Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Woman of Independent Means

1978, 1979 Avon edition
Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey
A Woman of Independent Means
Original price $2.50, purchase price unknown
Very worn paperback

Hailey tells the story of the title character, Bess Steed Garner, through selected letters, all written by Bess, covering from childhood in 1899 to near death in 1968.  Since we don't see the reactions to her letters (unlike with Lazlo Toth), it's hard to tell if other people find her as controlling and sometimes dishonest as she seems to the reader.  For instance, it's clear that neither of her husbands makes her happy, yet she acts like her first husband was the love of her life, despite his neglect.  Is she lying to herself as well as her friends and family, or is that just how things seem to her after losing him?  Her estrangement from her grown daughter is glossed over, partly because Hailey rushes through the last 30 or 35 years of Bess's life. 

This edition has many glowing reviews, but I didn't find it all that touching.  It moves along and is sometimes mildly funny, but I didn't feel like I knew or liked Bess particularly well.  The best aspects of the book, and Bess, are probably her courage, optimism, and willingness to adapt to changing times.

This is not only the 100th C+ for this blog, but this is the 100th book of mine for the 1970s, and obviously I'm far from done with the decade.  It looks like I've read more books from 1972, sixteen, than any other year.

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