“She wondered which wounds went deeper: the jagged wounds of reality, or the profound invisible bruises of the imagination?”– Vita Sackville-West, All Passion Spent
I loved this book, one of the best novels I’ve read so far this year. Former Vicereine, Lady Deborah Slane, is not your typical protagonist. She is 88 years old and is recently widowed after a marriage of 70 years. Lady Slane decides to live the independent life she had always dreamed of, much to the chagrin of her snobby children. She moves to a small cottage far from her children and thinks back on her youth, marriage, life as a political hostess, and motherhood.
Despite all the wealth and opulence in her life, her children and her dutiful husband, Lady Slane’s life hadn’t truly been happy. Her musings show that the things society often says are good for women may not actually be so in reality, and that many women often have to hide their true desires, and have had their youthful desires dashed or pushed to the side:
“Youth is full of hopes reaching out, youth will burn the river and set all the belfries of the world ringing; there is not only love to be considered, there are also such things as fame and achievement and genius—which might be in one’s heart, knocking against one’s ribs, who knows?”
The language in this book was so beautiful and philosophical. I probably have very little in common with Lady Slane, being from a different ethnicity, era, and class; yet I was able to put myself in her shoes. It was quite the experience.
It was a contemplative novel and there was a lot of wisdom in the pages:
“Nothing earns respect so quickly as letting your fellows see that you are a match for them. Other methods may earn you respect in the long run, but fir a short-cut there is nothing like setting a high valuation on yourself and forcing others to accept it. Modesty, moderation, consideration, nicety—no good; they don’t pay.”
This was a good book to read on International Women’s Day. Because of its content, it made me dwell on what it must feel like for a woman having to sacrifice her dreams for a husband and motherhood. Perhaps not so common in the West nowadays, but in many other parts of the world this is still the case. Women getting forced into a certain role when perhaps they aren’t ready, or they are interested in pursuing a different path is tragic.
Recommended to fans of Elizabeth Von Armin.