We all have secrets and we all have parts of our past that we would prefer to forget. That does not mean, however that life will allow us to.
The Wife Upstairs: A Novel, by Rachel Hawkins was published at the end of last year. Orphaned at an early age and raised in the foster care system, Jane Bell learned early that survival is the top priority. Now in her early twenties, she has recently moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and earns her living by walking the dogs of the super-wealthy. She also adds to her pocketbook by pocketing trinkets and other small pieces that none of her employers will miss.
Things change for Jane when she meets Eddie Rochester, a thirty-something widower. Surrounding Eddie is the mysterious death of his late wife, Bea, and her best friend. After running into each other, he asks Jane to go out with him. She says yes. Within the blink of an eye, she has moved into his house and they are engaged.
But things are not what they seem. Jane’s past seems to be catching up to her. Though Bea is physically gone, she is ever-present. Will they have their happily ever after or will their mutual literal ghosts come back to haunt them?
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The logline is Jane Eyre meets Rebecca in modern-day Alabama. It is delicious, it is thrilling, romantic, sexy, and an absolute must-read.
Do I recommend it? Without a doubt.
The Wife Upstairs: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.
Over the centuries, women have been portrayed as many things: the innocent victim who is in need of rescue, the slut, the man-hater, the marriage-minded miss, etc. The problem with these images is that they are 2-D and without room to grow beyond the boxed-in perception. The only way to smash these stereotypes is to allow us to tell our own stories from our perspective.
This book is a classic for a reason. Forty-plus years after its initial publication, it is as relevant today as it was back then. Their theory that women writers have a greater insight and ability to create 3D fully human characters as opposed to the typecast idea of females that some male writers have can still be seen today on both the page and the screen.
A honeymoon is more than the first time that the newlyweds can have sexual relations without the naysayers putting their two cents in. It is a vacation that gives them the opportunity to break from the stress of the wedding, life, and the daily annoyances that are too easy to complain about.
Nevertheless, they did go ahead with their nuptials, which was then followed by a month long trip traveling through Ireland and meeting Arthur’s family. What starts out as a gamble for Charlotte, who by then was in her late 30’s and was convinced that she would never marry, turns into an unexpected love for her new husband.
As a Bronte devotee, I loved this book. The details are fantastic. It was as if I was there with them. Clooney takes us into a part of Charlotte’s story that is often glossed over or not given the spotlight that it should. I will warn that this story is not for the Bronte neophyte. The ideal reader is someone who has an encyclopedia-like knowledge of these women, their lives, and writing.
My only complaint is that the figurative editorial red pen appeared far too much for my taste. When I am reading for pleasure, I don’t want to be thinking about what I would fix, if I was the author.
A good biopic does more than lay out the basic facts about the life and work of the subject(s). It brings that story and the subject(s) to life, creating a connection between the audience and the characters.
There are certain cultural shorthands that we all know, even if we are unaware of the deeper context of the specific reference. When we talk about Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, he is symbolic of a romantic ideal that many aspire to, even if that aspiration is far from reality.
I loved this book. The author creates a nice balance of academic authority and adoring fandom without veering too heavily in either direction. It was a fascinating deep dive into this man who has become both a romantic icon and a character type for many a romantic male lead since 1813.
Cross-class romantic relationships are one of the basic narratives with the romance genre. The key for success is for the narrative to stand out from the pack.
The Cook of Castamar premiered recently on Netflix. Based on the book of the same name by Fernando Muñez, it is the story of unlikely love. In the early 18th century, Diego de Castamar, Duke of Castamar (Roberto Enriquez) is a widowed aristocrat who lost his pregnant wife when her horse threw her over. Spending nearly two years grieving her unexpected death, he is brought back to life by the exquisite meals of his new cook, who he starts to fall for. Clara Belmonte (Michelle Jenner) has a talent for creating food that memories are made of. She is also agoraphobic and still reeling from her father’s execution. It is an attraction that neither saw coming.
