It’s a holiday here in Toronto and it also happens to be an incredibly rainy, what most people would describe as dreary day. The rain is intermittent, but thunder continuously pierces my otherwise silent small town, and the lightening occasionally brightens the sky with pink and orange hues. It’s all quite beautiful actually, but it’s not the ideal weather for a holiday…people at their cottages are probably losing their minds over this “waste of a day” and I don’t think many kids are going to be getting dessert from the ice cream truck this evening. For me, it’s the perfect day however, as I had planned to spend the day curled up reading the newest Sophie Kinsella novel, Wedding Night. If you recall, I promised to write a review of it sometime this summer and I couldn’t resist reading it any longer. The cover alone is enticing enough – a cute little cartoon man and woman dance around in what happens to be a Greek locale – and I know that I can always count on Sophie Kinsella for a laugh and for an irresistible romance. It might be raining outside, in the real world, but in Sophie Kinsella’s fantasyland, everything is sunshine and roses and exquisitely adorable mishaps and the perfect blend of heroine embarrassment and complete happiness!
I will write a more comprehensive review of the novel when I finish it, but for now I’ll say that it is just as witty and engrossing as any other Sophie Kinsella novel. (Sidenote: I would consider my opinion of Sophie Kinsella’s novels to be an expert one, because I’ve read all of her novels, some several times, and she’s actually the closest approximation to the type of writer that I want to be one day!) The plot is fast-paced, as usual, and we are plunged right into the action and into the hilarity of a story that is not at all far-fetched and is actually uncomfortably realistic, even for a 22 year old reader with relatively limited and normal romantic experiences. Kinsella’s characters are funny and their voices are distinct and unique (especially the male characters who are all so remarkably different), and I love that Kinsella has chosen to narrate through two female characters (a pair of sisters who are different in terms of lifestyle but whose speech and actions emphasize their blood relation in the most subtle ways) rather than just one – her remarkable knack for getting her characters just right is most evident when she masterfully switches from one narrator to the other with ease. Needless to say, I am so excited to finish the novel, and the fact that I’ve been a tad inconsistent about writing blog posts recently is pretty much directly related to how much time I’ve spent immersed in Kinsella’s world.
Anyway, I don’t want to say too much about the novel now because I know I’m going to have a lot to write about once I’ve finished…so stay tuned for my second post on Wedding Night which will come as soon as Lottie and Fliss get their acts together and figure this whole mess out…in probably the most creative and hilarious way possible, if I know anything about Sophie Kinsella!
For now, I’ll leave you with a commentary I wrote last summer about another romantic novel, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. This novel absolutely changed my life, as you’ll find out if you keep reading, and it became, along with Shirley, a sort of second Jane Eyre for me…I saw myself reflected in Margaret Hale, and I saw everything I ever wanted to love in John Thornton!
Your slightly soggy blogger,
Girl with a Green Heart
North and South
by Elizabeth Gaskell
I never hoped or believed that this would happen to me again. I never dreamed that I could be so lucky as to meet yet another set of literary characters that would touch me so deeply. Remember Johnny Wheelwright, that shy and meek narrator of A Prayer for Owen Meany who inspired creative juices within me and encouraged me to become a writer? Remember Prior Walter, the prophet suffering from AIDS who encouraged me to feel a deep and lasting sympathy for homosexuals and inspired me to believe in the existence of angels in America? Remember the time traveller Henry DeTamble, the sharp and venerable Henry Higgins, and the brave and defiant Calliope (Cal) Stephanides? Remember how they both terrified and inspired me? I have spoken at length of my two dearest friends, Jane Eyre and her tortured, grave, dashing and intoxicating eventual husband Edward Fairfax Rochester – remember how they changed me at a time when I was at once vulnerable and optimistic, scared and beyond excited? These fictional characters, these entities that emerged from the brilliant minds of their creators are, without doubt, my closest and most cherished companions. I spend inordinate amounts of time with them. I have dialogues with them. I live through them and learn from them. I become a better person for having met them.
And now, I am so pleased to say that I can add two more lovely, complex acquaintances to my list of idolized and adored literary icons: Margaret Hale and John Thornton of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Victorian masterpiece North and South. Oh, the three of us have been through so much together. I lost parents and loved ones with Margaret, experienced unrequited love with John, and I became socially, economically, industrially aware. Gaskell describes her characters with such detail and affection – Margaret’s strength and perseverance as she moves from teen years to young adulthood, John’s complexity, intellect and determination as well as his emotional depth and soft, beautiful core. I have made best friends within those pages; I have met likeminded individuals, a man and a woman who understand me, my passions, hopes and dreams. And I have felt their emotions just as strongly as if they were my own.
I could not have hoped for anything better! As a budding Victorianist, I am so excited to journey further with Margaret and John at some point, to study and pursue them. And yet, I will never forget or shake off this exquisite visceral reaction – this feeling that at some moment in the 19th century, in England, a young female writer decided, in a way, to speak to me. Somewhere out there, at some point in time, some women lived that thought and loved and feared and hoped just as I have done and will do – and I am lucky enough to speak with them, or I am lucky enough that they have chosen to speak to me through their pens. So, I am less lonely for having Margaret and John in my life – and yet, there will always exist that sense of dissatisfaction, that desire to leap into the book and live with them, that yearning to know where they will go, what they will do next. I miss them, even as they forever exist and are available to me. If only I too could inhabit their world!