Thursday, April 8, 2010

Book review: The Heroines by Eileen Favorite

Title: The Heroines
Author: Eileen Favorite
Publisher: Scribner, December 11 2007
Pages (Hardcover): 256 pp
MSRP: $24.00
Rating: * * */ 5

Summary: Although a true lover of books, Anne-Marie Entwhistle prefers not to read to her spirited daughter, Penny, especially from the likes of Madame Bovary,Gone With the Wind, or The Scarlet Letter. These novels, devoted to the lives of the Heroines that make them so irresistible, have a way of hitting too close to home -- well, to the Homestead actually, where Anne-Marie runs the quaint family-owned bed and breakfast.In this enchanting debut novel, Penny and her mother encounter great women from classic works of literature who make the Homestead their destination of choice just as the plots of their tumultuous, unforgettable stories begin to unravel. They appear at all hours of the day and in all manners of distress. A lovesick Madame Bovary languishes in their hammock after Rodolphe has abandoned her, and Scarlett O'Hara's emotions are not easily tempered by tea and eiderdowns. These visitors long for comfort, consolation, and sometimes for more attention than the adolescent Penny wants her mother to give.Knowing that to interfere with their stories would cause mayhem in literature, Anne-Marie does her best to make each Heroine feel at home, with a roof over her head and a shoulder to cry on. But when Penny begins to feel overshadowed by her mother's indulgence of each and every Heroine, havoc ensues, and the thirteen-year-old embarks on her own memorable tale.

In theory, this book sounds like a fantastic premise, and it is: a magical inn, absolutely drowning in Southern charm, and a mother and daughter who own it, where heroines of famous novels come to life? What could be better?

I had many problems with this book, but one of the main one was that I felt Favorite was trying to accomplish too much with her book. It seemed as though she was trying to blend teen angst of the most annoying manner, a female Holden Caulfield, satire on the huge amount of praise given to books just because they've endured the test of time (and not because the book itself is any good), a kind of "Girl, Interrupted" thing, AND magic into one book, and was spreading the characters, elements and plot too thin to try to accomplish it. As a result, inconsistencies abounded.

The most major inconsistency was of the heroines themselves: sometimes they were portrayed as modern individuals who had no problem with the modern lifestyle, working things fine and dressing/speaking normally; then, about halfway through the novel, they suddenly became old-fashioned, starting with Hester Prynne and Pearl from The Scarlet Letter.

Another thing is on the plot. Like I said, it's a really fantastic idea- but it wasn't delivered on. It wasn't as charming and magical as the premise called for, and it was very vague about the heroines: they stayed for too short a time, and we never really got to "re-meet" them again as promised, and if we did there was never enough description. I felt like this really took away from the believability of the book, and as a result the enjoyment.

Penny wasn't a character you'll like- she's self-centered, angsty, bratty, and stereotypical. She may have been planned this way, but she wasn't so much of an antihero as just a slightly crazy, foolish young girl.

Despite many discrepancies and follies, the book did have it's likable moments that, for some readers could be a sort of redeeming quality. I really wouldn't recommend buying it or going out of your way to get it, but if you see it on the library shelves pick it up and skim through, if you're still interested.


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