts. However, given the way this story was read, I may have liked to read the actual book because the writing style is not obtuse or too militaristic. We were listening to this audio book on and off for about three weeks in the car as we drove into work together, so it took us longer than it would have taken me to read it on my own, but he enjoyed it. This book is set just after the fall of Saddam.

***Spoiler Alert***

The beginning of the book starts off before Hendrix leaves his wife for duty and after his unit, Dragon Company, completes specialized training. Once in Iraq, there are a series of ambushes and other events that occur, but things start to turn around for the American troops when informants turn up at their checkpoint offering information about insurgents in exchange for money or other items. The troops come to expect any Iraqis to seek monetary gain for their information, until Jamil enters the checkpoint demanding to be arrested.

The book does not completely focus on just the American troops, and I think this is what caught my attention the most. The chapters alternate between the troops and Jamil’s family. His father is a leader of one of the insurgency movements in Husaybah, Iraq. His father and his neighbor are blood thirsty and eager to battle American troops. His father wants his son to join the insurgency and stage raids and use other guerrilla tactics against the Americans. Jamil is not interested in this life and eventually sees the Americans as the only way to escape his abusive father.

At the checkpoint, he is taken into custody and begins informing the Americans about his father and the local insurgency’s weapons and plans. The troops, after much debate, agree to stage a raid, ultimately capturing Jamil’s father and several others. The problem is that his father’s neighbor, Sayed (excuse the spelling here), is on the loose and even more blood thirsty than Jamil’s father.

Jamil, who garners the nickname Steve-O, becomes a great asset to Dragon Company and the marines that take their place, but in the process a 14-year-old boy grows up too fast and loses his family to the insurgency and Iraq’s battle with itself. Hendrix promises that he will one day get the boy out of Iraq into the safety of the United States.

***End Spoiler***

I was captivated by the images in this audio book and was captivated by the underlying message that as humans we are all striving toward similar goals. We all want to be loved for who we are, we all want to be independent of other’s rule and oppression, and we are all capable of seeing past prejudice to find the humanity within. We also all have the capacity to do the right thing when the time is right. I would recommend this audio book for long road trips or just commuting to and from work.

Darkness With a Pinch of Sugar Sweetness

Human Dark With Sugar by Brenda Shaughnessy arrived in the mail from the American Academy of Poets and I was pleased because I haven’t read a book of poetry in some time. I think that it is only fair that I review this book on this, the last day of National Poetry Month. This second book of poetry from Shaughnessy won the James Laughlin Award.

The first section of the book is Anodyne, also known as a pain-killer. This section of the book is not euphoric by any means. It is almost as if she is attempting to kill the pain with the sharpness of her words. For instance in “I’m Over the Moon:”
“How long do I try to get water from a stone?/It’s like having a bad boyfriend in a good band.// Better off alone. I’m going to write hard/and fast into you, moon, face-f**king.//”

The second section of the book is Ambrosia, from the Greek mean of food or drink of the gods that confers immortality on the consumer. Is the narrator of Shaughnessy’s poems interested in immortality? One of my favorite poems from this section is “Three Sorries,” particularly the “1. I’m Sorry” section of the poem:

“Soon 1. born 1970
2. Cried: all along
3. Loved: you really so very much and no others

blurred into: 1. begging off for the dog-years behavior
2. extra heart hidden in sock drawer
3. undetected slept with others”

It seems as though she really is not sorry for her actions or the events leading up to the incident. It’s amazing how many of these poems appear apologetic and wistful on the surface, but then turn to sarcasm and bleakness.

The third section is Astrolabe or astronomical instrument to surveying, locating, and predicting the positions of the sun, moon, and stars. I think the best illustration of this concept is Shaughnessy’s “A Poet’s Poem.”

“I will get the word freshened out of this poem.// I put it in the first line, then moved it to the second./ and now it won’t come out.// It’s stuck. I’m so frustrated,/ so I went out to my little porch all covered in snow// and watched the icicles drip, as I smoked/a cigarette.//” The poem ends quizzically: “I can’t stand myself.”

“No Such Thing as One Bee” is another poem that illustrates this need to pinpoint a location. Shaughnessy uses a narrator that is unsure of where they are in life and how they fit into the greater scheme. Where it is a busy worker bee or a bee that goes out to collect pollen. I guess you could almost equate it to the Bee movie with Jerry Seinfeld.

