Posts Tagged Women
Enter That Old Dude. I have never met him before but, apparently, he is a distant cousin of Dad’s who was a big support during his college dorm days. This guy pays a visit yesterday evening (totally out of the blue), tells Mom he’s been hankering for some home cooked fish dish I never heard of (which Mom graciously obliges to prepare), and then presumes to give me a talk on how in his old age it’s a sincere wish to see grandchildren. Seriously, I never met the guy but he is of the mind that my kids (if I ever have any) will be his grandchildren.
I looked at Dad and he sort of shrunk away from my gaze. So I decided to take pity on the general male species for the day. I smiled and asked if the Old Dude did not have children of his own to place this request to. All politeness and murmurs, if you please. Read the rest of this entry »
Norma instantly made friends when she joined university. It was a first, given that she was generally a reserved person after having dealt with obesity-related body shaming all her life. Her parents had made her go to fat camp after her high school graduation. The program had worked wonders. Norma had yet to get used to her much smaller frame.
The truth was that, up to that point, her entire life had been centered around being overweight. While it was nice to have trendier clothes to choose from, Norma wasn’t sure if her newfound popularity was because university presented a society more susceptible to her quiet intellect or because she was now a size eight.
Title The Nearly-Weds
Author Jane Costello
Genre Chick Lit, Contemporary Romance
Publisher Simon & Schuster UK
Publication Date July 07, 2009
Synopsis: After being jilted at the altar by her boyfriend of seven years, Zoe Moore is on the run from her past. Falling back on her experience in early childhood development, she seeks sanctuary across the pond from Liverpool in Boston to become a live-in nanny for a young family of four with the prospect of even an all-expense-paid summer holiday in the Bermuda. Upon landing in the land of dreams, however, she learns that there has been a change in her arrangements and she now will be looking after two children, aged six and three, in Boston with their widowed father, Ryan Miller. Zoe is an instant hit with the children but warming up to daddy is another ballgame altogether. Unfortunately, the father is the heart-stopping gorgeous kind with the bite of a barracuda. As Zoe navigates a life in a new country with the help of a band of new friends (other British nannies in the affluent neighborhood and their myriad of romantic prospects), she has to also deal with checking her hormones whenever Ryan is around even while fending off his attacks on her competence. It is obvious that Ryan is not coping well with the death of his wife and has spent the past two years boozing, womanizing and becoming exhaustingly efficient at his job as VP of Communications. But when sparks fly between them, it isn’t always amid altercations. Still, sex with the boyfriend is strictly a no-no, not only because of the unprofessionalism but also because he is bad news for a woman already trying to fall out of love with her ex-fiancé. Except, her ex-fiancé Jason doesn’t seem to want to lie low either.
Experience: This novel gave me a lot of mixed feelings. First of all, it took me about 03-04 days to get into the mood for the novel and then again 03-04 days to finish reading it. This happened despite the fact that the chapters are very short (mostly ending below 05 pages) and the writing was quick paced. So what was the problem? The style of Costello’s writing.
Usually, a 419-page Chick Lit of British comedy would take me 02-03 days to complete on regular workdays (I’m a meticulous reader, or in other words, slow). But this novel had me rolling my eyes and sighing with a bit of discontent by chapter 05. Don’t get me wrong. Costello made me laugh quite a lot by this time with the witty self-effacing first-person narration from the single POV of Zoe Moore [who doesn’t like a protagonist with a healthy dose of insecurities, right?], but Zoe Moore thinks and talks in similes to the point of exhaustion.
Even though it is my first time reading her work, I could immediately surmise how pop culture savvy Costello is because the aspect blossomed on every page – nay every paragraph – of the book. I thanked my lucky star that I was brought up in the West during my formative years and have been a fan of American television since because otherwise I would have been spending as much time on Google researching to understand the content of the book as reading it [and possibly more than Costello spent while writing it]. E.g. the kids, when challenged to quickly put away their toys, is not merely enthusiastic, they’re “possessed by the spirit of Mr. Sheen”. Even when she is running away from her second home, depressed as hell and sobbing, she carries out her luggage to the taxi as though “dragging the dead body of a large yak”.
But it’s not only Zoe but her mother and new friends who also speak this way. The mother I could understand because maybe Zoe picked up her tendencies from her but when other characters began showing the same speech pattern, I began wondering if it was just a thing with the British characters or was Costello mixing up character appeals. So I was really spending a lot of time sorting out who was talking when. In fact, if we cut out the constant bombardment of similes and metaphors, I think the book would end with about 300 pages. I kid you not.
