Sunday, June 12, 2011

Disappointingly True to Life

Dipping my toe in the waters of something different, I next picked up another multiply-renewed, off the shelf choice, Karen Joy Fowler's The Sweetheart Season.  Now I, like everyone else, know about KJF solely for her The Jane Austen Book Club, which I naturally read, since it has Jane Austen in the title and the movie adaption stars Hugh Dancy ;).  She also wrote a bunch of other books, apparently starting quite a while ago, and for some reason I took it into my head to give them (or one of them) a try.  KJF is definitely not chic lit, she's far more serious than that, but she's also definitely women's fiction, which is never a bad thing :) The Sweetheart Season, unlike The Jane Austen Book Club, is historical fiction, which is also usually a positive factor in the genre-weighing.

The interesting thing about the book was that it was not only historical fiction in the sense that it takes place in post WWII small town America, it is also almost historical in the sense that it was written (I think) in the early nineties.  It's really funny how I felt like the tone was so different... I don't know that I can really put my finger on it, or that it wasn't at least somewhat imagined, but I felt like the sensitivities of the author were really at least somewhat different than ours (that's ours as in us 21st-century-ers of course :)).  It could also have been that the setting was admittedly falsified, painting a rosy-simple picture of the war and post-war feel prevalent in the American midwest.  But whether it was real or not, it's certainly more what I want to read about - that time when there were heroes and good defeated evil (that's a good example of a nineties sensitivity, a preoccupation with the comparatively stark picture of good and evil of WWII vs. later).

But don't get me wrong, this book was not about the war at all, or even about trying to get back to normal afterwards.  This book was about the characters.  The back cover references Lake Woebegone, I don't really see the connection between this mostly sympathetic crew and the completely comedic Prairie Home Companion bunch, but they definitely have their funny side.  The girls, their families, their adjunct men, and the head-of-the-mill family each have their own strong and distinct personalities to make sure things get mixed up.  And they do get mixed up, at least enough to keep me entertained.  The book is ostensibly about baseball, but luckily doesn't spend too much time on any sporting detail at all.  It's really more about the girls finding their own way, which they do with varying degrees of success.

In the end, the question of course comes down to where the main character, Irini, ends up.  Irini is supposed to end up with Walter, that's for sure, and she does.  Unfortunately, instead of them getting together in a nice and satisfying finish, they just kind of fade into it, and then not really at all.  Actually they don't even really get together until two years after ending, and then it's pretty much off the scenes.  Irini's father gets a nice enough wife in the end, Irini herself gets out of the town, and lots of other good things happen, so it's not all bad.  But it's not really anything to celebrate either (and that's besides a really bizarre twist involving some early McCarthyism).  And that's before the epilogue... which we are in fact *warned* not to read, because it contains the information that Irini ends up breaking up with Walter :( (after they have a daughter, the narrator).  Way to bring us down to reality, dude.  So basically, I was fully prepared to enjoy this book, but that ending did not make it easy.

Verdict: 2.9/5

No comments:

Post a Comment