Overall, this is one of the better poetry books I have read in some time. I love the sarcastic and bleak language used by Shaughnessy in her poems. It’s the darkest side of humanity she examines, and she tries not to sugarcoat it, but sometimes, she just can’t help herself.

I Wouldn’t Want to Remember Her Either…

Sophie Kinsella‘s Remember Me? reveals how changes to one’s life can be bad, as well as good. The novel centers on a young businesswoman, Lexi Smart, who wakes up in a hospital after a car accident and cannot remember the last three years of her life. The last thing she remembers is that it is 2004 and she was out with friends at a local bar the night before her father’s funeral, having fun before she fell down a set of stairs.

***Spoiler Alert***
Lexi wakes up and her mom is the same she ever was, but her sister has grown up into a teenager. Lexi cannot believe her eyes; her little sister has grown up and is a sarcastic, budding criminal. She also finds out that she is married to a hot stud, who happens to be a millionaire and knows how to drive a speedboat. This part of the description cracked me up. Why would it matter if he can drive a speedboat, but I guess it does to Lexi who is obsessed with all things material. She also discovers that she is now the director of her department and is a total B**ch boss who has lost all of her friends, including those she remembers from the night at the bar in 2004.

She struggles to remember any part of the last three years, including her time on a reality television show, much like the Apprentice. But she cannot remember a thing. To help Lexi out, her hot husband, Eric, gives her a “marriage manual.” The manual spells out how often they have sex, how they have sex, how she greets him, how they say goodbye in the mornings, how they initiate foreplay, etc. It is a step-by-step process to their relationship and marriage. A bit overwhelming for a woman with amnesia, but beyond that the manual makes their marriage seem more like a business transaction.

Throughout her re-acclimation to her “new” life, Lexi learns that she also was having an affair with Eric’s business partner and architect, Jon. Jon, who claims that they are in love and were on the verge of telling Eric, cannot believe that she does not remember him. Moreover, Lexi must return to a job that she does not feel comfortable performing and cannot imagine ever being capable of performing. Worse yet, her subordinate, Byron, is after her job and wastes no time putting her down when she returns from the hospital.

Despite her best efforts to save her job and her marriage, Lexi fails to save her department, but in the process finds her inner businesswoman and learns how to be independent and self-sufficient without injuring her friends. The part that is the most accurate in the book is that she fails to fully regain her memory by the end of the book, though there is a glimmer of hope.

***End Spoiler Alert***

I thoroughly enjoyed this journey with Lexi Smart. She may have changed her life in the three years she cannot remember, but she changes the most in those months following her car accident more profoundly than she did after her father’s death.

I’m not sure I would want to remember myself if I had changed so utterly in those three missing years. There is a significant disconnect between the woman she was in 2004 and the woman she became into 2007.

Those interested in the contest, please either post an original poem or your favorite poem in the comments by May 2, and I will post the winner on May 3.

For other Reviews of this book:

A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore

Surfing Through Life

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve is not one of my favorite novels, but I enjoyed the meditative way in which she weaves the love triangle between Sydney, Jeff, and Ben. What I enjoyed most about the love triangle is that it is done in such a way that it takes the whole book to see the outcome and the third angle in the triangle.

***Spoiler Alert***

Sydney loves to body surf in the ocean, and this becomes a metaphor for how she lives her life. She tends to get swept up by the circumstances she finds herself in, whether it’s the odd jobs she has held or the men she becomes involved with. She’s been married two times previously when we meet her in the book, and she has taken time off from graduate school after the death of her second husband to tutor a young girl, Julie Edwards, for the SATs over the summer.

She has a relatively calm time at the New Hampshire beach cottage, which has appeared in several of Shreve’s other novels–including one of my favorites The Pilot’s Wife. The house’s history is not lost on the character of Mr. Edwards in this book, and he has even become a sort of historian of the house. It has been great to see the stories that emerge from this single cottage over the years. I wonder if Shreve will set another novel in this cottage; I would enjoy visiting it again.

Suddenly, Sydney is thrust between two brothers and their competitive behavior. The competition is not overt, but alluded to throughout the book. The subtlety here may be hard to sift through, but reading Shreve’s works in the past, I’ve become more attune to her visual cues and descriptions to uncover the internal struggles and hidden agendas and connections between her characters.

