Sunday, March 3, 2019

Secrets kept? Perhaps...but at what cost?

Secrets are rarely a good idea, are they?!?
Though I guess it depends what the actual secret is and the context, doesn't it?
I admit to being a bit more enamored with this book than McManus's debut, One of Us Is Lying, mainly due to the different story arcs.
(And...neither cover is appealing to me for some reason.)
Though both mysteries are a bit creepy (for me, at least), 
they are both, in my opinion, extremely well-written,
particularly with regard to characterization, especially 
this second book. I loved Ellery and Ezra! (And what cool names!) 
My suspicions kept bouncing around to virtually all characters
at one time or another as I read. (I love that about mysteries!) 
And in the end, I didn't fully realize the solution 
until Ellery and Ezra did! Of course, by then it was a bit too late, 
at least for their own safety.

While I typically have no qualms including spoilers in my reviews, I definitely will not do so for this book. But if you love mysteries or thrillers, I would highly recommend this book. 
It is, in my opinion, a psychological thriller.

McManus is now one of my favorite writers! 

I fully appreciate the fact that one of the protagonists, Ezra, is a teenage male who happens to be gay. It is simply part of this character's background. Very cool...no big deal...that's just how it is. I'm glad that literature/novels can simply reflect the diversity of humanity. Ezra is the male portion of a set of fraternal twins, along with his sister, Ellery, who tends to be very analytical, always looking for connections, or as several characters say, creating "conspiracy theories." She has always been extremely interested in the seemingly inexplicable and sudden disappearance of her aunt, her mother's identical twin sister at the age of 17. And since her mother is now in residential rehab for challenges with addiction, she and Ezra are  forced to move in with their maternal grandmother in the small town where her mother and aunt grew up, Echo Ridge. 

Fortunately for Sadie, their mother, although she drove through and destroyed a store front, the judge overseeing her case believes in "treatment" rather than jail time. Hence their grandmother is paying for Sadie's rehabilitation treatment and also raising her grandchildren until their mother can hopefully return to daily life and resume responsibility for them. Sadie was a rather unsuccessful actress near Hollywood in California and the twins have lived in some fairly undesirable apartments and neighborhoods throughout their lifetime, so Echo Ridge is 'pastoral' by comparison and their grandmother's house is large with more-than-enough room to live comfortably. 

However, on the drive to Echo Ridge from the airport, they encounter a hit-and-run victim in the road who is already dead. He would have been Ellery and Ezra's high school teacher had he lived. No one can unravel the mystery of his death until Brooke is drunk one night and behaves in such a way as to inadvertently initiate an investigation by Ellery which eventually leads to her and the police identifying the killer. I could appreciate Mr Bowman's epitaph on his tombstone:
Tell me and I forget
Teach me and I may remember
Involve me and I learn (49)
So very true! 

Having lived in small towns, or rural/"country" areas outside of small towns, I felt McManus's descriptions of the interactions and immediate spreading of news, rumors, and gossip, were spot on. The older I get the less I can bear the pettiness that results from such a social environment. I guess I should pity those who have nothing better to do with their lives than 'spy' on friends, neighbors, and enemies, and then talk about everyone behind their backs. My mother was a champion at that, so perhaps that helps explain my disgust with such behaviors. It is harmful. No matter how a person may justify it, it can do so much harm to innocent and even not-so-innocent people. My motto has always been, "If they're talking about me, at least they're leaving some other poor innocent person alone..." :)

Ellery perfectly describes her role as peacemaker and "positive communicator" with her mother as they begin a telephone conversation:
I could refuse to play along, I guess. But as my eye catches the photo of her and her sister on my bookcase, I already feel myself wanting to please her. To smooth things over and make her smile. 
I've been doing it my entire life; it's impossible to stop now. (36)
So many times this is exactly how it is with children of parents with erratic personalities and other challenges, especially addiction. They, in effect, attempt to not only serve as parents to themselves, but also to 'parent' their own parents! They never get to be children! Another telling scene is Ellery's relief and pleasure when her grandmother encourages her to consider where she might like to attend college and to schedule her SAT exams. When she describes her lack of interest in the past due to financial insecurity, her grandmother assures Ellery that she will help her. I appreciated how this opened up all new avenues of possibilities and hope for a better future for Ellery and Ezra. 

