Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘Saving Grace’

Saving Grace by Fiona McCallum

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Farm romance is a popular genre of fiction in Australia at the moment and Fiona McCallum’s novel, Saving Grace, fits right into this style. Personally though, I would rather get up in the middle of the night to assist a cow to give birth than read another farm romance novel. Once was enough, thank you very much.

I found myself cringing with embarrassment while I was reading this, hoping that no one outside of Australia ever reads Saving Grace and thinks these characters are representative of our national character. If I had read it on the train, I would have hid the cover.

Saving Grace is an extended Mills and Boon-type novel, except without any romance, a hero or a plot. To make matters worse, the heroine, Emily, is a dopey, whinging, wuss. There was some sex, which sadly, was bad. Not dirty bad or even bad because it was unbelievable and ridiculous, but bad because we learn that Emily’s husband is selfish both in and out of bed. Ho hum.

At the age of 28, which is almost ‘on the shelf’ in the Australian country – according to this story anyway, Emily married the richest farmer in the district. Three years later, after lots of bad sex, not being allowed to work, not being allowed to have a dog and being constantly ridiculed and put down, Emily gets herself a puppy which she names Grace, finds a friend and starts to think about leaving her husband.

Emily’s mother is also an emotional bully, so it is not surprising that Emily chose someone with a similar personality to marry. I’m not so hard-hearted that I couldn’t feel sorry for Emily, but she voices every anxiety she has, which stops being interesting really quickly. Emily even whined to her best friend at her best friend’s husband’s father’s funeral about her own problems! *

Eventually Emily left her husband and rented a beautiful old farmhouse which she dreams about turning into a B & B. She has the opportunity to buy the farmhouse, but after accepting a very low financial payout from her husband when they separated, she didn’t think she could afford the property (which was actually ridiculously cheap). By the end of the novel, this issue still wasn’t resolved. Nor were any of Emily’s other problems, because the rest of the story is to be dragged out over another two novels.

Several potential heros presented themselves during the second half of the book, but nothing came of them either.

I’ll tell you the biggest reason why I think Emily is dopey, but beware, skip this paragraph if you intend to actually read Saving Grace. Emily’s grandmother had a big jar of buttons with some other funny little stones which no one was ever allowed to touch. Emily’s grandmother died and Emily kept the buttons as a keepsake. Then Emily found an old letter to her grandmother from a Prince (Oooh)who was from a country famous for diamonds. Emily’s grandmother sometimes talked about her diamonds, but no one knows where the diamonds are. I wish someone had asked me, because I think I know where the diamonds are, but believe it or not, by the last page of this bloody book, the diamonds still hadn’t been found.

Hopefully something will actually have happened by the end of the next book or the one after that. Personally though, I don’t care, because I’ll be out in the paddock helping some poor cow give birth.

*If anybody is any good at punctuation, are all of the apostrophes in that sentence right? I’m never quite sure about apostrophes.

 

 

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Saving Grace by Jane Green

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When I saw Saving Grace, the most recent book by Jane Green, I wasn’t really enthusiastic about reading it. I’ve read and enjoyed most of her novels, but some of her more recent novels have felt too choppy for me. Jane Green has a distinctive style, in which the character’s voices can be quite abrupt, but Saving Grace was much more to my liking with characters who thought in full sentences.

The heroine of the novel is Grace Chapman, a beautiful and elegant middle aged English woman, who is married to a best selling American writer. On the surface, Grace’s life looks idyllic. Grace has a grown up daughter, good friends lives in a farmhouse on the Hudson River in New York state. She sits on the board of a shelter to assist abused women and cooks for the shelter. Cooking is Grace’s passion and there are recipes at the end of some chapters, which is a bonus for people like me who like to read recipes. (I often have great intentions of making recipes I’ve read in novels, but despite occasionally going so far as to buy the ingredients, so far have never followed through with the actual cooking).

Underneath the surface though, Grace’s life is not ideal. Her husband, Ted, is a bully, whose books are becoming less popular. Grace has a history of being a victim. Her mother had mental health problems and when she was ill, treated Grace very badly. Ted’s long time assistant has also recently left their employ, causing their well organised life to deteriorate.

Grace and Ted attend a function where they meet Beth, who seems like the answer to their problems. Grace employs Beth as Ted’s assistant and she quickly becomes indispensable to him. Beth also takes on household jobs and assists Grace with work for the shelter. Little by little Beth insinuates herself into their lives. Beth quickly transforms from a plain and frumpy woman to become slimmer and more elegant, modelling herself on Grace’s style.

Beth also begins to undermine Grace, with Ted and with her work at the shelter, calling into question her sanity. Eventually Grace is misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder and becomes dependent on a cocktail of drugs. (The author makes a very strong point here that Americans have the highest incidences of bipolar disease and drug use in the world, and suggests that this is because of the influence of drug companies rather than true cases of mental illness in society). Either way, things come to a head when Grace catches Ted and Beth in an embrace and is locked up in a mental asylum because she became very, very angry. (I found Grace’s anger in this instance to be completely normal and understandable, but what would I know?)

Grace escapes to back to England to her surrogate family, where she is weaned off the drugs, correctly diagnosed with menopause and meets up again with the man who has always loved her. Things end up working out, (I suppose they always do, one way or another) but for me, the biggest part of Grace’s growth was realising and admitting that as both Ted and her mother’s victim, she had also played a part in enabling them to bully her. I don’t agree with bullying in any form, but all of the bullies and victims that I have ever known have both had a particular role in their relationship.

Based on my enjoyment of Saving Grace, I’ll go back to looking forward to reading the next Jane Green book.

 

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