I truly enjoyed the parts after the wedding debacle where Sydney spends time in a Boston hotel to regroup and her meeting with Mr. Cavalli. I think these were eye-opening experiences for the character. Her return to New Hampshire three years later for a psychology conference and her subsequent meeting with Ben is a major turning point for a number of characters, including Sydney and Ben’s mother. I just love the few lines with which Shreve accomplishes the transition in this book and the immediate mutual realization that Ben and Sydney reach together.

***End Spoiler Alert***

Overall, this book held my attention throughout the daily commute and even some evenings at home when I was engrossed in the dialogue and current situations Sydney found herself in. While it is not as well constructed as The Pilot’s Wife, Sea Glass, or The Last Time They Met, I enjoyed my journey back to the oceanside of New Hampshire and the trip back into Boston, even if it was for a brief interlude.

***Please feel free to enter the next National Poetry Month Contest here.

The Poetry Contest Winner Is…Another Contest Too!

My Aunt Ann. She will be receiving some love poems by Pablo Neruda, which are in English and Neruda’s native language.

I also want to alert you to the second contest for the month, again a volume of poetry. I may even email the winner with a choice of volumes from which they can choose their prize. We’ll see how many entries I get this time around.

Those interested, please either post an original poem or your favorite poem in the comments by April 25, and I will post the winner on April 26.

Unfortunately, my aunt is not allowed to grace us with her witty poems this time around since she already won a poetry volume. Even if you entered the last contest, please do enter again, with a different poem. Let’s Celebrate National Poetry Month.

Also for those interested, April 17 is Poem in Your Pocket day. If you choose to participate, you are to walk around with a poem in your pocket all day and periodically take it out and read it to friends and family or even co-workers throughout the day. I’ll let you know what poem I decide upon and what poem Anna chooses to share as well.

Is Helen The Almost Moon?

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold pulls out all the stops and blurs the boundaries of morality and a normal life. Helen Knightley is a woman haunted by her past and her present, so much so that it drives her to do the unthinkable.

***Spoiler Alert***

While Anna had read this book before me, I had forgotten much of what she told me until I came to the part where Helen smothers her elderly mother. I’m not telling you anything that you won’t find out in the first chapter. The book is not about the events leading up to her mother’s murder, but how Helen came to the conclusion that murder was the answer and how that answer was shaped by her childhood and her first marriage.

For me, the main problem I had with the novel was my inability to feel sorry for Helen. It’s not that I didn’t find her life hard as a child with an agoraphobic mother and a bipolar father, with suicidal tendencies; I guess the narration jumped around too much for me to delve deeper into the character’s feelings and psyche. I always felt like Helen was keeping us just outside a wall that we were not allowed to jump over. I guess you could say I felt a bit like Hamish, her best friend’s son and her lover. He says at one point in the book that he knows Helen has a good heart, but that she can be “so cold” sometimes. This is how I felt about Helen.

Her actions jump from murdering her mother to sleeping with her best friend’s son, right after calling her ex-husband she hasn’t spoken to in years to confess her crime. While I can see the connection between her murdering her mother and calling the one person she believed would understand her motivations, I was taken aback by the sudden sexual interlude between her and Hamish. Perhaps she was in shock, perhaps she was hoping the sex would release something pent up inside of her. I really cannot say.

The journey from leaving her mother in the basement to the discovery of her murder by the police is intertwined with childhood memories and memories of her marriage to Jake, the artist, painter, and sculptor. These are the scenes I enjoyed most. I was given a rare glimpse into Helen’s life that shaped her current persona. It allowed me to garner a sense of her inner turmoil where her mother was concerned and how she always seemed to identify herself as on her father’s side. The transition at the end from realizing that her father was not the victim but an enabler was fantastic. It was almost like it took Helen her entire life to realize the marriage and their problems at home were the result of two people in dire need of psychological assistance, not just her mother as she had always presumed.

And in a way, I wanted more of a resolution, not Helen’s speculations on the matter. Was she going to escape or was she arrested and sent to prison for her mother’s murder? These are the questions that still linger for me.

***End Spoiler Alert***

While her mother is referred to as The Almost Moon early on in the book, I came to believe it was Helen and her father that the phrase referred to most.