One of Ellery and Ezra's Echo Ridge friends is Malcolm, brother of Declan, former Homecoming King, and boyfriend of the Homecoming Queen who was murdered in Echo about 5 years ago...at the age of 17. Unfortunately, he was the main suspect and appears to still manage to be at the wrong place at the wrong time...therefore, when Malcolm is the last person to see Brooke alive, it appears he may well be carrying on a frightening 'family tradition as suspect number one', just as Declan was in the past. Brooke was on the Homecoming Court and may have become Homecoming Queen herself, had she not disappeared in the 2 weeks prior to the Echo Ridge Homecoming weekend. Malcolm has always resented the fact that Declan was able to simply move away from Echo Ridge and didn't have to continue to deal with the town gossip and rumor mill about himself. Although once Declan returns and connects with his little brother, Malcolm realizes that "Declan's life is a lot shitter up close than it seems from a state away." Declan's move to another location certanly didn't solve all his problems. 

Ellery becomes obsessed with her desire to "do something. For the missing girls, and the ones left behind." It is always a challenge for those left alive to deal in the aftermath of a disappearance or murder. There is a breakthrough in the 'case' when Brooke becomes drunk and states,
I need to get it back. I shouldn't have...I just shouldn't have. 
I have to show them. It's not right, it's not okay. (135)
This is only the beginning of many clues and unanswered questions for Ellery, Ezra, and Malcolm, as they try to solve several different crimes. In the process of investigating, Ellery and Ezra discover the identity of their previously-unknown-to-them biological father, as well as a whole new family of half-siblings. 

There is a missing custom-made bracelet,
a high school class ring at a murder site, 
a receipt for car repairs under a fictitious name, 
and...paper clips.

And you are a better investigator than I if you solve all three of these crimes 
before Ellery and Ezra do...

I highly recommend this book if you like mysteries!
Have you read any good mysteries lately?
Are you anxiously anticipating the release of any new ones?

My message to Ms. McManus: All I ask is that you please keep writing--faster!! :)

Happy reading!
--Lynn

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Classics Club Spin #19: Giovanni's Room

This man was so talented!
I felt compelled to read more of his work 
after reading and reviewing 
This book did not disappoint! 
Neither did The Fire Next Time 
which I read just before Giovanni's Room
My immediate reaction to reading this book:
"Wow... That was really depressing..."
However, depressing as I may have felt it to be, 
I quickly decided this was likely an accurate reflection 
of more than just one man's conundrum 
when faced with sexual attraction  
that did not appear to fit 
with the heterosexual norm of the time. 


This book begins with David looking out of the window of the house in southern France that he and Hella had rented. This is following Hella's departure and an official end to their engagement. He is wondering if he ever really truly loved Hella at all... Then we learn that he had been living with Giovanni. In his "room." It was literally only a room. And not even "big enough for two." In so many ways...

David muses that perhaps his desire to "moor" himself to Hella and her decision to accept his proposal while traveling in Spain was nothing more than a desire to dispense with their "freedom," which he believes to be "nothing more unbearable, once one has it, than freedom." This is a rather well-worn conundrum. How effective is a human at handling complete "freedom," as it were? And, really, is there such a thing? I believe that in reality all of us humans "conform" to many varied social and cultural expectations, else there would be complete chaos and no cooperation or coordination amongst us, wouldn't there?
But people can't, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers, and their friends,
anymore than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes them away
and the great difficulty is to say Yes to life. (10)

In recalling his first sexual encounter with another man, David depicts his great shame at the "vileness" represented by the tangled sheet at the foot of Joey's bed. Then he fears losing his manhood if others find out and finally, of his own father, who has no one (David believes) but him in his life since David's mother had died. Though it's rather obvious that David's father is an alcoholic who more often than not drags himself home late at night 'drunk as a skunk', as they say. His father's sister, Ellen, with whom they live, tries to get his father to realize what affect his behaviors can have on David:

'I certainly don't care...what you do with yourself. It isn't you I'm worried about...
It's only that you're the only person who has any authority over David...
And he only listens to me when he thinks it pleases you. 
Do you really think it's a good idea for David to see you staggering home drunk all the time?
And don't fool yourself...that he doesn't know where you're coming from, 
don't think he doesn't know about your women!' (3)
Unfortunately, David had never even considered women in his father's life...until then. And forever after he could never see a woman without wondering if his father had been "interfering" with her... Their argument concluded,
'And listen,' said my father suddenly, from the middle of the staircase, 
in a voice which frightened me, 'all I want for David is that he grow up to be a man. 
And when I say a man, Ellen, I don't mean a Sunday School teacher.'
'A man,' said Ellen, shortly, 'is not the same thing as a bull. Good-night.'
'Good-night,' he said, after a moment. 
And I heard him stagger past my door.
From that time on, with the mysterious, cunning, and dreadful intensity of the very young, 
I despised my father and hated Ellen...I don't know why.
But it allowed all of Ellen's prophecies about me to come true. 
She had said that there would come a time when nothing and nobody would be able to rule me, 
not even my father. And that time certainly came. It was after Joey. (23-24)

