No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011/12: Fast Women -- Jennifer Crusie

It's a terrible thing to be married to the wrong man... It's like being trapped at a bad party that never ends. The voices are always too loud and the jokes are dumb and you end up standing against a wall, hoping nobody notices you because it's so much easier that way. It's like you're trying to avoid somebody who's the only other person at the party. (p. 329)
  1. Recently-divorced Nell Dysart is starting to believe that she'll never feel anything again. Her ex-brother-in-law sets her up with a job at a small detective agency, and Nell winds up as secretary to Gabe McKenna. It is most definitely not love at first sight.
  2. Fast Women focusses on the importance of female friendship. Nell hangs out with Suze and Margie, formerly her sisters-in-law, still her closest (possibly her only) friends. Apart from Suze and Margie, Nell seems isolated: no family except her teenage son, no parents, no siblings.
  3. Suze is married to a man fourteen years older than her, and lives in constant fear of being replaced by a younger model. Her overwhelming fear -- for herself, and Nell, and Margie -- is of being alone.
  4. Margie's easily written off as a ditzy doormat, but that isn't just milk she's drinking, and her obsession with china (she panics when Nell won't unpack her Clarice Cliff teaset) originates in her observations of her own mother.
  5. None of the womens seem to be interested in having children. Nell has a teenaged son: Gabe has a teenaged daughter. But none of the three female protagonists seems to want (more) children, or be unhappy about being childless, or even to consider pregnancy as a way of prolonging a marriage.
  6. Fast Women is not (or not just) a celebration of female independence, but also a convoluted murder mystery full of family secrets and women who got in the way of them. "You really have to think, are those our choices? Sit still and be nice, or get killed?" (p.382)
  7. The core of the novel is the difficulty of being an independent, strong woman in the modern world. Not all of the women see men as the enemy (though some do): not all of the men are criminals who haven't been found out yet (though some are). Even the Dachshund Nell rescues (or steals) is a victim of oppression -- her abusive male owner named her SugarPie. Nell renaming her 'Marlene' is a nice little allegory about female empowerment.
  8. Even the most co-dependent characters strive to do things alone, make their own decisions, juggle work and home and love and obligation without being swamped by any aspect of life. They aren't teenagers, but competent adults whose occasional lapses in 'grown-up behaviour' are all the more necessary and deliberate.
  9. Gabe and his male relations have a history of being undone by secretaries -- marrying them, divorcing them, being the victims of theft. "Why do I always fall for the insane women?" one of them asks. "Why do you always drive them insane?" retorts Nell. (p.441)
  10. A fast and frivolous read, despite the grimy underside: not exactly chick-lit (at least as I understand it), not exactly post-feminist, but far more than just a workplace romance or a simply murder mystery.

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