If you are looking for another Lucky or Lovely Bones, The Almost Moon is not it. This book made the commuting time on the bus and metro fly by, but the tail end of the book dragged for me. I think a few of the descriptive pages could have been cut out to make the ending more powerful for the character.

Also Reviewed by:

The Bookworm

7th Heaven Sure Is a Firey Pit

Despite a bump in the road with 6th Target, James Patterson has picked up the Women’s Murder Club Series in 7th Heaven, and it looks like Lindsay is on the brink of yet another emotional dilemma. In this book, Michael Campion, who has a bad heart and happens to be the son of a former governor, disappears, but a tip comes in leading to a potential suspect. At the same time, a series of homes are set afire, robbed, and their occupants killed; these fires appear to be arson or accidental, but the detectives must follow a gruelling set of leads to discover the truth. Meanwhile, Lindsay Boxer continues to live with her FBI boyfriend, Joe, even though she has yet to say yes to his proposal from 6th Target.

***Spoiler Alert***

While this book has a much cleaner plot and the suspense is kept high for most of the book, I don’t see the attraction Lindsay has to Rich Conklin, her partner. I know that Patterson is setting it up to be a love triangle with Lindsay caught between two men–her partner and her former FBI boyfriend–but I guess I am partial to Joe. I want to see her happy, and after cheering him on and happily applauding his decision to finally move to San Francisco and quite the FBI to be with Lindsay, I want my happy ending for them. I knew once Jacobi was moved up and no longer her partner, another hunk was moving into her life. I wonder if it is her desire for Conklin or her inability to commit that has her so confused about the men in her life. I gather its a bit of both.

This is one thing I have noticed about Patterson’s crime stories–and it bugs me–the main characters who are detectives in police forces never can just have a happy home life. Wives die, marriages end in divorce, partners become lovers, and other activities happen that keep these detectives merely bouncing from bed to bed. I find that disturbing. I would like to see something out of the ordinary from one of his main characters; I would like to see them fall in love, get married, and have families all while remaining on the job and platonic with their partners.

As for the crimes, the Campion case takes a series of twists and turns that even had me baffled for a while, though I finally had it figured. I love the ending to this case, folks. If for nothing else, you should read this book to find out what really happens to Michael Campion. I have to say the conversation with Boxer, Conklin, and Campion’s father was the biggest clue to the ending for me. It was a good point in the story to bring it out as well.

The rash of fires in the area among wealthy families was intriguing and the discovery of who Pidge and Hawk really are was captivating. The only question I have for those characters is what sick and twisted world do you live in that setting fires and killing people can be equated with 7th Heaven? Talk about a disturbing title for a graphic novel/manifesto of crime. It makes one wonder how these minds become that twisted to think hey let’s set fire to homes, rob them, and kill the couples inside rather than sell this really detailed graphic novel that received rave reviews and become rich ourselves. I think in this instance, I would have preferred a bit more detail into how these criminals came to those conclusions. What motivated them to kill, rather than make money and change their lot in life? Then again, I suppose most cops and prosecutors never find that out even if the perps are arrested.

***End Spoiler Alert****

Also, keep a watchful eye on this book for the newest addition to the Women’s Murder Club. The group is growing. Overall, this was an enjoyable, quick read that kept my interest throughout. While some parts angered me and there is still no resolution to the Joe, Lindsay, Conklin interactions, I would recommend this crime drama, 7th Heaven, as a must read part of the series, just skip over the 6th Target.

The Power of Hurricanes

Finally, I finished Isaac’s Storm by Eric Larson. I know it has taken me an incredibly long time to finish, and there are several reasons for that; one of which is the first 60 or so pages of meteorological history I had to weed through at the beginning. The second portion was the ending, which dragged on a bit much for me.

The 2005 hurricane season is still fresh in the minds of many Americans even three years later, especially the federal bureaucracy that hindered and still prevents New Orleans from recovering fully. The 1900 storm in Galveston, Texas, faced similar problems, though in relation to the Weather Bureau, which was in its infancy at the time. Political infighting between the Weather Bureau and forecasters in Cuba caused delays in storm advisories and other notices headed for Texas and other regions west of Florida.