David admits
The incident with Joey had shaken me profoundly and its effect was to make me secretive and cruel. I could not discuss what had happened to me with anyone, 
I could not even admit it to myself; and, while I never thought about it, it remained, 
nevertheless, at the bottom of my mind, as still and as awful, as a decomposing corpse. 
And it changed, it thickened, it soured the atmosphere of my mind. 
Soon it was I who came staggering home late at night, it was I who found Ellen waiting up for me, 
Ellen and I who wrangled night in and night out. (24-25)
This basically sets the tone for the whole novel, as David later becomes embroiled in an affair with Giovanni, while his fiance is traveling in Spain, trying to decide whether she wishes to accept David's proposal of marriage. 

I could not help but wonder what affect a more open society might have had on David. When he specifically mentions there is NO ONE with whom he can speak about his male-to-male encounter with Joey and his father's irresponsible and neglectful behaviors. Would counseling have helped David better cope with these experiences? I just can't imagine that having someone he could trust to confess these feelings to wouldn't have helped him and perhaps he could have better determined his place in this world. Am I being too hopeful? An eternal optimist? I don't know, but I can't think it would have made his situation and adult life any less than it was... He was a "lost soul," in my opinion. And I felt so very sorry for him at this point. To feel totally abandoned, on your own, with no confidante or other support...that can be disabling. 

We were not like father and son, my father sometimes proudly said, we were like buddies.
I think my father sometimes actually believed this. I never did. 
I did not want to be his buddy; I wanted to be his son. (26)
A friend and I were discussing this very issue just the other day. It is a line that can be very difficult to determine sometimes--as a parent you don't want to alienate your child, yet there are situations when you must assert yourself as the "parent" and risk that occurring. And there is no tried and true "rule" to follow, it is a crap-shoot at best, and each child and parent relationship is totally unique to those two individuals. There is nothing easy about it. But it is obvious that David's father was living his own life independent of any parental responsibility or positive role modeling. Therefore, David is adrift in life and never seems to achieve any sense of stability. David continues,
He wanted no distance between us; he wanted me to look on him as a man like myself. 
But I wanted the merciful distance of father and son, 
which would have permitted me to love him. (26)

David is hospitalized after causing a wreck in his car which was full of his friends. It is after his father's visit that he realizes his father is in no shape to be a true parent. David finally moves out on his own which creates enough distance 
...much easier to deal with him and he never had any reason to feel shut out of my life 
for I was always able, when talking about it, to tell him what he wished to hear. 
And we got on quite well, really, for the vision I gave my father of my life 
was exactly the vision in which I myself most desperately needed to believe. (30)

It is at this point in the book that Baldwin waxes philosophical in a way I believe only he can/could do...
...I am--or I was--one of those people who pride themselves on their willpower, 
on their ability to make a decision and carry it through. 
This virtue, like most virtues, is ambiguity itself.
People who believe that they are strong-willed and the masters of their destiny 
can only continue to believe this by becoming specialists in self-deception. (30)
As he continues within that long paragraph I realize that I have lived in exactly that same self-deception in adulthood. I convinced myself at 10 years into my first marriage that I could do this. I could manage to withstand a spouse who refused to work for consistent income and spent every evening drunk, to raise my sons in a home where I could provide a counter-influence as a responsible hard-working adult. I managed to convince myself I had done exactly that for another 12 years, but at what cost to myself. For those 12 years I was rarely ever "happy" as a person, but I managed to survive, as did my sons. There was much chaos and some tragedy, but I don't know that our lives would have ended any better if I had left at that time and immersed us into dire poverty. If only I'd had financial security, then I could have established a single-parent household and provided a relatively secure future for my children. But I didn't have any money to fall back on and had to make the best decisions I could at the time. But yes, it did definitely require me to become a "specialist in self-deception." I had to continually convince myself this was the best decision of all alternatives. I could indeed do this... Baldwin is so very intellectual, yet so very perceptive and emotionally aware. And...he could put all that into words that resonate so deeply and clearly, even 63 years later!

As I read, I kept reminding myself that this book was first published in 1956!! Amazing! I would think Doubleday & Company took quite a risk in releasing this book at that period of time in the US. The world, especially in the US was decidedly NOT open to such sexuality! At least not in my part of the world, the US midwest. 

