Hello! I have made an easy-to-use guide to choosing your Polygamist YA Lit. As you can see, all of the books on the list are ALMOST**spoiler alert**
Hello! I have made an easy-to-use guide to choosing your Polygamist YA Lit. As you can see, all of the books on the list are ALMOST exactly the same! And none of them are very good. They are mostly "Just O.K." Please be happy that I have wasted my time, so that you don't have to waste yours.
-- This book includes a pretty brutal rape scene. Not fond.
For some reason - and this might sound weird - but, I felt like Dominguez Greene had "no right" to the subject matter that she wrote about. I mean, as an author, you can write about anything you want - But, it's just that this book - even though it was fairly well-written - left a bad taste in my mouth about the nature of who gets to write about trauma and why.
I think it was that rape scene that got me. A rape scene in a YA book... Now, some YA books have rape in them, it's true. But, when you START a book about polygamy, you know that there is going to be sexual abuse. And perhaps I was simply more attuned to the way that the writers depicted said abuse. There was no clean-cut happy solution or ending for Greene's protagonist, so the trauma wasn't completely exploited - but... Is polygamy kind of trendy, in terms of subject matter (*cough*Sister Wives)? The answer is yes. So, it just makes me wonder...
Now - of the three books mentioned above: Carol Lynch Williams - is a Mormon, I think. She gets dibs. Claire Avery - grew up in a super-Christian-cult community. OK, I dig. Shelly Hrdlitschka - is a Canadian with crazy last name that makes me imagine that she wanted to write a book about a boy who builds inukshuks, but at the last minute got distracted by polygamists.
But, yank some stars back! Because - there he is again. That boy who tries to "save" our protagonist. They are in love, don't you see? Even though this girl is like fourteen. SO stupid. In all of the memoirs that I read about women escaping polygamy (a lot!), do you know how many of them were in love before they were betrothed at fourteen? None. Do you know how many of them had 15-year-old boyfriends who tried to marry them before their uncle did? None. None. None. None.
The point is - each of these authors, Michele Greene included, has tried to take a story of oppression, terror, escape, survival - and throw a little romance in there! And, I just think its bad taste, honestly. I like a good romance. I really do. Even a good teenage romance. But, not a good polygamist teenage romance. Not ONE of the male characters, or their subsequent relationships with the protagonists were believable - or even INTERESTING!
I will say that Greene did super-well with the inclusion of the "new couple" in the compound. I enjoyed those characters. THAT WAS A GOOD STORY. I wish that she had taken a stab at writing a book about them! Instead, Michele Greene mostly just re-hashed what the other author's listed above had already done... she just wrote a little bit better than them.
I said this in my review of Hidden Wives, and it also applies to this book: "The teenage characters that are being imagined for this type of fiction are simply empty girl-vessels for the writer to exploit at her whim, with no care to the methods of characterization that would flesh her out and make her whole. Poorly done. Poorly done."...more
Italy, Italy. People go there, I am told, to free themselves of the constraints of stuffy, modern life. To take part in its beauty, and really live. LItaly, Italy. People go there, I am told, to free themselves of the constraints of stuffy, modern life. To take part in its beauty, and really live. Ladies often go there to f*uck hot Italian guys, eat tasty treats, and possibly write a memoir all about their spiritual awakening and/or f*ucking that hot Italian guy.
Well, lady-characters in the turn of the century did the same thing! Minus the memoir part. They never got a chance to write their memoirs. No, their authors killed them off before they got the chance to reflect on eating, or praying, or loving. I'm pretty sure that they killed these "free-spirited" ladies off because these ladies preferred the sexy Italians to their stuffy British and snobby American male counterparts, and they sadly needed to learn their lessons: Italy is a fine place to visit, Ladies, as long as you have a male chaperone who wishes to bore you to death with lectures about architecture as he leads you by the elbow through the safest of Italian tourist spots.
E.M. Forster agrees, "Italy is such a delightful place to live in if you happen to be a man...In the democracy of the caffe or the street the great question of our life has been solved, and the brotherhood of man is a reality. But it is accomplished at the expense of the sisterhood of women."
In the beginning of Where Angels Fear To Tread, I was reminded of Henry James' Daisy Miller. In a sense, Lilia is described by Forster as a sort of silly woman, just as Daisy was a silly "girl." In both instances, our silly women need to be sought after, rescued from Italy, saved by men. In both instances, the men fail.
But, I had more hope for Lilia. Where James chastises, Forster seems, at first, to empathize. Daisy's character-execution is foreshadowed, but fast (malaria), and she never has to back down, submit to Winterbourne. Winterbourne never gets to mold her character to his liking. Daisy is Daisy until the end.
Lilia's character-execution is worse, in my opinion. Before he can kill Lilia off, Forster first has her undergo a character change: Lilia becomes less spirited, smaller, older, insecure, afraid of her lover, Gino. What happened to that crazy Cougar-Lilia we met in the beginning, with the money and the power? She dies giving birth to a son - an ultimate sacrifice for a patriarchal line.
Now, don't get me wrong. I did not like Lilia, as a character, for the most part. I mean, she ditches her daughter for a 21-year-old Italian guy. But, I was disturbed by her end, by the ease with which Forster killed her off. After her death, we move back to England, where we gauge the reactions from the rest of the characters. With the exception of Caroline Abbott (a family friend) and Lilia's daughter Irma, everyone else is relieved that they don't have to deal with Lilia anymore. I felt, if Lilia's death was heartless, well - the lack of grief surrounding it was even worse. I think that Forster included Lilia's downfall in a less chastising or patronizing way than James. He shows how the masculine influence can really harm the spirit or personality of the woman, but his lack of sympathy was somewhat disheartening.
The real triumph of character in Where Angels Fear To Tread is Philip, though. Philip ties in all of the the novel's central themes: idealization vs. reality, of the romanticization of one's sense of identity, voyeurism vs. participation. And of course, the satire of British superiority, and subsequent control.
In the words of Philip, "Society is invincible - to a certain degree. But your real life is your own, and nothing can touch it. There is no power on earth that can prevent your criticizing and despising mediocrity - nothing that can stop you retreating into splendour and beauty - into the thoughts and beliefs that make the real life - the real you."
I want to mention, too, that the introduction to this edition was really good. Ruth Padel, O ye of the well-phrased thesis! "All of the novels published in Forster's lifetime conjure a place, a way of looking at a place, a journey, or a passage towards it. A title beginning "Where," beginning a novel-writing career that will end with the last words of A Passage To India - "not there." From "Where" to "not there" is the Forster arc, eyes on the horizon...which [is] incomprehensible and unattainable, but which symbolizes something within him, something that matters deeply to him."
Eager to read more Forster. If I remember from reading A Room With A View, it gets better than this, for sure......more