– I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. –
London, 1922. It’s a cold November morning, the station is windswept and rural, the sky is threatening snow, and the train is late. Vivien Ripple, 20 years old and an ungainly five foot eleven, waits on the platform at Dilberne Halt. She is wealthy and well-bred—only daughter to the founder of Ripple & Co, the nation’s top publisher—but plain, painfully awkward, and, perhaps worst of all, intelligent. Nicknamed “the giantess,” Vivvie is, in the estimation of most, already a spinster. But she has a plan. That very morning, Vivvie will ride to the city with the express purpose of changing her life forever.
Enter Sherwyn Sexton: charismatic, handsome—if, to his dismay, rather short. He’s an aspiring novelist and editor at Ripple & Co whose greatest love is the (similarly handsome, but taller) protagonist of his thriller series. He also has a penchant for pretty young women—single and otherwise. Sherwyn is shocked when his boss’s hulking daughter, dressed in a tweed jacket and moth-eaten scarf, strides into his office and asks for his hand in marriage. But his finances are running thin to support his regular dinners on the town, and Vivien’s promise to house him in comfort while he writes is simply too good to refuse. What neither of them know is that she is pregnant by another man, and will die in childbirth in just a few months…
I chose this book because…
“What neither of them know is that she is pregnant by another man, and will die in childbirth in just a few months…” Whaaat? How can you just say that?? What happens next?? I love stories about imperfect women. And even though we already know that she dies, I hope I’m taken on an journey so that by the end of it, I’ll still find myself surprised (perhaps moved by emotions, or marveling at the circumstances surrounding her death, or something else altogether).
Upon reading it…
I liked the candid writing style. But after awhile, it didn’t become anything more and left something to be desired. It was just “this is what happened”—no suspense, no build up. I wasn’t sure what the climax or conflict was. The story is definitely more character-driven than plot-driven.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like the characters. I was looking forward to learning more about Vivvie, but from the beginning of the story to when she died, she was mostly just strange. So to me, her character felt very one-dimensional. Nevertheless, she was my favourite character, and I was sad that her character wasn’t explored more before her imminent death, because I still do think that she was interesting. I wasn’t really invested in any of the other characters, and there was more about her mother Adela than I cared for.
Starting the the book, I had thought that this metafiction and that knowing about Vivvie’s death at the beginning was refreshing. But now I wonder if the book would have benefitted from being written from first or third-person perspective, and for us not to know about Vivvie’s death until it happened. At least then Vivvie’s death could have been a point of climax and/or conflict.
It’s good to have someone to blame, so it’s not just happenstance. The purposelessness of real life can get depressing.
The art of fiction is to exaggerate reality and see where it leads you.
It’s the pretty ones that attract love and drive men to unreason and despair, and feature in literature and films; the others are just part of the furniture–unless, Vivvie thinks, they happen to have famous family names or be very rich. They exist to set men free for more ‘important’ and ‘interesting’ things, to keep fictional plots going as written by men.
But unexpected events could all too easily lead to disaster.
It sounded so absurd it was probably true.
Though that of course was the same for most lies: they work best if the liar believes them.
The duty of the parent is to refrain from praise, no matter how naturally it sprang to one’s lips, since it was what made boys self-satisfied and girls vain: better to search for reasons to find fault, so that the child strives harder. Never tell a girl she’s pretty or it will go to her head and she’ll end up on the streets. Never tell a boy he’s clever or he’ll stop trying and end up in the gutter. It is a world away from how we live now.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.