Thursday, February 19, 2004

How Not to Be Happily Married

I finished reading The Bride Stripped Bare last night, a little book that my Bookman received an advanced proof of in the mail recently. As I mentioned before, it is by Anonymous and not exactly a book I would choose to read. The back of the book explains that it is about a woman who "disappears, leaving behind an incendiary diary chronicling a journey of sexual awakening. To all who knew her, she was the Good Wife: happy, devoted, content." It also tries to explain that "the author decided to remain anonymous so she would feel absolutely free to explore a woman's inner world." Everything about this book said I would not like it. But I did, mostly. First of all let me say the book is not a diary, it is a manuscript the main character (unnamed of course), wrote about herself and those in her life, inspired by an Elizabethan book written by an anonymous woman that used to belong to her Grandfather. The Bride Stripped Bare is about the woman's sexual awakening. However, in the afterward the anonymous author explains that she sees it as being about "a woman finding her voice." The book is small and reads fast. Each chapter, or "lesson" as they are labeled here, is no more than 5-6 pages and sometimes as short as a small paragraph. The writing is crisp and clean, an easy, enjoyable read. I have a few quibbles with the book though. It made me feel sad. The woman has trapped herself in a passionless marriage, deciding to give up joy and good sex for stability and security. When she gets the chance to change her life she doesn't. Then there is the ending. I don't want to give it away, but I do have to say I think it is a cop-out. Granted, this story is hard to bring to a conclusion, but the author could have found a different way to close the book. It kind of reminded me of The Horse Whisperer in that respect. The Bride Stripped Bare is not as contrived as The Horse Whisperer, but it flirts with it. The ending and the book making me feel sad bothers me because I get the impression that I am not supposed to feel sad. I am supposed to feel happy and exhilarated by the woman finding her voice and learning who she is and deciding what she wants. But again we get to the ending and now it reminds me of The Awakening by Kate Chopin. At the end of that book Edna has "found herself" and goes out for a swim in the ocean. She swims too far and drowns. The reader is left to wonder did she commit suicide or was it an accident? Perhaps such ambiguity was necessary one hundred years ago, but not today. Then there is the whole anonymous thing. It feels like a publicity ploy to me. Who in this day and age has to be anonymous in order to talk about women and sex? I understand it might be a play on the fact that the book that inspires the main character was written by an anonymous woman and a frame for the novel which is supposed to be the book written by the main character. It still rankles me though. And then my Bookman found out in one of the trade magazines the author is Nikki Gemmell (Alice Springs). There is also a picture of the book as it is to be released next month. It has a different cover and the author's name appears on it. Can you say quick change in marketing plan? I don't want you to think I didn't like the book, I did. Heck I finished reading it during commercials of West Wing last night. Just don't expect anything more than a light beach-type read.