The Light of Paris follows the parallel stories of Madeleine in 1999 and Margi in 1924. I’m going to be harsh here: if you enjoy reading about upper-class, affluent, well-educated young women bemoaning their fate and their entirely self-imposed inability to follow their dreams, while making no effort to take control of their lives but instead choosing to be whinging doormats, then enjoy. For me, it was irritating beyond belief.
The story reminds me of another I read recently, “A Better Man,” which also follows uninteresting wealthy people with no real problems other than those they create themselves. I commented then how odd it is that wealthy people figure in so much of fiction, while ordinary people do not. It’s as if the 95:5 real life ratio of ordinary to wealthy is reversed in fiction (proportions made up here, but principle is true). This has been the case forever in England, where publishing was historically elitist (a tiny proportion of published works in the 19th and first half of 20th century were written by ordinary people, which leads to the rather odd perception overseas that all English people live like the lords of Downton Abbey. The lower echelons are invisible). But it seems this elitism might be the case in America as well, which is unexpected. See this link:
The question that puzzles me is: at a time when supposedly traditional publishing is struggling, and it is harder than ever before to get a publishing deal, and many great authors are forced to go indie – why is any publisher still choosing to put out this dated drivel? It’s absolutely baffling.
Quirky thought: one of my great grandmothers raised eight children alone in the slums of the East End of London, on a pittance of a widow’s pension. She made children’s shoes for the wealthy by hand, to supplement her family’s diet which was never far off starvation – and she succeeded, they survived, only then she lost two sons in the first world war.
You want to write about why feminism is important? Her wages were around half or less (when she worked from home) of what a man would earn. She had no voice and no vote. Her story was a story of success, because she triumphed over adversity and her children survived, at a time when women had no rights and no opportunity in the workplace, and over 20% of children in that part of London at that time didn't live to see their first birthday. For women like these, feminism did not mean the chance to "find herself" and her airy-fairy readily-abandoned art. It meant the right to survive and live in dignity not desperation.
Her story was not extraordinary, quite the opposite.
But we don’t read about those women (who were probably barely literate so wouldn’t have left handy diaries for their great-granddaughters to find in modern times). We’re offered pap about rich girls agonizing for 300 pages on why they’re not as sylph-like as the other rich girls. Meh.
What Works And Why?
We read to escape, enjoy, engage, and find out more about our world. So reading is great - but what makes a great read? A page dedicated to short analyses of how writers engage readers.