There really won’t be a spoiler alert for this review because I do not intend to get into the intricacies of the bureaucracy and its failure to alert the residents of Galveston that a major hurricane with winds over 100 mph was headed in a westerly direction. Isaac, who lead the Weather Bureau office in Galveston at the time of the storm, was considered one of the best forecasters in the bureau and he prided himself on his abilities. However, the 1900 storm fooled even him, which to me signals that humans take too much pride in their abilities to realize their own limitations.

Accounts derived from letters, newspaper accounts, and other records make up the bulk of Larson’s research, but I think my main problem with the book was the drab writing. I was plugging along slowly because the descriptions did not jump off the page at me as much as I had hoped, even when Larson was recounting the storm’s destruction.

I am not a major nonfiction reader by any imagination, though some will intrigue me enough to read them without a problem. This one was a bit tough to get through, taking me over a month to read for a mere 273 pages. If people are interested in the weather, the history of weather and meteorology, and historical accounts, I say pick up this book. Otherwise, steer clear.

Sharpen Those Fangs…

The second part to the Blue Bloods series, Masquerade, is a whirlwind of revelations regarding the Van Alens and the entire Blue Blood society. I was anxious to get my copy from the library and continue reading about these young vampires and their families. I looked forward to Schulyer’s adventure to find her grandfather, Lawrence. However, that journey was short-lived. While I was initially disappointed that the journey started and ended quickly, my disappointment was overcome by curiosity.

***Spoiler Alert***

She finds her grandfather at the behest of her grandmother–a trip that takes her to Venice. She spies people who look like her mother and who remind her of people she should know from her past lives, but disappointments in her quest make her doubt her ability to find her grandfather, who holds the key to defeating the Silver Bloods.

After she finds her grandfather, her disappointment only deepens when he refuses to help her in her quest to uncover the Silver Blood and Blue Blood past and defeat the impending threat to her teenage friends at an elite New York prep school. Returning to New York thrusts her back into the thick of her teenage confusion over Oliver, her conduit and friend, and her crush on Jack Force, who is bound through blood to his sister, Mimi. Schulyer’s desire for the unattainable is palatable in this second book in the series–a desire that most anyone who has had a crush on a boy can certainly relate to.

The adventures in this book are even more dire than the first, with the Silver Blood presence even more apparent despite The Committee’s denials and entreaties that the Silver Bloods were defeated many centuries ago. Schuyler’s coming of age as a vampire is also wrought with risks to herself and her conduit, who soon becomes her familiar—further complicating her feelings for him and his growing love for her.

The intricacies of this world start to unfold quickly in the book, and as you may have guessed Mimi figures in profoundly because after all her rival for Jack’s bond is Schuyler. Jack is a character torn between duty and passion, and his actions clearly define his dilemma–stuck between his lifelong, eternal blood bond with Mimi and his passion for the daughter of Allegra Van Alen, Schuyler.

The history of these character’s past lives unravels quickly to reveal some shocking connections.

***End Spoiler Alert***

It’s a quick read, and held my attention much more than the first book. I was excited to see what would happen next. The end leaves the door wide open for a third book in this young adult series about teenage vampires, and I hope that Melissa De La Cruz does not disappoint. I recommend this book for people who enjoy YA reading and vampires alike. This not a horror series by any stretch of the imagination, not too much gore here. It’s more like a commentary on the teenage relationships in high society and coming of age, just with a vampire twist.

Inner Thoughts of Mr. Darcy

Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange is what you would expect it to be, and naturally, I had to include it as part of my most recent Jane Austen reading. Grange has a great mastery of Austen’s characters in this book. While she utilizes the text of Pride & Prejudice a bit too much for me, the parts where Darcy’s feelings and thoughts are revealed are eye-opening and in line with the character Austen created.

***Spoiler Alert***

The diary begins before Darcy meets Elizabeth (Lizzy) Bennett, and shows us what happened to his sister, Georgiana. The events leading up to the move from Derbyshire to the country with Bingley, his friend, help clarify Darcy’s feelings for his friend, which appears more fatherly. It was interesting to watch the interactions between Darcy and Carolina and Louisa, Bingley’s sisters. I was amazed to find he did not approve of Caroline’s effusive compliments, but knew what motives drove her to make the compliments. Here Grange’s imagination is fast at work, but I would have imagined a bit more acceptance of Caroline’s flattery by Darcy given Austen’s depiction of Darcy’s character prior to his meeting Lizzy.

