Monday, April 14, 2008

An Inconvenient Wife

I've been in a reading mood all week. I have this stack from the library because all of my holds came in at the same time and it's just too tempting to pass up. I wish I was in more of a paint/declutter/get-ready-to-put-our-house-on-the-market mood because that looms nearer and nearer but in the meantime....I read.

Kelly A recommended this and I'm always up for a recommendation. The book centers around Lucy, a depressed socialite in the late 1880s. She claims to want to fit into her world of dinner parties, decorating houses and newest gowns but she is so unhappy and has fits of hysteria (mostly withdrawal symptoms due to her complete addiction to opium that was prescribed for her faulty uterus - ah....enlightened science). Her latest doctor realizes that she is not simply bored and unhappy, but that she is a caged bird. He uses hypnosis to uncover her subconscious will and promises as treatment to use suggestion so that she will find joy in the routines of her life. Under hypnosis, however, he discovers that she is severely repressed and uses his influence to "create" a new kind of woman to further his scientific research. When she becomes more opinionated, more ambitious, her husband is infuriated and embarrassed with what his high society wife has become. Of course, the affair between Lucy and her doctor doesn't help him feel any better, either.

I've always had the ability (to a fault) to get drawn into a novel. I feel the book. I felt melancholy when Lucy felt melancholy, agitated, annoyed and repressed when she did too. All this I enjoyed. I didn't enjoy the Chicagoesque ending. I'll stop there so I don't spoil it. A very interesting read. It doesn't seem that long ago but this elite class, the educated and sophisticated, honestly thought that the female brain was less evolved and that men needed to guide and protect females in all things (even picking out jewelry). That kind of talk enrages me but it was an interesting look at the history of depression and the role of woman. She was treated as such an anomaly for being depressed. Funny, but she would have fit right into today's world of women on anti-depressants. I wonder what that says about either of our worlds. Are we more repressed now? Are we caged birds?

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