The concept this series was impossible to ignore. I loved the idea of court intrigue, sex used as a tool to gain or maintain power, and a blossoming love that is not exactly welcomed. I also appreciated that the extra narrative layer created by the female lead’s mental illness. It is rarely seen in this genre. Unfortunately, it did not live up to it’s promise. I was waiting for a Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester spark which never materialized. After watching a few episodes, I gave up. The slow burn was too slow for me.
Do I recommend it? Not really.
The Cook of Castamar is available for streaming onNetflix.
Gothic novels have thrilled readers for centuries. Questions of the unknown and what lies in wait in the darkness has been the subject of countless stories across the generations.
The new novel, Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, was released back in June. Noemí Taboada is a young debutante in early 1950’s Mexico. Though she is very used to the material comforts of life, she is also stubborn, intelligent, and unafraid. When Noemí receives a disturbing letter from her newlywed cousin, Catalina, she jumps on the first train she can get on.
Catalina’s new husband is the heir of wealthy family with English origins. Once upon a time, their wealth came from local mines. But those mines have long since gone dark. Noemí discovers that the cousin she knew is that not the woman in front of her. There are also disturbing questions about the family Catalina has married into.
Can Noemí discover their secrets? Will she and Catalina get out of there safely or will they be held prisoner for the rest of their days?
Previous reviews have compared this book to Rebecca andJane Eyre. The comparisons are fair. The Gothic elements are skillfully woven into the narrative. That being said, this book was a little disappointing. The big reveal is not as earth-shattering as I expected it to be. The ending is also a little bit of a letdown for my taste.
Do I recommend it? Maybe with a slight lean toward no.
Among the great writers of the 19th century, the Bronte sisters stand tall. Lionized as proto-feminists and adored in the literary community for their contribution to the world of literature, fans sometimes have to ask themselves where fact ends and fiction begins.
In 2001, Lucasta Miller published The Bronte Myth. The book starts with the brief lives of the Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte and follows their posthumous celebrity as their image is shaped to fit the needs of the biographer. In the book, Ms. Miller delves deeply into the facts and the myths of the Brontes and how both have been used to tell the story of the legendary sisters.
When I heard about The Bronte Myth, the concept sounded interesting. I am sorry to report that the concept I had in my head did not meet reality.
The book is not for the casual or virgin Bronte fan. It borders on academic and is probably better suited for a reader who is well versed in the story of the Bronte sisters, their brother Branwell and father Patrick. But my main issue is that Ms. Miller spent most of the book talking about Charlotte. Granted, Charlotte lived the longest of her siblings, but the book is not entitled The Charlotte Bronte Myth. She spends about 60% of the book talking about Charlotte, 20% talking about Emily. The other 20% are given to Anne, Branwell and Patrick. I think I would have liked this book more if all of the Bronte siblings and their father were given equal attention.
Between 1850 and 1930, millions immigrated to America, looking for a better life and a brighter future.
Clara Kelley was one of them. She is the heroine in Marie Benedict’s 2018 book, Carnegie’s Maid. In her native Ireland, Clara knows nothing but poverty and hunger via the great potato famine. The daughter of farming family, she has nothing to lose when she emigrates to America. But she has everything to lose when she takes the identity of another woman with the same name who died on the voyage to America. The job she has taken is that of lady’s maid to the imperious mother of steel magnate and future philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Mrs. Carnegie knows what she wants in a lady’s maid and makes no bones about firing girls who do not meet her exacting standards.
Intelligent and very capable, Clara becomes friends with her mistress’s son. As they become closer and their friendship becomes something more, the harder it becomes for Clara’s secret to stay a secret. Will her true identity ever be revealed and will the consequences of that revelation be?
I loved this book. Ms. Benedict has a way of immediately drawing her readers in and telling the stories of women whose stories would normally not be told. Though the narrative has a Jane Eyre-ish undercurrent, it does not end the way I would have expected the narrative to end.