Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Morgesons

This book was not the best choice for a bus read, but I plodded through it from Ottawa to Kenora this week (on my way to Lynne and Josh's wedding). This bildungsroman by Elizabeth Stoddard was recommended (and loaned) to me by a professor, so I figured it would be best to read it (and return it) before I'm no longer an Ottawan. So, I read it, and I'll return it shortly...once I think of something intelligent to say to the prof to whom the book belongs.

Really really basic plot summary: Cassandra Morgeson, rebellious even as a child, is the protagonist and narrator. The story recounts episodes of her childhood and youth, but focuses on her coming-of-age and her taboo relationship with Charles Morgeson ("no direct relation")--a relationship that is (perhaps subconsciously?) encouraged by Charles' wife, Alice. Secondary plot line tells the story of Cassandra's sister Veronica and her relationship with Cassandra's cast-off, Ben Somers. Charles dies tragically in a horse accident, which Cassandra surives because Charles flings her from the wagon. Later, Cassandra's mother dies. Veronica hooks up with Ben Somers, who is originally interested in Cassandra, but can't woo her away from Charles. Cassandra's father and Alice Morgeson hook up. Cassandra ends up with Ben Somers' older brother Desmond. Everybody's at least a bit twisted and crazy.

The novel is filled with sexual undertones so blink-and-miss-it subtle that I had to do some re-reading and convincing myself that no, that wasn't just my dirty mind adding a little spice to the work. Conversely, it's filled with dialogue and description so straightforward, that I had to re-read it and make sure that what I was reading really was happening.

Tinted with madness, and accented with thick strokes of envy, Stoddard definitely gives melodrama. The plot, however, moves incredibly slowly and climaxes about 3/5 of the way through the book.

Interesting items of note:
-Replete with references to reading and literature--similar to Jane Eyre
-Main (and other) character(s)'(s) rebellion against religion - might be worth reinvestigating (3rd-generation New England Puritans who've snubbed their forefathers' ideals...)
-Female characters' willingness to confine themselves to small spaces - emphasis on "the room"

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