David describes how his life continued in much the same pattern, he would convince himself he could be heterosexual until he found himself attracted to and in bed with another male which occurred intermittently throughout his life. Even while in the army, with another soldier who was eventually court-martialed out for his sexuality. It is when Giovanni enters his life that he finally submits to a full-on relationship with another man...

The room was small, I only made out the outlines of clutter and disorder, 
there was the smell of the alcohol he burned in his stove. He locked the door behind us, 
and then for a moment, in the gloom, we simply stared at each other--
with dismay, with relief, and breathing hard. I was trembling. 
I thought, if I do not open the door at once and get away from here, I am lost. 
But I knew I could not open the door, I knew it was too late; 
soon it was too late to do anything but moan. (86)
What struck me the strongest was the immediate immersion of David into Giovanni's sub-culture of homosexuality. As if there is a separate world within society-at-large to which "these people" are relegated. And I assume that is true. One of my cousins lived in just such a world and I did somewhat understand that his sexuality plunged him into a "sub-culture," a world in which I could never be a part. And that is just so sad, in my opinion, because it automatically creates separation and that sense of social isolation--having no one in whom you can confide or even just honestly share your thoughts and feelings, let alone life experiences. He eventually turned to drugs and alcohol to escape or numb himself to the reality of his life and died young. Although his family has never, to my knowledge, honored or publicly acknowledged his death and life, I think of him each and every day, concentrating on the positive memories. That is my homage to him, and hopefully, thereby to all who are similarly marginalized by our society. 

...Giovanni had lost his job and we walked around in the evenings. Those evenings were bitter.
Giovanni knew that I was going to leave him, but he did not dare accuse me for fear of being corroborated. I did not dare to tell him. Hella was on her way back from Spain 
and my father had agreed to send me money, which I was not going to use to help Giovanni, 
who had done so much to help me. I was going to use it to escape his room. (100)
I believe Giovanni did love David, and perhaps too much. Giovanni struck me as a "clinger," someone who wants one person to provide him/her with everything necessary in their life, to be with them every second possible and have no separate life experiences--"smothering," in a word. This made Giovanni quite vulnerable, as David became all too aware. Though David realized he must leave in order to 'save himself,' as it were. Added to this was the claustrophobic atmosphere created by "the room," which Baldwin does an excellent job of describing to make the reader feel the cloistered atmosphere contained therein. 

David takes the coward's way out, just simply leaving Giovanni, with no forewarning, effectively abandoning him. (I admit I hated him for doing that to Giovanni. Though in a demented way, I could kinda understand...) In the aftermath, Giovanni becomes partner to a "sugar daddy" and eventually is convicted of killing a man and is sentenced to death. Once Hella returns to France from Spain, David tries to "find [his] way in her again, as though she were a familiar,  darken'd room in which I fumbled to find the light." Ah, what great literary talent! Referring back to "that room" but in the context of trying to re-establish a heterosexual relationship with Hella! Their first evening upon being reunited in Paris,
I held her close and kissed her, closing my eyes. 
Everything was as it had been between us, and at the same time everything was different. 
I told myself I would not think about Giovanni yet, I would not worry about him yet;
for tonight, anyway, Hella and I should be together with nothing to divide us. 
Still, I knew very well that this was not really possible: he had already divided us. 
I tried not to think of him sitting alone in that room, wondering why I stayed away so long. (160)
Ah, it would seem David's ability at self-delusion has finally self-destructed...

It is in David's last encounter with Giovanni that his inability to reconcile his homosexuality with the reality of his life expresses itself as he accuses Giovanni of being afraid to "go after a woman":
[Giovanni] was pale. 'You are the one who keeps talking about what I want. 
But I have only been talking about who I want.'
'But I'm a man, [David] cried, 'a man! What do you think can happen between us?'
'You know very well,' said Giovanni slowly, 'what can happen between us. 
It is for that reason you are leaving me...If I could make you stay, I would.' (189)
I felt so very sorry for Giovanni at this point. While I had some insight into David's decision, I still felt sympathy for Giovanni--he was in love! That is all he knew! And although David did love him, he realized, for a myriad of reasons, he was unable to commit to their relationship long-term. Always sad for one person to be totally committed and the other is unable to reciprocate those feelings... And then, David is similarly unable to commit to Hella, in that she senses his reticence in their own relationship which now exists, and she is unable to accept his distance and their lack of sincere spontaneous interaction. 

