Virago Press 1988
First Published by Macmillan & Co 1932
Thank heaven, fasting, for a good man’s love: For I must tell you friendly in
your ear, – Sell when you can: you are not for all markets.
The book’s title and quote above is from the play As You Like It. In college I was one of those nerds who met like minded nerds in the upper rooms of the student union to read through Shakespeare plays. On our own time, mind you. One of those was As You Like It and it remains one of my all time faves. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I played a very convincing Celia. But I digress.
Young Monica Ingram has one, and only one goal in her life. To get married. That’s what her mother tells her while carefully training Monica how to catch and capture a man’s eye. Being chosen by an eligible, or let’s face it, any man, validates her only worth here on earth.
Suppressing one’s personality, hopes, and dreams of even liking one’s future husband are necessary sacrifices in order to reach the goal of wedded whatever. None of that love and romance stuff matters in this very serious and high stakes game. If one was not married or at least engaged, say by the ripe old age of twenty, the woman is in a dangerous situation and by twenty-five is considered an old maid. Monica’s two friends are both in this horrifying position.
Yes, this story is satirical but it hits home on many levels. The strangest thing I noticed is how reviewers congratulate our modern times. Women are more savvy now and no longer chase men and marriage. Are you kidding me? Everywhere you look you see women trying to appeal to men, even surgically altering their bodies to do it. And we have way more choices and much more power than those Victorian women did.
This funny little story made me think deeply. We actually owe a lot to those repressed Victorian women. Maybe these wacky values made a few stand up to say “enough” and march for women’s rights. Victorian women were also a powerful force behind the abolitionist movement and worked tirelessly for children’s rights. Ok, the temperance movement was a bust. The book ended with both triumph and despair. Funny, but in an “oh yuck” kind of way.
Getting married is a good thing. But to strive for that to the exclusion of all else creates an empty, wasted life. I think this book was a great little read and it makes you think. I just saw yet another ad on how I can be sexy. Have we really come all that far?