Monday, December 10, 2007

Charlotte Temple: A Book Review

To let you in on a little "something, something", every time I finish a book, I'll post a modest review of it on my blog. 
I don't promise to like everything I read and I don't promise that if I like it, you will, but if you're looking for a book to read during a lunch break, on a plane, at a coffee shop or occasionally even one that may change your life, I promise to provide you with a plethora of opportunities...
Let me just get this out here: Charlotte Temple did not change my life and I doubt it will change yours. it is quite possible that the most interesting part of the book is its history.
Charlotte Temple, by Susanna Rowson, was written several years before the start of the 19th century. Just as the USA became, well, the USA, Row son wrote her novel, which is often called the first best seller and sometimes, the first American novel.
Rowson's novel is typical- a young woman impregnated by a man she loves who does not always love her in return. Her journey sends her to New York where she must deal with pressures of bearing a child our of wedlock with no money. 
Despite the book's typical story, I have to stop to tell myself, "HELLO! She WROTE the first best seller. Is her book typical, or did many other books follow suit????" No, I am not going to spend the time to compile data stating how many books had a similar plot line before or after hers- it's unimportant. The better question is, "Has literature evolved?"
I'm sure it's safer and wiser to say that it has. But, looking at this book makes me question:
A man impregnates and abandons his lover, he has the ability to marry someone else while she emotionally dies without him and is lost in a "great big world". 
I've read that story SO many times! But, maybe the evolvement has not come in the plot, but in the characters. 
Take Anna Karenina for example- instead of a man leaving her, she leaves her husband for a lover and takes her life into her own hands- I won't spoil the plot for those of you who have not read it.  She is a total change in female character. (If you have a million years to tackle over 700 pages of tiny print from a Russian author, please do.)
How about novels where this idea becomes a sub plot? In The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time the young boy thinks his mom died, but she really left her husband and even though this story comes to a head later on in the story, it really has no need in the story for much of the novel, taking the pressure off the necessity for man and wife love and marriage.
Even still, maybe novels like Charlotte Temple remind us of a chance to rise above, but inability to do it. So many female characters- in movies, T.V. shows and novels- are sentimental characters without the fierceness to rise above their emotional "man drama". 
Maybe, Rowson was already ahead of everyone else. I mean consider the fact that she was a FEMALE writing the first best seller in a country that had only MEN signing the Declaration of Independence. Not to get too feminist, it's just a cold hard fact. Like so many other entertainers, authors and writers, Rowson showed us the choice we have as women AND people- how we deal with "drama" in our lives. I'm sure she would not have put it quite like that, but in a world filled with Mean Girls, sayings like "Save the drama for your Mama" and the sheer fun in using the word, it seems semi appropriate here.
So there you have it, my first blog book review/tangent, ha!
I definitely would not put this book on my Top 10, maybe even 20, but any book that creates this much attention on evolution of the novel, etc., etc., etc... deserves a chance. 
P.S. It's a little over 105 pages=- c'mon people, you can read it in a second and feel accomplished.


Lauren said...

1.) I love this idea and I'm glad you do it cuz I certainly don't so YAY for new materials and how doesn't love books? Well... maybe dumb people but that's not who we HANG with so whatever.

2.) I havent even read it yet because work is insane but ill get write (get it) on it when i get home and probably post another post.

hoo haw.

Lauren said...

holy shit... i read this like two years ago... And i think i wrote a paper on it. But then I forgot the title because it was THAT memorable. And you're right - it was america's first bestseller.

and basically all this book did for me was allow me to hate american lit THAT much more. Too bad I'm kind of PART of american lit now. shit.