I particularly appreciated Baldwin's emphasis on Guillarme, the murdered man, being mythologized in the aftermath of his death, mainly owing to the fact that his family once held an immense fortune and well-known history of affluence. Other homosexual males living in the same area were totally shunned by society, as was he in his lifetime. Amazing what a difference 'social status' can make, isn't it?

As mentioned above, I initially thought this was a depressing read, but then realized it was simply a description of life for those who are marginalized and forced to try to reconcile their feelings in accordance with society's mores and norms, and that more often than not, this is impossible for individuals to accomplish successfully. Ah...it is just so sad...

Have you read this novel?
Have you ever wondered about it?
I would strongly recommend that you experience it for yourself. 
I found it to be informative and enlightening in a very personal way.
I could easily connect certain aspects of David's relationships to my own.

Happy reading!
--Lynn

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Literary Wives #37


Dorothy Whipple is now one of my favorite authors. 
I do not remember which of the Literary Wives' 
hosting bloggers submitted this as a suggested read, 
but I am so very glad they did!
This exemplifies what I term to be "classical writing";
a "slice of life," if you will, with an emphasis
on characterization and not so much on 'action'.
I cannot remember when I have despised a character 
as much as I despised Geoffrey. 
Honestly, as I read, I was fantasizing all 
sorts of ways in which he could die...
preferably a very slow and extremely painful death...
much as that to which he subjected Charlotte, his wife.
This book was originally released in 1943.

Celia Brayfield's afterword in the Persephone print edition describes Whipple's writing process, explaining that she required several years to complete this book, given the distraction that was WW II. In actuality it was released as a serial publication and it wasn't until the first installments were released that she was truly able to focus and finally complete the book. I hope to make time to watch the movie sometime this next week. It will be particularly  interesting to view the performance of James Mason since it has been noted as an incredibly skilled portrayal of the reprehensible Geoffrey Leigh. Interestingly, Mason admitted to filming while suffering from "a permanent hangover" as a way to deal with his frustration of the role and the British film industry in general at the time. (Wikipedia) I would think any decent human being would need to use some sort of personality-altering substance to enact such an evil and cruel persona. Ugh! 

At least 3-4 times throughout the book Whipple sneaks in some social commentary regarding urban environments juxtaposed against rural/country environments. Being a displaced 'farm girl', I appreciated her comments regarding the fact that humans have truly messed up their world. Lucy muses about the need for people living in cities to keep themselves "aloof" while not engaging with every person they encounter as a matter of self-preservation since they would be exhausted otherwise. Whereas, those living in the country have such peace and tranquility living in comparative isolation, that they can still enjoy and welcome interacting with others when the opportunity presents itself. Quite insightful! Though as usual Lucy is appalled by Vera's lack of tact and foresight when she claims in a loud and clear voice while riding the train into town that she never does know what "that stuff" is in the fields... These people make their living by planting, harvesting, and selling "that stuff" and Lucy imagines she can sense the "shock" such a seemingly uncaring and inconsiderate comment sends throughout the other train passengers.

As you may surmise, this book describes the marriages of all three sisters: Charlotte, Vera, and Lucy. Each marriage is unique, as is each sister. Lucy is the oldest who at the age of 18 in the wake of their mother's death had to forego her educational/career plans to become full-time caretaker of the house, her siblings (Charlotte 13, Vera 11), and serve as her father's companion. She fulfilled these duties until her sisters were married and her father had died. While she could remember her mother sitting in a chair and knitting in the evenings while overseeing the children and "listening" to her father, Lucy soon realized her mother was NOT actual listening to him but rather simply responding as if she was, which was enough to keep him talking. He felt renewed by such 'conversation' with his wife. However, once Lucy truly began listening to him, she noted that he charged her with helping him 
...keeping the boys straight and watching continually over the girls. 
There was a strain of wildness or weakness in the family.
'From your mother's side, you understand,' he said. 'Not from mine. 
My people, Lucy, are and always have been a steady, upright, God-fearing lot.' (3-4)
Lucy realizes she and her siblings have always poked fun at her father's family for not being as fun as her mother's family, but now that she must assume responsibility for them all, she "sees the dangers." Interesting how the change in roles shifts her perceptions! 

Charlotte and Vera, especially Vera, treated Lucy just as they would a parent, becoming silent once she entered a room, lying to her...
They made her weep into her pillow at night, because she loved them with all her heart.
They were her responsibility, her anxiety and her happiness. (8)
Ah, yes, children can easily bring you joy as well as heartache. Once her sisters were married and her father had passed on, Lucy was finally able to live her own life and managed to marry a man everyone considered to be "solid" and "stolid" but who became almost as loving and caring as Lucy through the years as he helped her deal with her family. He was kind and considerate--a true partner in so many ways. They were not blessed with any biological children of their own, but ended up parenting some of Lucy's nieces/nephews. 

