Henry James and I have a tenuous relationship. I flit back and forth between admiring his work and being pissed at it (pardon the language). Reading THenry James and I have a tenuous relationship. I flit back and forth between admiring his work and being pissed at it (pardon the language). Reading The Turn of the Screw always makes me want to hit something despite the fact I think everyone should read it.
Unlike my experience with The Turn of the Screw, with Daisy Miller, I was thoroughly enjoying myself for the majority anyway, but more on that later. Daisy Miller is a novella focused on an expat in Europe's response to a visiting American girl who defies the traditional values and behaviors that restrict other girls her age.
In Daisy, James has a female character that embodies the spirit of the American as an ideological concept. She is free spirited, independent, and in defiance of societal expectations. In contrast to gender expectations of her time, Daisy bluntly states that she has “never allowed a gentleman to dictate to me, or to interfere with anything I do”. She clearly doesn’t allow women to instruct her either as she defies Mrs. Walker’s admonitions to adhere to the European social morays saying that she doesn’t “see why [she] should change [her] habits” for European society. Instead, Daisy does what she wants, indicating that “if this is what’s improper…then I am all improper” and European society and Old World values be damned.
Winterbourne, our wishing-he-was-rebellious-but-actually-quite-staid narrator, becomes infatuated with Daisy upon first meeting her, and he spends the time he knows her, wavering between fascination and horror. Daisy's laid-back, do-as-I-please attitude and behavior intrigue him, but he simultaneous judges her behavior. Winterbourne is both intrigued and horrified by Daisy’s behavior: “he was vexed at his want of instinctive certitude as to how far her eccentricities were generic, national, and how far they were personal” (James 51). He continually attempts to figure her out, but no matter how he looks at it, Daisy “continue[s] to present herself as an inscrutable combination of audacity and innocence”. She is a truly fascinating character.
Warning, there be spoilers below.
But then James goes back to pissing me off since he has Daisy die. Seriously. Then anger. Why did she have to die? Was it punishment for her eccentric behavior? Is James arguing that Daisy should have conformed to the expectations of European society? Her death certainly seems to indicate such. It reminds me of Jenny's death in Forrest Gump, a movie that clearly suggests maintaining the status quo and doing your part to further the dominant ideology is the proper way.
In both tales, when two cultures clash, it is the traditional, formal, and staid culture that wins. Clearly, Winterbourne is effected by his meeting Daisy - to what extent is a bit vague - and one would think that other members of the European society Daisy came in contact with may be affected too. But in the end, traditional values win out as Daisy pays the ultimate price for her rebellion. Whether this is the author's way of promoting the dominant culture or just a way of showing how difficult it is to break away from said culture, well, that is another question.
End of spoilers.
This short, fast-paced, tightly focused novella is well worth the read. ...more
Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle is one of the best YA series I've read. In my review of the first book in the series, The Raven Boys, I said the bookMaggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle is one of the best YA series I've read. In my review of the first book in the series, The Raven Boys, I said the book is "wonderfully mystical, artfully written, and full of unique characters." That works for the whole series. In my review of the second, The Dream Thieves, I said "I am ready to believe Stiefvater can do no wrong." Yep. I'm completely there. I very rarely follow an author, but I'm putting her on my to-read list, and I'm going to start reading everything the woman has written.
So you probably would like me to talk a bit more about this specific installment instead of just gushing like a fan girl. Blue Lily, Lily Blue moves our characters more firmly into their magical journey, and simultaneously progresses their relationships in a gorgeous, subtle, inevitable way. Everything about this book is emotional, moving, poignant, and yet it never feels overblown. The delicate line Stiefvater walks in her writing is artful. Her plot lines are complex without being convoluted. Her characters are deep without being pretentious, unique without being showy. Seriously, Stiefvater's writing is some of the best I've seen in YA.
Her books have soul. There is something alive about the stories; the worlds and the people who inhabit them are so believable and likeable and magical. What stands out the most to me about this cast of characters is their love for each other. They are - self-acknowledgedly - bound together.
My only problem with the book is the lack of answers at the end. Things wrapped up a bit too quickly, in that they really didn't wrap up. This installment felt less contained then the first two which annoyed me a bit, but it does lay out all the ingredients for a quite amazing final book. Plus, I think the faster pace and increased action may be part of the buildup to the fourth book. Upon reflection, my annoyance may be entirely due to my very, very strong desire to NOT have to wait for the last book.
And when oh when will that fourth book come out? Waiting is torture. ...more