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Pleasures and Palaces

October 22, 2010

This one is for those of you who like fluffy romances.

Marie Rose has lived in hotels all her life. The closest she’s ever come to domesticity was when her mother rented a suite with its own dining room in an apartment hotel, but even then the food all came up on dumbwaiters. She’s never been anywhere where she couldn’t call for assistance by ringing a bell or pressing a button. When her mother dies, Marie Rose intends to go on living the way she always has, never staying in any one place for more than a few weeks. In order to do that, though, she needs a chaperone.

Her father’s cousin Sara Dugmore follows Marie Rose around the world for four months, but at the end of it, she decrees that Marie Rose must settle down in a home of her own, and Marie Rose, for no clear reason, obeys.

Cousin Sara helps Marie Rose furnish her apartment, and even finds her a housekeeper, Louisa Salter. But Louisa thinks the spoiled Marie Rose needs a lesson, so instead of arriving when she originally planned to, she lets Marie Rose fend for herself for a couple of days. And then she falls and hurts her back, so that the couple of days becomes a couple of weeks.

Fortunately, there’s miner Galen Ward staying in his sister’s empty apartment accross the hallway. Marie Rose makes his acquaintance after she attempts to boil an egg: the attempt is successful, but she has no idea what to do with the shell, and doesn’t even know enough to look for a garbage can. The two of them are, of course, immediately attracted to each other, but Galen is hard-working and intensely practical, and Marie Rose is the kind of person who, when the woman who does her laundry has come out on a rainy night to collect her dirty clothes, is like, “oops — I haven’t had time to gather them together yet. Can you come back tomorrow?” So eventually he goes home and she goes to Jamaica with some friends and has an existential crisis.

And then…well, everything you think is going to happen, happens. It’s all perfectly satisfactory, except that the ending is a little abrupt somehow. And there are lovely illustrations by Howard Chandler Christy, and Juliet Wilbor Tompkins (have I not mentioned her? She wrote the book. Which is, incidentally, called Pleasures and Palaces.) likes to talk about the way hair grows off peoples’ foreheads, which is something a lot of the writers whose work I’ve been reading recently do, and which I like very much.

 

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8 comments

  1. This sounds like the kind I love!


    • You were definitely one of the people I was thinking of when I wrote about it.


  2. I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know, but “Mid pleasures and palaces” is the opening line of “Home Sweet Home”.


    • I actually only learned that while reading the book — the song plays an important part.


  3. I just read this, and enjoyed it. The best part to me is when her suffragist friend explained what made her serious about her cause. It was an unusual and compelling argument for women’s suffrage in a genre which usually paints these activists as crackpots. And it seemed kind of cool that while it is about Marie Rose getting domesticated, there are several examples of women working and making their marks in the world.


    • I liked that bit too, and, similarly, the positive representation of a college girl — they can be positive figures in fiction from this era, but usually only in books about college.The common thing between all the good options for the women in the story seems to be that they require work.


  4. I finished this last night and just loved it. In fact, I practically wallowed in it. It was the perfect counterbalance to a Dorothy Gilman book I was reading, which got too scary and I had to put it aside for a while!


    • It is kind of a perfect and delightful bit of fluff, and I can definitely see it working well as an antidote to a scarier or more serious book.



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