Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Book About Thinking

I liked The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz a great deal. It is both a comfortable domestic story involving an early Twentieth Century upper class Jewish family, a group unfamiliar to me and thus interesting, and a novel about spirituality and art.

Fourteen-year-old Joan Scuggs is a Catholic girl with a fondness for Jane Eyre. Reviewers make a point of bringing up the fact that The Hired Girl is written in the form of a diary, a format I'm not very fond of, by the way. But I also think it has a structure similar to Jane Eyre with a frame around the main story. In the beginning, Joan suffers in her family home, just as Jane suffered in her family home and at boarding school. At the end, she is living and working outside the Rosenbachs' home, just as Jane lived and worked outside Rochester's home. (Oh! Rosenbach...Rochester.) There is a scene in which Joan is sleeping outdoors, just as there is a scene in Jane Eyre in which Jane sleeps outdoors. There's a house in both books, a housekeeper. I'm a big Jane fan. I loved looking for this stuff.

In between those two frames, Joan/Janet is exposed to Judaism, which leads her to think deeply about her own Catholicism. She is exposed to opera, art, and philosophy, all of which she writes about in her diary. Yeah, she falls in love. But that's a minor point. It's the thinking that sells this book.

As I said, I liked this book. I don't know if it's going to be to every reader's taste, though. Opera and philosophy may be a hard sell, as well as all the talk about personal spirituality. But this could be a serious read for YA serious readers

I'd like to discuss the ending, but I don't want to give anything away.

No comments: