Details on the Spring Book Discussion from Lottie Waggoner. Dates are March 18th, April 15th, and May 13th. The discussions will be at the library on these days (all Thursdays) starting at 7:00.
The New Woman
At the end of the Victorian Era, the New Woman emerged. She wanted to take up more space in the public arena. She wanted a voice in the way the government was run. She wanted the vote. She wanted to bob her hair, wear a short skirt, and dance the Charleston.
The three novels we are reading this spring all feature protagonists who are New Women. Lily, Bea, and Mildred live during the beginning of the 20th century and break the gender norms of that time. Their lives are not only interesting historically, but also emotionally because their struggles are the struggles that women at the beginning of the 21st century still face.
Each of these novels have been made into movies, so pop some corn as we will be viewing clips to decide if the book or the movie garners our “2 thumbs up.”
House of Mirth
Edith Wharton wrote about the privileged society she lived in and was critical of it. Her protagonist Lily Bart is stunningly beautiful, but she is almost 30 – and single. Throughout this novel Lily attempts to manipulate the marriage marketplace. She has no family fortune, so she has to parlay her beauty into the most financially beneficial union. Lily, however, asserts her own will.
Through Lily’s eyes, we are witnesses to a vicious society based on pretense and wealth. If this novel were made into a TV show, it would be called “The Real Housewives of Fifth Avenue.”
Imitation of Life
If you are only familiar with the 1959 movie version (there was another film adaptation in 1934) of Hurst’s novel, you will be amazed at the differences. The novel’s focus is on Bea Pullman’s rise to success in the waffle-house business between the world wars after the death of her husband.
The sub-plot of Delilah’s daughter’s rejection of her mother and her race by “passing” as white was also totally revised by Hollywood. It should make for rousing discussion!
James M. Cain
As with Bea, Mildred enters the business world out of necessity, not choice. The Great Depression and a shiftless husband force her to look for any available job to feed her children. But, her talent was always right there – Mildred can bake a mean pie. It will make her millions.
This dark novel contains lots of scrumptious elements. The secondary characters are well-drawn, and the importance of friendship is a strong theme. However, the book’s strength is the sinister daughter, Veda. Is she a New Woman? How should we define her?
The movie won an Academy Award for Joan Crawford.