Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gift is Right :)

Having just delighted myself with one old favorite, I wasn't ready to go back to the humdrum of ordinary books, so I picked up The Morning Gift to continue the ecstasies of great reading material.  This is a book that I read for the first time I think about two and half years ago (in Penina's house in Far Rockaway, actually) and which I have since read I think at least 5 or 6 times - it is *that* good.  I've said about it before that I think it's has the most romantic "moments" of any book I have ever read - the obvious ones like Ruth and Quin on the hill at Bowmont, Quin saving Ruth from drowning, Quin's happiness when she loses the annulment papers, his difficulty speaking of her to Pilly... but then there's Quin watching Ruth page turn for Heini, Quin reminding himself that Heini's going to be the one marrying her, Quin folding the bottle glass into Ruth's hand, Quin greeting her with the words "my dear" when she comes to his house... and trust me, there are more.  This book is just a perfectly executed romance.

The thing is, though there are a lot of people who agree with me 100% on this, there are some others who don't really like the book at all.  Huvi my darling sister is one of those - her explanation is that Ruth is a total Mary Sue.  Now it's not that I can't see what she's saying - I mean Ruth has that quality I used to find incredibly annoying in Anne Shirley, and Pollyanna and all those people who find life altogether too meaningful.  Well actually the Mary-Sue-ishness quality has to do with everyone loving them... but that wouldn't be annoying except that everyone loves them for their unique whimsicality or whatever.  So I definitely see what Huvi is saying, but the truth is, I personally don't notice that so much in this book.   The Mary Sue syndrome is, in a way, part of a larger issue, where authors kind of push their views on to the reader, forcing them to accept things that the reader does not actually believe in order to enjoy the book.  In Mary Sue, it is the lovableness or the infallibility of the central character that is in question.  Here, though, what I find much more galling than Ruth's apparent magnetism is the author's love for Viennese culture in general and music in particular, and her liberal-for-the-times attitudes about religion and other stuff (though actually this book was written in like 1993, so it was more like just plain liberalism).  To really enjoy this book, you have to buy in to its utter romanticism - the idea that there is actually this transcendent power of music, of natural beauty, and, of course, of love.  I mean, do I have a problem buying into it? Do I ever? :) But the point is, in a really well written book, I wouldn't even be aware of buying into anything.  Whereas here, I have to consciously swallow my skepticism to plunge into the story completely.

But you know what? I can do that :) And *boy* is it worth it... Like I said, the overt romance in this book is basically unprecedented (sidenote here - by overt I don't mean it's Quin declaring his love every second, that would be stupid. I just mean it's little lines or scenes that just wring my heart in their angst or pathos or devotion or whatever- so, P., don't get all snobby about how *you* enjoy subtle romance more than I do... :)) and the story is a purrty darn good one.  English gentleman rescues talented, pretty, cultured, but in need of rescue Austrian girl (let's leave the Jewish out of it, seeing as she isn't really Jewish anyway...)  and guess what? everyone *does* love her - or at least everyone who matters.  I can't say nothing bad ever happens to her, but since she's the type for whom all that matters is the people she loves, and the people she loves are never really harmed, nothing really bad ever happens. 

As for tension... I guess there's a little... but not really - the only real marring of the bucolic romance of this book is of course the World War II backdrop.  Because as I've mentioned before, I hate war books.  Now this one isn't really a war book, since only the very end takes place after the onset of WWII, and there's a nice epilogue at the end of the war, where almost everyone survives... but still the war's specter is very much in evidence and that does tend to pull things down a bit... oh well. 

So what else? Writing-wise, I've already mentioned the inexpertly handled melodramatic romantic idealism.  But I think Eva Ibbotson does a fantastic job with the book in another way.  Even though I've read this book numerous times, the climatic moments are handled so well I feel the same excitement I felt reading them the first time.  I read every word of my favorite scenes slowly so as not to rush them - and they are set up so perfectly that I do feel like I can enjoy them completely, despite my knowing *exactly* what's coming next (and by that I mean the next sentence, not the next plot twist).  That's because Ibbotson has this way of writing exactly what is needed and not a bit more.  Like when Ruth is reunited with her parents at the beginning of the book, she describes the scene from the point of view of the spinster sister cafe owners, who just see Leonie upsetting their carefully put together arrangements, but realize what is happening.  So we get to realize what is happening along with them.  And when Ruth tells Quin how connected she feels to Bowmont, it describes Quin's face, vulnerable and young, and tells his halting words... but we have to figure out on our own the emotion behind them... not that we have any trouble with that ;) So all in all, I'd say the writing is more of a help than a hindrance in my enjoyment of the book... not that I really needed any help :)

Verdict: 5/5
Food:  So it's a tiny drop saccharine, but who cares... let's go with my pound cake with the glaze that I never knew how to make so I poured it one hot and then it got melted into the cake and kept it moist... uhmmm.

No comments:

Post a Comment