Now, Voyager

July 29, 2011

I’ve read it now. It’s lovely. Why do people use “women’s fiction” as a derogatory term?

I was lucky enough not to remember the movie very well when I read the book, so I came to it with only a vague idea of the plot. Not that the movie isn’t good — I went and found it streaming online as soon as I’d finished the book–but the book is better, as books often are.

Now, Voyager is the story of Charlotte Vale — a dumpy, unattractive, unhappy spinster under the thumb of a wealthy and autocratic mother — and her transformation into a well-liked and attractive woman who has a lot to offer, and knows it. First an extremely intelligent psychiatrist shows her how to change, and then a cruise ticket unwanted by its owner gives her the opportunity to do it. Add a weight-reducing illness and her sister-in-law’s cast-off (but still fashionable) wardrobe, and Charlotte has as much of a clean slate as one could realistically expect.

She uses it as well as one could realistically expect, too, which gives the story a sort of fairy tale quality, but mostly Prouty manages to keep it pretty down to earth. Charlotte’s love interest, for instance, isn’t the suave, handsome, self-assured man that Paul Heinreid plays in the movie version. J.D. Durrance has kind of a lousy life, and an array of problems to match Charlotte’s. The similarity between their various issues gives them common ground to connect over, which…well, the last book and the last short story I finished both had young couples bonding over their instinctive understanding of each other, and that’s adorable, but it’s easier to believe in when two people bond over having been miserable in similar ways.

Also, Prouty really has a thing about couples in love choosing not to be together, doesn’t she?

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