The story of a sensible woman who keeps within her means, refuses to be swamped by social engagements, lives a normal human life of varied interests, and has her own romance.
ure lost under a flying kimono. Mrs. Carew was expecting the twenty-eight members of the Santa Paloma Bridge Club on this particular evening, and now, at three o'clock on a beautiful April afternoon, she was almost frantic with fatigue and nervousness. The house had been cleaned thoroughly the day before, rugs shaken, mirrors polished, floors oiled; the grand piano had been closed, and pushed against the wall; the reading-table had been cleared, and wheeled out under the turn of the stairway; the pretty drawing-room and square big entrance hall had been emptied to make room for the seven little card-tables that were already set up, and for the twenty-eight straight-back chairs that Mrs. Carew had collected from the dining-room, the bedrooms, the halls, and even the nursery, for the occasion. All this had been done the day before, and Mrs. Carew, awakening early in the morning to uneasy anticipations of a full day, had yet felt that the main work of preparation was out of the way.
But now, in mid-aftern
I follow Linda Otto's reviews and usually agree with her, but I found this novel a lot less interesting than she did. (And not to quibble, but the heroine's do-it-yourself, reuse, make-do attitudes are in fact much more in line with Martha Stewart's anxiety-raising housekeeping and handicrafts than those of her spendthrift, keep-up-with-the-Joneses neighbors.)
Mrs. Burgoyne, widowed daughter of a millionaire, comes to an exclusive California town and sets its society women aback with her simple ways of living and devotion to children. Unfortunately, she is overly inclined to pontificate -- "Our business is children, and kitchens, and husbands, and meals...." -- which makes the novel rather dull.
Oh my. This was interesting. I had not read Kathleen Norris before this book. I will make a point of reading more!
This book skewers the one-slight-step-from-madness, all-controlling perfectionism of the Martha Stewart type (so M. S. wannabes might not want to read it--even though they might benefit the most!). It carefully lays before the reader a detailed display of the inanely supercilious life of a certain level of society's women. Empty-headed, vapid creatures caught up in nothing but frippery, "she proudly made certain that there were always fresh, stiff ribbons on little Jeanette's braids. Jeanette never wore used ribbons." Sigh. Lofty aspirations.
The "right" people (actually only the women) in this little California burg live with the almost overwhelming stress of creating the absolutely perfect home, perfect children, and perfect lifestyle. It is a terrific burden. Because they are so busy making things "beautiful," they miss the true beauty of their children, they do not know their husbands (except as money sources), and know nothing about themselves or the world around them. It is SO Martha Stewart. I sound like I am Martha bashing--I do not have anything against Martha personally, but I have idly wondered if she has not done more in her own way to raise the anxiety level among women than any other living being. Did women have as much angst about getting the vote as they have now about whether they are properly "homekeeping" as M.S. calls it. I don't mean to eschew civilized behavior--we need not grunt and point, or talk with our mouths full, or eat with our fingers, but can we not live simply and still be civilized?
But, I digress.
Anyway, a fresh breeze blows into this little town in the form of young Mrs. Burgoyne. A widow of a diplomat, she has been everywhere, done everything, and has outgrown any need for pretense. She adores parenting her children. She can talk politics, art, literature, and world affairs with the men. The men love it. The women cannot understand it. She wears simple, comfortable clothing, gives simple entertainments (again, the women are appalled) and, worst of all, works to help the poorer people of the town, those who the townswomen have always shunned. It is fascinating to watch how her positivity, true kindness, and gentleness make a much-needed change in the community...and she finds romance. A really worthwhile and fun read.