Skip to main content

Review: Thank Heaven Fasting, by EM Delafield


Pages: 233
Original date of publication: 1932
My copy: 1988 (Virago Modern Classics)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Amazon UK, July 2012

Thank Heaven Fasting falls along the same lines of Consequences, EM Delafield’s novel of a young Victorian woman who can’t seem to get her act together. Monica Ingram’s family belongs to upper crust London society, and the novel opens with Monica’s coming-out into society. The title of the novel comes from As You Like It: Thank heaven, fasting, for a good man’s love,” said by Rosamond as she’s posing as a man.

At the house in Easton Square, a rigid hierarchy remains in place, personified by Monica’s rather stern mother. The rules are absolute; even being allowed out up her own picture is a sort of victory, a symbol of independence, for Monica. She’s well aware of what’s expected of her: marry or perish, because women of her class weren’t trained for much else. And the goal was to be married within three years, or else run the risk of remaining a spinster (personified in the codependent Marlowe sisters, the eldest of whom, Frederica, is “on the shelf” at the age of 24). The rules are complicated: never let a man become familiar with you by using your Christian name, for example. And all of these rules are expressed in entendres, making it that much more difficult for more modern readers to understand (Delafield has a habit of having Monica mentally “translate” her mother’s words, which makes the flow of the book chunky in places). Everything a woman does must be at the expense of a man, too; or, at least getting a husband. As such, the characterizations of the men in this novel are pretty flat; none are memorable or likeable.

Although Monica has been raised to accept these rules without question, she still falls prey to the same pitfalls that many other young women do, in the form of a young mane named Captain Christopher Lane, who, the reader can tell, is up to no good. So it’s a testament to Monica’s youth that she can’t tell the difference between sincerely and falseness. It’s interesting to watch the cycle of Monica’s life: from acceptance of the rules imposed on her to a kind of rebellion to eventual conformism. Unlike Alex, the heroine of Consequences, Monica is neither brave nor different, and it’s because of this that her story doesn’t end as tragically as it could have.


Comments

skiourophile said…
I've not read that one yet but you've made me very keen to now. (Also, I smiled [wryly] when I saw you mention 'the rules' - things don't seem to change for women in the 'meat market', do they?!)

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is an old dotard, her third locks her up in the house for days and won't let her out; and the last is a fop who a…

Review: This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart

Pages: 254Original date of publication: 1964My edition: 1964 (William Morrow)Why I decided to read: it was 90 degrees outside at the time and I decided it was time to read another book by a favorite authorHow I acquired my copy: from Susanna Kearsley, December 2009Sometimes, whether or not I decide to read a book depends on the weather. Mary Stewart’s books are best read on either very hot or very cold days; and since it was 90 degrees out one weekend a couple of weeks ago, I decided that this one would be perfect. And it was.This Rough Magic takes its title from The Tempest, a play from which this novel takes off. Lucy Waring is a struggling actress who comes to visit her sister on Corfu. One of her neighbors is a renowned actor who’s taken a bit of a sabbatical and his son, a musician with whom Lucy comes to blows at first. This Rough Magic is vintage Mary Stewart, with a murder or two, a mystery, romance, suspense, and lots of magic thrown in. Lucy is your typical Mary Stewart hero…

Review: Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith

Pages: 294
Original date of publication: 1963
My edition: 2010 (Harper Perennial)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, Phoenix, January 2011


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorite books and I’ve read it, oh, half a dozen times, so I was interested to see how Joy in the Morning would compare.

Set in the late 1920s, Joy in the Morning begins when Annie, aged 18, comes to a small Midwestern college town where her fiancĂ©e, Carl, is in law school. The novel opens with their marriage in the county courthouse, and follows the couple through their first year or so of marriage. It’s a struggle, because Carl and Annie are basically children themselves, for all the ways in which Carl tries to appear more adult-like.

Annie is endearing; she’s ignorant but a voracious reader, reading everything from Babbitt to War and Peace. Betty Smith’s novels are pretty autobiographical; Joy in the Morning is (unofficially) a kind of sequel to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—cert…