December 1, 2011

Oh, Woe is Carl

I have gone more than a month without writing for this blog, without writing much at all, and without reading nearly enough to get my Year of Reading at Your Mercy back on track, but I HAVE completed watching seasons one and two of Warehouse 13, in case you were wondering. That’s what’s important really, isn’t it? Since I want to be a writer and all…

I could carry on about my recent lapse if you’d like, just as Lenchen, aka Helena Trant, the protagonist in On the Night of the Seventh Moon carries on over the dreamy rogue who rescues her on horseback from the sudden and all-encompassing mist and bustles her away to his hunting lodge so he can bonk her. (It’s all so romantic!) I could carry on, but I’ll spare you (which is not what Lenchen does).

I bet after reading the last paragraph you probably think I didn’t really enjoy read #4 for my YORAYM. Well, you are right and wrong. I like a good romance, but really, I think the key to romance for me is that I have to relate to the girl and really believe the guy, you know…really feel his love for the girl and imagine that kind of intensity applied to me (as someone sort of like the girl). I do not relate to Helena Trant, at least not as she represents herself in the first half of the story, not until she lets up on the pining-away-for-the-dastardly-count part of her life and starts taking charge of her own story. She becomes interesting then, but even so, I never comprehend her attraction to Maximilian. Even if I could get past the fact that Max’s favorite past time, handed down through the generations of his family, is shamelessly seducing and then discarding young women, I just don’t believe in his surprising-but-oh-so-true-and-endless love for Helena. He talks about it often and Helena believes him, but I do not. I only accept. And I think I’m supposed to believe. I’m supposed to be swept away by his manly desire. Anyway, what really ruins the illusion of Maximilian as a sigh-worthy romantic lead is his total disregard for his son Carl. No one seems to care about poor Carl until the very end, in the epilogue actually, but I worry about him the whole time. Yeah, Max loses some sigh points with me over Poor Carl. Wait, who are we kidding? He threw his sigh points away the first time he laughed churlishly in Helena’s ear.

Having said all of the above, I must point out that, in the end, I enjoyed myself. A few of the characters in this book are loads of fun. I could spend a whole novel with Helena’s aunts, especially Matilda, who is a hypochondriac on behalf of herself and others. I like watching Helena with her three unwieldily students as an English tudor (although Max’s son, Poor Carl, never gets to learn English). I adore the setting, and now regret even more that I didn’t go to Germany during my semester abroad. (I’ve added the Black Forest to my travel hopes, but I wish the locals still celebrated the Night of the Seventh Moon so I could have the full experience and get pranked by Loke, the God of Mischief, although I could do without being swept into a novel-length romance with a womanizer.) Once Helena stops being passive and takes charge, the story really picks up and feels like any great soap opera, with amusingly predictable but exciting and anticipated twists that keep readers churning through the pages. Reading this novel made me think more about soap opera. I’ve never watched soaps religiously, but I’ve spent time here and there with a few over the years, and now I see that even though people tend to conceive of soaps as plot-driven factories of story, they are in essence, character-driven. Most people wouldn’t keep watching if they didn’t know the characters as well as they know their own siblings or if they didn’t believe in the characters. And like I said, my biggest problem with the romantic aspect of On the Night of the Seventh Moon was that I didn’t believe the characters. I just read them. Perhaps had I believed in them just a bit more, the first half of the story wouldn’t have seemed to have taken up so many Days of Our Lives…

O.K., I’m stopping now.

I’m already 86% finished with read #5, but I’ll write more about that next time. (Only ten and a fifth more books to go in the next five and a half months plus all my book club’s picks! But who’s counting? Ha, ha, ha…hiccup.)