Friday, February 19, 2010
Becoming George Sand by Brackenbury
Becoming George Sand / Rosalind Brackenbury
Toronto: Doubleday, c2009.
Oh, I wanted to like this book. I loved the cover, so beautiful. I liked the concept; a female academic studying George Sand and wanting the same kind of life. But sadly, I didn't really like that same female academic much, and her wilful naivete annoyed me.
Maria Jameson is having an affair with a fellow professor named Sean. He is Irish, lean and youthful and sexy, and sees Maria as a sexual being, something which has been lacking for her with her plodding husband and two children. He is also married, with children. She has a habit of becoming lyrical about their sex life together, part of the excitement for her clearly being the act of sneaking around. I guess what really bothered me about her is that she begins this affair realizing it is a transgression (that is evident in the text); she has sex with Sean in her own home, in her marital bed, with the chance of her children coming home while he is there. She goes on vacation with her husband and they finally have it out - he knew something was up - and unlike himself becomes very upset and cruel. And she can't understand it.
That is the part which really annoyed me. She really doesn't see why it is that her husband is so upset. It was as if she saw her affair as something which only concerned her, it was nobody else's business. And then she is comparing it to George Sand's life, how George was able to have affairs as she liked, it was just normal, how come Maria couldn't do the same? This is simply selfish blindness, to me. Of course it isn't the same, our cultures are not the same. Life in 20th century Edinburgh is not the same as 19th century France. There are different expectations and social mores. Husbands and wives are generally in an equal relationship as they were not in George Sand's day. Besides, George Sand's first affair cost her her marriage to Dudevant, then she ended up trailing around the continent taking care of musicians who didn't seem to have a sense for how to live real life. The comparisons just didn't have the type of resonance I think the text was hoping to draw out.
You can probably tell by now that this book did not really work for me. There were some elements I found interesting, mainly Maria's time with her friend in France while working on her book, or her descriptions of Edinburgh especially when she is at a writer's festival. The fascination Maria had with George Sand was communicated well, with sections of George's life interspersed with her own. It is just that I didn't like Maria, or her husband, and could not find any compassion for their situation. The trouble between them was not all that clear, and the reactions were a bit pat - he goes off to his own apartment and starts seeing a shrink and realizes that he was so upset because he was afraid of losing her, even before the affair! His hurt and angry reaction was all about his issues!
There may be someone who had more patience with this and really loved it. If so, please leave a comment and I'll link to your review as well.
Or check it out and judge for yourself.