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Reviews: Books

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This week, I’m going to pause in the chapters and go back to one of the concepts I discussed at the beginning of this series of posts: moral accounting as a literary analysis technique. To reiterate, it’s a concept that came out of the field of cognitive linguistics, and specifically the sort of conceptual analysis of metaphoric structure pioneered by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson.

When one has re-read this story as many times as I have, it’s easy to forget that at the beginning of Chapter 12 (The Other Side of the Wall) we haven’t yet learned just who the Indian Gentleman is and why it’s relevant that he will take an interest in Sara. This chapter is something of a deep breath and a regrouping. We get a series of vignettes revealing what an array of characters are thinking about each other--though in some cases without knowing that’s who they’re thinking of.

I approached Kelly Gardiner’s novel Goddess with a combination of excitement and dread. It’s hard not to have mixed feelings when someone tackles the story of a real historic figure with whom one is already in love. In my completely biased opinion, anyone who encounters the biography of 17th century swordswoman and opera star Julie d’Aubigny, Mademoiselle de Maupin and does not fall in love has something wrong with them.

Today’s discussion springs off of the later part of Chapter 11 (Ram Dass) but ranges backward and forward to examine Sara’s concept of what it means to be a princess. After the encounter with Ram Dass, and being reminded of what it was like to be treated as someone rich and privileged, Sara contemplates her current expectations and makes a resolution. “If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”

Eighteenth-century opera and alchemy and convoluted plots against royalty and improbable romances! There's a lot of alignment with my interests there, so the only question was whether Burgis could pull it off in terms of the story-telling. Short version: yes.

Before I dig into the chapter in which Sara meets Ram Dass, I'd like to talk a bit about one curious inconsistency regarding him.

I had read a lot of discussions of this book before reading it and I wasn’t sure how that might affect my experience. In the end, not that much, I think. There were some aspects I was over-prepared for, some that I may have noticed more than I would have otherwise, but some of my strongest responses were to things I hadn’t remembered seeing discussed at all.

(A reminder that I'm running an e-book give-away this week of Through the Hourglass, a (now) Goldie-winning anthology of lesbian historical romance, that includes my story "Where My Heart Goes". Comment on any blog entry between now and next Monday, July 18, to be entered to win.)

In Chapter 10 (The Indian Gentleman) we see that Sara is regaining her balance in the way that she starts inventing “pretends” about the world around her once more. First, it was turning her garret into the Bastille. Now she watches the other people in the neighborhood of Miss Minchin’s school and starts telling herself romantic stories about them.


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