Vera was the "beauty" of the three and quite the drama queen! She would lie and manipulate to get her way even with her own siblings! Her family would cater to her every whim, even allowing her to lead whenever they were together simply "ranging" behind her.  

Charlotte is charmed by Geoffrey and becomes his abuse victim until her untimely death as a result of alcohol and drug addiction to escape/cope with her daily life. 

We are here to answer 
the Literary Wives question: 

What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife?

Please make sure you read 
the other hosting bloggers' reviews:

Naomi of Consumed by Ink

#LiteraryWives

I thought this book had much to say about 
"being a wife"!
There were three marriages and 
three very different relationships...

The book opens with a scene of Lucy and William at the breakfast table. Amazingly, William's treatment of his tie in the mornings denotes much about Lucy's marriage... 
He knew he was splashing, too, because from time to time he made absent dabs at the tie 
with his free hand, rubbing the porridge in under the delusion that he was rubbing it away. 
This was a concession to Lucy. He didn't care about his tie, but he knew she did and 
Lucy felt a faint pride. After eleven years of marriage she was still secretly gratified 
by any evidence of her influence over William, because William was less influenced by other people than seemed humanly possible. If William didn't go his own way, which he usually did, 
he went hers; but never, if he could help it, other people's. (1)
Awww...isn't that sweet? I felt this scene accurately depicted this marriage grounded in mutual respect where each person worked with the other. In my opinion, any relationship between two people requires certain "concessions," but especially if people are living together, and particularly if they are in an intimate relationship. I gathered that William and Lucy had a stable relationship where each was comfortable with the other. As a wife, Lucy seems to have maintained her nurturing behaviors much as she had and continued to apply to both of her sisters, and now also to their children. She was a born nurturer. I do believe that was a basic foundation of her personality, but also perhaps it had been further developed as a result of serving as mother to her siblings and companion to her father in the wake of her own mother's death. This was definitely the best of the three marriages...it just goes downhill from here.

Vera, the spoiled brat "beauty," ends up marrying Brian who provides quite well for himself, his wife, and children. Though we do learn that his mother contributed most of the money that allowed Vera to constantly host dinners and parties, and paid for many of the servants. However, Vera being Vera, she decides her husband is boring and seeks male companionship elsewhere. Right under poor Brian's nose! In their own/his house! She is constantly playing hostess and guests are seemingly always in the house. Neither she nor Brian spend much time with their two daughters, Meril and Sarah. Vera fully expects to be waited upon hand and foot, wherever she is! 

In the wake of his mother's death, Brian ends up moving to the United States, taking Meril (and her new governess) along. Ostensibly, this move would enable him to run the United States portion of the business more closely and would be safer in the event of war. Eventually he invites Vera and Sarah to join him as he chooses to remain in the U.S. In response to Vera's insistence to remain in the U.K., he divorces her and marries the governess. Ha! Then Vera becomes enamored with Terry, a younger man who is married to another woman. Though it is his wife who actually has money and supports them. Vera does everything possible to retain her good looks, including dying her hair which was unheard of in 1943. In the end, she refuses to believe the reality of Terry's manipulation of her teenage niece, Judith, and decides to be just as victimized as was Charlotte; they are moving to South Africa to 'camp'. As Lucy's husband, William, notes, that 700 a year from Vera will likely prove handy to Terry, and her, as they embark upon this camping expedition/lifestyle. Vera. Camping. Yeah, that's a laugh! This, the woman who must have everything done for her!

Once Sarah and Judith both walk up to Vera's house, each with a packed suitcase, Lucy realizes they will remain there and just hopes that Vera will relinquish custody to her. Though she is rather concerned about William's reaction to two teenage girls living with them permanently, she needn't have been. Upon being asked, William replies,
'They're an improvement upon their mothers in one way, at least...
They obviously think of each other instead of all the time of themselves.' (440)
It was ironic that of these three sisters, only one appeared to have a truly nurturing nature, but she is the one to never become pregnant and have children of her own. Thankfully for Sarah and Judith, she is able to take them in and finally provide a loving environment with subtle direction and guidance. 

