Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Rating: 3 stars
Source: Purchased because of all the crazy internet love for this book
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.
After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?"

Review: Guys, I'm really torn.  I can't make up my mind about this book.  For everything I liked, there was something else I didn't like.  I think the main problem is that Vicky felt like a very twenty-first-century girl parading as a suffragette.  It wasn't that her language or her mannerisms felt modern - on the contrary, Waller did an excellent job of basing the language and mannerisms of her characters in 1909 - it was more that Vicky's thought processes and decision making felt modern.  

For example, Vicky, an engaged young woman, decides to lie to her parents and spend a weekend in the country with her young, attractive, and extremely good looking muse and his family.  I seriously doubt that any girl with Vicky's aristocratic upbringing and understanding of how fragile Edwardian reputations are would ever in a million years do that.  I get that Vicky's headstrong, but that decision, and others in the book, came across as flat out naive.  At the same time, I appreciated that she was independent and pursued her dreams in the face of opposition.  Then again, there's just no way that I'm buying this story as probable historical fiction.  Then again, I kind of wish Vicky's story were real.

I told you I was torn.

Suffrage is a wonderful and important topic, and I was happy to read a historical fiction set in that time frame.  Vicky herself doesn't totally get feminism (she is quite judgmental of others who disagree with her) but she does demand respect from others, so there's that.  The side characters shined as they worked together towards something they believed in.  Plus, that William Fletcher guy is quite the catch.  

At the same time, as I was reading this book and was marveling at how much our foremothers suffered in the name of suffrage, I became really discouraged at the sad fact that we still haven't eliminated sex-based discrimination.  I don't think my reaction is typical, and I have read other reviews from self-identifying feminists who loved this book, but, personally, I came away feeling discouraged.  Sexism is unfortunately alive and well.  I am so blessed to live in a time and place where my voice is largely heard, appreciated, and respected, but I get so angry when I think of all the women across history who were ignored, marginalized, bullied, and otherwise silenced solely because of their sex.  I get even angrier when I think of all the women alive today who live in such circumstances.  The injustice of it is infuriating and overwhelming.  Reading this book and looking at how hard people have fought for something that still isn't entirely realized makes me want to go crawl in a hole and die.

I won't.  Don't worry.  I will, however, recommend caution to any fellow feminists reading this book.  Perhaps your experience will be different, but mine was one of frustration and discouragement at how slow humanity moves at correcting something as simple and obvious as equality.  And now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go bury my head in Half the Sky until I regain my faith in humankind.

Bottom Line: I have no idea if you will like this.  Feminism is a hot topic here, but I think it is as likely to leave you angry as inspired in this book.  If you don't really care about the political aspect, this is a cute love story with a lot of fans who will happily gush with you.

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