p. 40 "...the desire to think--which is fundamentally a moral problem--must be induced before the power is developed. Most people, whether men or womep. 40 "...the desire to think--which is fundamentally a moral problem--must be induced before the power is developed. Most people, whether men or women, wish above all else to be comfortable, and thought is a pre-eminently uncomfortable process; it brings to the individual far more suffering than happiness in a semi-civilised world which still goes to war, still encourages the production of unwanted c3 children by exhausted mothers, and still compels married partners who hate one another to live together in the name of morality."
p. 422-423 "What exhausts women in wartime is not the strenuous and unfamiliar tasks that fall upon them, nor even the hourly dread of death for husbands or lovers or brothers or sons; it is the incessant conflict between personal and national claims which wears out their energy and breaks their spirit."
p. 654 "Marriage, for any woman who considered all its implications both for herself and her contemporaries, could never, I now knew, mean a 'living happily ever after'; on the contrary it would involve another protracted struggle, a new fight against the tradition which identified wifehood with the imprisoning limitations of a kitchen and four walls, against the prejudices and regulations which still made success in any field more difficult for the married woman than for the spinster, and penalized motherhood by demanding from it the surrender of disinterested intelligence, the sacrifice of that vitalising experience only to be found in the pursuit of an independent profession. But tired as I was of conflict, I felt that I must not shrink from that fight, nor abandon in cowardice the attempt to prove, as not theories could ever satisfactorily prove without examples, that marriage and motherhood need never tame the mind, nor swamp and undermine ability and training, nor trammel and domesticise political perception and social judgment. Today, as never before, it was urgent for individual women to show that life was enriched, mentally and spiritually as well as physically and socially, by marriage and children; that these experiences rendered the woman who accepted them the more and not the less able to take the world's pulse, to estimate its tendencies, to play some definite, hard-headed, hard-working part in furthering the constructive ends of a political civilisation." ...more
The pacing of The Forever Girl was painfully slow, but it was meant that way, to force the reader to participate in the ultimately baseless frustratioThe pacing of The Forever Girl was painfully slow, but it was meant that way, to force the reader to participate in the ultimately baseless frustrations of the protagonist. I admit, if Alexander McCall Smith wasn't already a favorite author, I wouldn't have gotten past the first few chapters, and surely would have given up in the interminable last third if I had made it past the first few. But I would have missed out on a lovely novel.
This is a gentle exposition of the value of enduring, faithful love; both romantic and familial. If it ended with the climax that so many reviewers characterize as trite, I would concur with their poor assessments, but McCall Smith carries his exploration full circle and goes on to share this gem: "It was a whole separate life that she had created; that was the miracle of parenthood, and it never seemed to be anything less of a miracle; you made a whole world; several worlds-one for each child. And then you let go of those worlds, as a creator might do of a world he has created; you let go and watched." The small bubble of a world that Clover grows up in, on Grand Cayman, emphasizes this point.
He also incorporates a large theme of inequality, centered around the practice of hired help performing mothering duties and wrapped up with a bow in Miss Hardy's remarks: "... sometimes in this life we're given things that we don't deserve-that we haven't done anything to merit, so to speak. We don't have to give those up if they come our way. And remember this: plenty of people are better off than you. Inequality is written into the way the world works, no matter how hard we try to correct it. You may be fortunate in one respect and less fortunate in another. Nobody's guaranteed headlines across the board. Fate has her own ideas of equality."...more