And finally we come to the victimization/'marriage' of poor Charlotte. Whereas Vera had all the self-confidence in the world, Charlotte seemingly had none. The only thing she appeared to be certain of was her sick devotion to her "husband" (only in a legal sense)/abuser Geoffrey Leigh. As Brayfield notes, this book was quite unique in that it was one of the first to ever describe an abusive marriage relationship in such detail. U.S. society was still very much patriarchal at the time, so men could treat women however they pleased with no repercussions...particularly within a marriage relationship. A man had all legal rights backing him while a woman was still subjugated to the whims of a husband--mysogyny in its purest form! Divorce was relatively rare and only granted when adultery could be proven (As confirmed by "witnesses"! I do wonder exactly how that worked in a courtroom!) and you would expect, it was men who divorced women, not the other way around! Women were only to run a household and never to work outside the home or earn their own money. If they were lucky they had inherited money, though that typically meant some man was going to marry and use them for that consistent income/"free living." 

One day at lunch, Charlotte has finally had enough of putting on appearances for the servants and children and arrives totally disheveled, rather drunk, with her "ravaged face, swollen-lipped, [and] red-eyed," even Geoffrey was "startled."
For the first time, her face silenced him. By God, he thought, she looks awful. 
He felt something like awe, not of her, but of the effect his anger had on her. 
Obscurely, he felt a pride in his domination of another human being...the line of reasoning
her pursued was that he must be important if what he did had such disastrous consequence. (120)
I do not have enough words to express my amount of hatred and disgust for Geoffrey's character! UGH!! We do learn that as a child he was coddled to the extreme and always the center of attention of his mother and sister who lavished nothing but praise on him. His father had died and was not a presence in his life.

Geoffrey not only manipulates and overwhelms his wife, but also his eldest child, a daughter, Margaret. I honestly don't know which made me angrier, his abuse of his wife or his daughter! He was one sick bastard! Even as a baby he "trained" her to respond to him as he wished, by withholding affection, etc. Though there was never any direct mention of him approaching his daughter sexually, in my mind, that was virtually inevitable. He even confiscates letters from the boy she met while away at Vera's the only time she was permitted away from home/her father, just so he can maintain total control over her. Margaret becomes his secretary and 'constant companion', neglecting any attempt at a life of her own or an education. When he doesn't get his way or needs to focus everyone's attention back on himself, he fakes heart trouble, gasping and writhing on the floor. These 'fits' usually coincide with actual indigestion attacks, so that afterwards he can order a bicarbonate of soda and then relieve his discomfort. Naturally, he has demanded that a doctor no longer be called when these occur...since, of course, there would be a risk that he might reveal Geoffrey's deception to his family and servants! 

Geoffrey finally managed to totally alienate his other two children, Judith and Stephen, all over a dog someone had given to him, so he simply passed it on to his children who had wanted a dog all along. As you can imagine, that caused great hardship to Geoffrey. There was another being in the house who the children cared for much more than him! And his name was Crusoe! Attention was being diverted from him as their father (and abuser) and they were disobeying him! Unacceptable! So he made sure to humiliate and terrorize them by literally handing the dog off to the innkeeper where they sometime vacationed. Just as they were packed and leaving. However, Crusoe, wounded, exhausted, and starved, somehow traveled all the miles back to them at their home. But Geoffrey found out and managed to take him away, for good. Stephen and Judith never forgave him. He had to really work to get back into Margaret's good graces, but finally he did, especially as he would take her to the cinema and/or performances, just as he should have been accompanied by his wife and/or the whole family! What a manipulator! When Charlotte informed him she was moving her things, Geoffrey laughed:
What an anticlimax...You can't stand any more so you'll sleep in the turret-room.
Sleep where you damn well like. What the hell does it matter to me? (180)
Even Cook gave notice.
She said she couldn't fancy cooking for a man who would destroy a little dog in cold blood, 
to say nothing of breaking a boy's heart. 
'You're a bigger fool than I took you for,' said Geoffrey blandly, paying her off. (181)

Stephen left home as soon as he could save enough money. Lucy had taken Judith under her wing, but in the end, she and Geoffrey fought over Charlotte so that he managed to grant custody of Judith to Vera, in the aftermath of Charlotte's death. Vera had not fought with him. Geoffrey and Margaret moved so he could take another position with his company, and Judith went to live with Vera, whose married boyfriend manipulated the girl, forcing her to run away with Vera's daughter, Sarah, to Aunt Lucy and Uncle Williams' house. Poor Sarah. Her only true skill was dancing, which was disfavored by Brian's mother and sister, while Meriel was the favored granddaughter. I believe Sarah suffered from ADD, it was extremely difficult for her sit still and listen, etc. The fact that she loved to dance with the movement and energy required rather proved that diagnosis to me...