Fortunately, later in the book, individual character approaches do begin to emerge. For example, the male characters have fewer tendencies to exaggerate their statements and the similes and metaphors are kept mostly out of their dialogues [thank god]. The children show certain unique characteristics and so does Zoe’s dad. But these characters have much fewer dialogues. Yes, even the hero. For most of the book, Ryan is kept in the background of the scenes although fresh on Zoe’s mind. He only picks up in making appearances halfway through the novel, which I found refreshing. Hence, I would shelve the book firmly in the chick lit genre more than contemporary romance.
Actually, far as the plot goes, I thought it was very well planned. The gradual development of Ryan’s character was a required element to help Zoe adjust to her recent relationship trauma. While Zoe had not recovered from the jilting-by-Jason fiasco till the near end of the novel, that she had a healthy six months on the job before sleeping with the boss works out as well as the fact that Ryan’s wife had been dead for more than two years before he can come to terms with the death. Really, all of the characters were very believable and the plot too was very relatable. If Costello could have just skimmed it on the adding-of-the-similes a bit, I would have few bad things to say about it. [To be fair, I plan to read at least one more of her book to see if this was something she incorporated for Zoe’s character or is it really her own personality seeping into her work.]
There is one aspect that I could really commend Costello for, though. It is her keeping Zoe so secretive. For a character who has such natural tendency for humorous overtures, Zoe sure kept it mum throughout her yearlong stay in the USA about her failed wedding. Costello’s ability to keep the topic consistently on Zoe’s mind but never bring it to her lips was a very intelligent addition to the suspense. It certainly kept me wondering what would happen once she finally revealed why she ran away from home. And this also actually adds to another consistent element of Zoe’s characteristics – that she has a tendency to make a run for it when her romantic relationships show a first sign of failing.
Recommendation: Really, it’s a good story. I enjoyed it despite the writing peccadilloes once I adjusted myself to reading through the similes. In fact, my eyes eventually were trained to skip phrases upon contact with words such as “like” and “as”. Still, I would suggest you read it on the tab with Wi-Fi access if you are not Western pop culture savvy.
Via: Daily Prompt – Aware
“So… there have been talks at home.”
Sigh. “Yeah. Pressured talks, actually.”
“What’s wrong now?”
“I think we may have to get married.”
Startled laugh. “What? Married?”
Nod. Earnest look. “Yup. This year. Santa’s coming to town.”
“And this is his idea of a gift?” Read the rest of this entry »
Via: Daily Prompt – Clean
Antonia Santos had taken great care to dress for this date. After all, it had been ages since she allowed herself such luxury – allowed a man to take her out. But Lorenzo had been persistent. If he wasn’t so kind to Isabella, Antonia may not have relented. Even if he was the most handsome man she met in a while. The most handsome man she met since her ex-husband had walked out on their young family.
She bit the bottom of her Rubina lips, her pearly teeth smearing with berry red lipstick that a pink tongue quickly darted out to lick clean. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Lorenzo’s good looks made her uncomfortable. Not only had her ex-husband made her wary of attractive men but Antonia also felt indubitably dowdy next to them. Living on an art teacher’s salary, constantly worrying about footing the bills and managing the expenses of rearing a two-year-old child could suck the glamor out of any person. What if he decided after their date that they did not suit? She would hate for things to get awkward between them and for her to lose such a great pediatrician. Read the rest of this entry »
She allowed the foamy tides of the ocean to invade her patch of the sand, gradually stealing the ground from beneath her with their assaults. The rush of water rolling through the loose dirt tickled her soles in further attempts to make her lose her foothold. She dug in her heels, her toes. Years of being knocked to the linoleum had earned her, at least, that much grit.
After devastation, there was only freedom.
I took English Literature for my ‘A’ Levels and I’m embarrassed to admit that despite being an avid reader and already a professional writer (I had a few art school caliber scripts, a magazine article and some copywriting for which I’d been, amazingly, financially compensated), I barely passed the subject. It was not that I was not any good at it. Actually, I managed to pick up quite a few good tricks to dissecting, analyzing and criticizing the blood, sweat and ink of another. To redeem myself, I can only cry that I had really slow penmanship whereas the Cambridge University Syndicate of GCSE has a warped sense of accomplishment when marking exam papers – quality counts for nothing if you can’t back it up with plenty of word counts. And I have this teensy-weensy problem with editing and reediting my work and time management thereof. As you can see, I have some unresolved angst there, for which I cannot even completely blame them.