My favorite parts of the book were his thoughts of Lizzy even when he’s just met her and even when he thought her not beautiful enough to tempt him to dance. His thoughts run away with him a bit, and certainly this is against his will for much of the book. I do like the diary entries that explain his odd behavior at the balls and assemblies; it helped to flesh out his struggle for me, compared to Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

I also liked his admission that he learned a lot from Lizzy about how to laugh and bear the faults of others in the name of love.

One surprise in the book for many Austen readers will be the “after-wedding” glimpse into the lives of Mr. & Mrs. Darcy. Those were a treat for me.

***End Spoiler Alert***

I do not want to give too much away about this book because every Jane Austen fan should read it. The one question I had was about the language used in the book, like the use of “blockhead” in the book. Was that a term commonly used in Austen’s time? I’m not sure, honestly. I would have to do further research on that topic to comment further, unless someone else happens to know a reference book or tidbit about it.

I was interested to learn from the author blurb that Grange is considered a historical fiction writer who creatively interprets classic novels. I think she has a firm grasp of the time period in Pride & Prejudice and its society. Darcy’s qualms about Lizzy and her family are well-founded for the time and are vividly illustrated in Mr. Darcy’s Diary. This unromantic hero is romantic once again, though not atop a pedestal as a flawless character–no heroes are ever flawless.


Anna showed me the use of “blockhead” in Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, so that settles that question.

Classic Love Affair and Commentary on Society

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen is more than a romantic love story between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, it is also a commentary on the society of the times. It pokes fun at how mothers and fathers “conspired” to marry off their daughters to men for wealth, rather than, dare we call it, affection.

***Spoiler Alert (though everyone should have read this classic by now)**

Elizabeth Bennett may be the heroine of this novel, but her sister Jane, the county beauty, takes center stage as the newest member of the community comes to town–Mr. Bingley. Her mother is immediately set on marrying her daughter to him regardless of his looks or affections for Jane, simply because he is wealthy. Through several machinations, including sending her daughter on horseback to visit Bingley’s sisters in the rain, her mother pushes the two together. Luckily, Jane and Bingley really do enjoy one another’s company. However, several things come into play to separate the lovebirds, which aggrieves her sister Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, Mr. Darcy who is berated and belittled by Mrs. Bennett and Elizabeth on several occasions appears to feel some affection for her in his glances and approaches to Elizabeth, but after being basically called common and not beautiful enough to tempt Darcy to dance, the battlefield between the two is set. And yes, I do mean a battlefield of wits. The interchanges between them and Bingley’s sister Caroline are hilarious and witty.

I want to comment on how this novel not only brings to light the ridiculous tradition of marrying one’s daughter for money and higher societal standing through dialogue and interactions between the wealthiest characters and the most lowly, but it also is a romance between Elizabeth and Darcy. How could a woman so uncivil to a man’s proposal of marriage against all societal predispositions still maintain his affection? How could he see fit to propose to her against society’s wishes when he is a man of position? I can tell you the answer to both of those questions: Pride. They are both proud of themselves and their demeanor and to have anyone think less of them is unthinkable. It spurs them onward to prove the other wrong in every sense of the word, but in the end, these characters realize they are just like one another and no one else would bear their behavior. They are in love with themselves and one another in spite of themselves. They are attracted to one another by circumstance, whether created by themselves or others, and are attracted to one another because of their mutual admiration for the other’s mind and behavior that contradicts society’s wishes and protocols. No one wishes to believe they have faults, but when one finds happiness it is usually with the one person who can tolerate those faults and love that person in spite of them.

***End Spoiler Alert***

What I love best about Austen is her heroines, written during a time when women were submissive and thought of little as little more than property. The heroines strive within the confines of their place in society to set wrongs right and to voice their opinion with a modicum of decorum. It is not like today’s society where women are so liberated that they use poor language to express themselves, much like proverbial truck drivers. While I enjoy such freedoms, I would love to see another writer in today’s society take on such societal norms and pinpoint their follies as well.

Austen is a woman to be admired even though her body of work is small compared to many males in the current literary cannon. I only wish that a small portion of my writing will garner this much attention after I have left this world. Though I guess I better spend more time writing and less time reading, but that is the rub here. I love both passionately.

This Book Also Was Reviewed Here:

The Bookworm