Thursday, May 04, 2006

No Happily Ever After

There are some authors that I find, to borrow a phrase I once heard in a book review, “compulsively readable.” For me Tracy Chevalier is one of those authors, although at times it’s hard for me to understand why.

Chevalier is probably best known for her book Girl With The Pearl Earring which was made into a movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth. Since finishing Falling Angels I’ve now read all four of her books and I’ve absolutely loved all but one of them, even though I HATED EVERY SINGLE MAIN CHARACTER! I don’t understand how she does this to me!

Also, I like happy books. That’s why I primarily read romance novels – they’re guaranteed to have a happy ending. But there is a darker side to my persona that delights in sadness and despair, apparently. I cannot resist certain authors that I know are going to piss me off by not making everyone happy at the end. Chevalier, along with Anita Shreve (who I LOVE) is one of the best at doing this.

Falling Angels is set in London between 1901 and 1910 and it revolves around the lives of the Coleman and Waterhouse families, whose daughters Livinia and Maude are best friends. Let me just say this – I HATED MAUDE’S MOTHER WITH A PASSION! She was a selfish bitch. No other way to put it. All she cared about was herself and could focus on nothing but how discontent she was with her life. Sure, it probably wasn’t easy being a woman in 1901, especially one who was an independent thinker, but buck up, missy! Maude desperately wanted attention and love from her mother but Kitty (the mother) never gave it to her. Oh, and Kitty was also adulterous on more than one occasion. This was “justified” in her mind because she was unhappy in her marriage. Her husband, although he loved her, didn’t appreciate her independent nature enough. Nevermind that she made the decision to marry him! Chevalier did this in her first book, The Virgin Blue, as well, but at least here Kitty was not set up as the protagonist. In my opinion Maude was the protagonist, even though the book was written through multiple character voices. Towards the end of the book Kitty gets involved in the suffrage movement, but I couldn’t get behind her at all because her motivations were purely selfish. You got the distinct impression that she wasn’t doing it because it was something she really believed in, but rather because she just wanted a “cause” to get behind that would make her feel important. She needed the attention and her neglect of Maude was heartbreaking.

There were other heartbreaking turns of events in this book that nearly brought me to tears. The more I think about it the more I realize I read romances not just because I like a happy ending, but also because I can’t handle these somber, sad, depressing stories all the time. They’re great for unleashing the vulnerable and human side, but Lord Almighty they’re downers.

Lindsey’s Grade – A-

1 comment:

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