Thursday, December 2, 2010

At a fancy ball or minuet

Current book: The Portrait of a Lady
Pages read: 353 - 446

Well, Gilbert and Isabel get married, much to everyone's chagrin, and then we leap forward a couple of years to the future of their loveless marriage. (Yay loveless marriage!) Isabel has, in the intervening time, had a child that died at birth. Now, Pansy (oh, I didn't mention earlier, actually - that's the name of Gilbert's daughter) is beginning the rituals of courtship. First up as a suitor is Edward Rosier, a long-ago friend of Isabel's who is only just rich (as opposed to comfortably or even insanely rich). Pansy falls in love with him and he with her, but Gilbert won't permit the marriage because Edward hasn't enough money. Following Rosier is our old friend Lord Warburton. There's a bit of a problem with his suit of Pansy because Isabel thinks that Warburton is still half in love with her (which, honestly, he probably is). Gilbert, however, very much wants Warburton to marry Pansy, what with him being landed nobility and all.

The relationship between Gilbert and Isabel is clearly a complete disaster. She thinks, we learn, that he actually completely loathes her, and that, in fact, he has sort of organized his life around hating her. He's very controlling, and demands, basically, that she obey him - even more than that, sort of represent him - all the time. So, knowing that, when Gilbert tells Isabel to make sure that Warburton is the successful suitor and not Rosier, we can see where it's going. At first she's uncertain, but when she couples the knowledge of Warburton's old passion for her with the possibility of defying Gilbert, it seems her decision is easy enough. She tells Rosier that she'll give him whatever help is in her power.

This part was significantly more exciting than the previous 350 pages, I must say. It actually seemed like there was some action for once, and, though Isabel's predictably tragic marriage wasn't exactly cheery, it was nice to see her contemplate standing up to her horrible husband. The part with Warburton still loving Isabel and planning to propose to her stepdaughter was a little odd, but then, Isabel's only six years older than Pansy, so it's not as strange as it might seem. There's a nice little scene where Warburton is discussing dancing at a ball, and fails to ask Pansy to dance the cotillion because he's planning to ask Isabel instead. It's a nice little analogy for the relationship, and I have to give James a point or two for sneaking it in.

We'll see what happens. Honestly, I'd love to see Isabel go all Tess of the D'urbervilles and murder Gilbert, but it probably won't happen. Especially not at Stonehenge.

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