Vera has some personal revelations after Charlotte dies and swears that she will change and do better... She claims to regret the way she ignored Brian and intends to make up for it in the future by caring better for Sarah, and Lucy, etc. Unfortunately for those around her, this change of heart doesn't last long. Once her mother-in-law dies and Brian departs, Vera is ostracized and no longer has any man she wishes at her disposal to manipulate as she pleases. This is brand new for Vera, so she immediately latches onto Terry, in order to avoid being alone once Sarah is in bed for the night. 

It is during this point in her life that Vera begins to realize just how different she and Lucy are. Whipple brings religion into this book intermittently, but it is here that she has Lucy explain her beliefs to Vera in some detail. Vera believed Lucy's open interest in God was "eccentric." Lucy explained that
She wanted to know more and more about God...life was discovery and that was why you didn't need to mind about growing old, because the older you got the farther you went 
down the road of life and the more you found out. 
She thought that after death you went on learning. 
She really believed it, you could see it in her face, glowing with an interest 
which merely surprised Vera who felt nothing of it at all. (286)
Vera starts bemoaning the fact that she will become an "old hag" and no man will want her. 
'I don't know why that worries you, said Lucy staunchly. 
'You've never valued the admiration you've aroused, so far as I've seen.
'Ah, but you know that the more you have of anything the less you want it. 
I'm afraid the opposite holds true, too. 
I'll probably be going about looking anxiously for it when I can't get it.'
'Of course you won't,' said Lucy. 'You'll be too proud.'
'I don't know what I'll be when old age starts undermining my defences,' said Vera. (285-6)
As her brothers used to say, "Vera doesn't want much...she only wants everything." And Brian makes sure that ends when he obtains a divorce from her and forces her to live on her own with an allowance of 700 a year. 

When Lucy finally visits Vera in the aftermath of her divorce, Vera realizes that something in Lucy makes her never give up caring for others, especially her sisters and that without Lucy's oversight, the three of them would have lost touch years ago. Though Lucy urges Vera to send Sarah to boarding school, Vera is adamantly opposed. 
'Why do you harp on it?' said Vera coldly. 'I've said I won't.'
'She's going to have a bad time then,' said Lucy. 'She's devoted to you, 
and that's pathetic because she isn't devoted to anyone else. If you let her down, she'll suffer. 
If you're not prepared to put yourself aside and devote yourself to her, 
you'd far better send her away to a good school where other people will look after her, 
and keep her out of emotional conflicts until she's old enough to face them. 
You're making yourself Sarah's only companion and it's a great responsibility.'
'I wish you'd mind your own business,' said Vera. (313-314)
Poor Lucy! Forever the mother to her two sisters! Vera was never a real wife to Brian and she certainly was never a real mother to her daughters. She definitely gets what she deserves, a life alone or with a younger man who will not provide for her and will eventually ditch her for someone younger/prettier. 

Charlotte eventually becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol in order to cope and ends up dying young. Lucy and William are raising Judith and Sarah throughout the remainder of their teen years. While Vera goes off with Terry, with disastrous results in the future, as Lucy and William are certain. 

What of these wives? Charlotte was truly a mouse and unable to cope with or remover herself from Geoffrey's abuse. She was committed to her marriage, come what may, and as a result died young, abandoning her children. Vera was selfish and self-serving to the core and it ended up biting her in the ass once Brian abandoned her. It's rather certain she'll end up abandoned in the end, old and lonely. Perhaps Lucy will be able to rescue her in the future, but perhaps not... Meanwhile, Lucy is the only one who ended up in a marriage that was a partnership. Whipple does demonstrate that a man/husband could be manipulative and abusive with no consequences whatsoever to him for his behavior (Geoffrey), however, a woman who acted the same way could be punished, not only being ostracized from society, but also financially (Vera). However, Lucy was compassionate, kind, and had common sense, though she was never really allowed nor allowed herself to be a child, she was the one of these three sisters who had a reasonably sane adulthood and marriage. I find it interesting that the mysogyny of the day is further depicted by Lucy's own father: he feels it necessary to remove his sons from Geoffrey's manipulation and influence, but has no qualms about his daughter falling under the man's spell. She's 'just a girl,' after all!

Have you read this book? 

If you're at all interested, I would highly recommend it.
Wait for Me, Jack by Addison Jones
Please join us April 1 (no foolin'!)

for our reviews and discussion of 

Wait for Me, Jack by Addison Jones. 

This is a work of historical fiction. 

I am anxious to read it! 

I think the time period will have much to offer in analyzing a marriage!

Happy reading,
--Lynn