In any case, one of the important lessons I learnt from my various literature professors was distinguishing recurring themes – how tiny details in the descriptions, narratives and dialogues can link to a central theme – or sometimes more than one central theme – and present the bigger picture. These little details that reinstate the theme would be subtle and sublime and sophisticated. Often I would miss them during the first reading (for which I am thankful because looking for them can ruin the basic purpose of reading literature – entertainment). Often I would find them exhausting to memorize to refer to later during exams. Often I would be delighted by their discoveries and intricacies. Often I would see them where they did not really exist! This was not the case with 44 Charles Street.
For all the subtlety of mannerism that the central character of this novel, Francesca Thayer, enjoyed in others, subtlety is not what Steel dealt with while beating the central concerns of the character in the head. For example, I had no problem understanding that it was an important aspect and setback in Francesca’s life that her mother was obsessed with getting married and that this played a significant role in Francesca’s evasion to matrimony – because this very fact was repeated throughout the book and not in the subtext alone but with explicit narratives and often dialogues. I suppose it helped set the mood but I found it exhausting to have to read about so many times. Then again, as far as getting the big picture and coming to a full circle, Francesca does end up committed to a man by the end of the novel despite her aversion to marriage being the cause of her breakup with her longtime boyfriend in its opening chapter.
Steel follows all the standard regulations of writing a fully robust piece of literature – standards that make it great literature. And what is great for me is that this novel also follows the standards of my favorite genre – women’s literature. The novel begins with emotional and financial crises of the central character, which is a woman, and follows through a series of upheavals and resolutions and further traumas, some of which are elemental and many of which are social, that help reshape her perception about human relationships. Through conflicts and resolutions, Francesca is able to open up herself to the idea of welcoming others into her life despite previous prejudices and fill in the biggest void that she had been harboring since childhood – to find a love that fit her mentality and a family where she may belong.
But really, take it from someone for whom English is officially a “second language” (because of my place of birth), that this book is splendid for someone who is just beginning to grasp the nuances of the language. This attribute of the novel was slowly creeping into my subconscious as I progressed through the book but really hit me in this particular scene [here is where I’ll do a bit of that referencing I learnt during ‘A’ Levels] where Francesca and her love interest (I don’t want to give away the story for anyone who hasn’t read it) is about to go out on their first date:
‘So what did you tell Marya and Charles-Edouard?’ [her love interest] repeated the question. She hadn’t answered.
‘I told them you hate their food and wanted to go out for a decent dinner.’ With two of the most famous chefs in the world cooking daily meals for them, it was admittedly hard to justify going out. But this was different.
‘Very amusing.’ He knew she hadn’t really said that.
‘I told Marya you invited me to dinner.’
A person who communicated in the English language on a regular basis would be able to pick up the sarcasm in Francesca’s tone of dialogue without Steel having to spell it out that ‘He knew she hadn’t really said that’ whereas a novice in the English novel readership wouldn’t. So this book really is a spell-everything-out kind of book, which would be understandable if Steel was concerned about meeting the reading capacity of her readers worldwide. But this novel is riddled with such scenes or narratives. And unfortunately, this sometimes killed the mood for me just as it did with Steel’s habitual repetitions of explicit thematic statements. I was really beginning to enjoy the development of Francesca’s romantic liaison and the humorous rapport she was building with her love interest, but having to read through all of that explanation in the middle of potentially witty dialogue was sheer teeth-grinder.
As you may notice, I have really mixed opinion of this novel. I really enjoyed it. I thought it was very well conceptualized the way the characters developed and the story developed, how it all coordinated to reach a sensible full-bodied conclusion, how the scenes were all plausible and how I could connect that every scene in this novel may actually happen in real life. As a chick lit lover and writer who constantly has to fight the sarcasm and skepticism of readers who find romance novels and women’s literatures one-tracked and “easy on the intellect”, I think having this book on our corner of the library is a big gold star for us. But in the same tone one of my robust heroes would say, with frustration but endearment, “Hell, woman! I get what you mean. Enough with the communication.”
But what do I know? And I do not say this with sarcasm. Danielle Steel is an author who is to be rightfully revered for having written over 100 novels, of which a quarter have been filmed, whereas I am still struggling to complete my first and second at the same time and am publishing one online on my blog so that readers may get used to reading my work for free and publishers take notice of me. She is the 4th bestselling author of all time and current bestselling author alive. Bless her! And I hope one day I would be as conscientious an author as her.
My point is, those of you who haven’t read this book yet, please do – it’s good. Even if it drags through sometimes, you can skip a couple of paragraphs here and there. For those of you who have read it, I will welcome your feedback on it as well as on what I have written about it here.