Guys, I think I have a new favorite author, and I’m very late to the game. A while ago I was gifted a copy of Possession: A Romance, by A.S. Byatt, and strangely enough, I’d never heard of it even though there was a movie adaptation in the early 2000s and the book itself won the Booker Prize in 1990! This past month I finally read it, and it’s easily one the best books I’ve ever read.
If you’re like me, then you know Daphne du Maurier from two things: her story “The Birds” and Rebecca, that freaky book you had to read in high school. But recently, I came across her romance novel!!!! in a secondhand bookstore in the city, and I had to have it. It’s called Frenchman’s Creek, and it will give you feels. I have to say, this has automatically become one of my favorite works of literature; it has almost everything I look for in a great story. Read more about this recommendation!
What it’s about: Frenchman’s Creek is about a noblewoman named Dona St. Columb (a perfect romance-novel name, IMO), who feels stifled in her life in London. It takes place in Restoration England, and the entire narrative is a kind of flashback through the eyes of a modern-day yachtsman visiting the place in Cornwall where Dona flees to when she can’t take her life anymore. The framed narrative creates a spooky atmosphere that is definitely characteristic of du Maurier’s other works.
When Dona arrives in Cornwall at her house called Navron, with her two children in tow (but not her husband), she is consumed by a feeling of freedom she’s been craving all her life. Eventually, she meets and has an affair with a philosopher turned pirate named Jean-Benoit Aubéry, who teaches her that even though she craves escape, it’s almost impossible for a woman to have the same freedom as a man does. Their relationship becomes a metaphor for societal expectations placed on women, and the whole metaphor is couched in the language of a high romance novel with plenty of passion. Oh, and the writing is utterly breathtaking, so you don’t have to feel bad about reading romance!
Through her experiences with the pirate, she tests her strength, her courage, and finds herself outside of her constructed “proper” persona. She becomes her own person, someone whole and fulfilled in both life and love. She finds freedom and happiness.
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Happy New Year everyone! Hope yours was happy and safe. The first book I’m reviewing here in 2016 (is it really 2016 already?) is Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. You may recognize it from the movie version starring Emma Watson. The book is just as fun and delightful as the movie was.
The novel, written in 1936, centers around the lives of three little girls, all orphans, who were adopted by an eccentric London collector they called Gum, a man they’ve never met. Gum is an explorer and an adventurer, and on his travels, he has always collected things like fossils, until his housekeepers complain that there’s no more room for the junk he sends home. So instead, he starts sending home children he manages to save from dire circumstances.
First there’s Pauline, then there’s Petrova, and then Posy, whose ballerina mother gave her up for adoption with a pair of children’s ballet slippers tucked into her basket. Gum saves them and sends them to his London home, but the girls grow up having never met him, under the guardianship of Gum’s great-niece and her nurse. Everything is fine until the money starts to run out, and Gum is nowhere to be found.
To earn money, Pauline, Petrova, and Posy have to join the Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training, so they can develop skills to make money on the stage. Pauline is a natural at acting, and the small Posy is obsessive with ballet, but Petrova hates the stage and would much rather build cars or model airplanes.