Romance/Women's Fiction

I read a romance because 2020 has been rough | Review of Mrs Miracle by Debbie Macomber

Mrs Miracle

If you have been following my blog for any length of time you know that I never read romances. It’s the one genre that I’ve avoided my entire life. But 2020 has been no ordinary year. Although I can’t remember the last time I read a straight romance (apart from two Jane Austen novels that I found boring), I have seen several Hallmark films. They may be cheesy and contain terrible acting but I associate Hallmark films with the Christmas season. A few weeks ago, I suddenly got the urge to read a Christmas romance, in hopes of escaping from the darkness of the world (my research topic is also quite bleak – martyr narratives). At my university’s Barnes and Noble, I found a copy of Debbie Macomber’s 1996 novel Mrs Miracle. This was the first of her novels adapted by Hallmark.

Mrs Miracle was a fairly predictable novel, but for that reason, it was a comforting read. The plot revolves around three relationships: two romantic and one sibling. The story starts with Seth Webster, a widower with twins, who has no idea how to run a household. He has hired several housekeepers, but none of them have lasted more than a couple of months. After the most recent one quits, Seth learns from the hiring agency that there are no more housekeepers available. Yet suddenly, Emily Merkle arrives and offers her services to the Webster household. We soon discover that Mrs Miracle (as the twins call her) knows surprisingly a lot about Seth’s family and friends.

When Seth and Reba meet at the travel agency where Reba works, the two begin a relationship that forces them to confront their greatest insecurities. Reba has refused to see or speak with her sister for the past 4 years. Although her mother thinks that she should move on, Reba can never forgive her sister. Some wrongs are unforgiveable.

Despite a slow start, Mrs Miracle was a fairly engaging romance. It gave me all the feelings that I associate with Hallmark films. The romance is a bit dated – all-White cast, patriarchal family, Christmas pageant subplot – but I knew what I was getting myself into. The book met my expectations and was a fun, escapist read. I would really like to watch the Hallmark adaptation because Doris Roberts plays the title character.

Debbie Macomber seems like a delightful person. I have been binge-watching her interviews. I look forward to reading her most recent novels in the coming months.

Let me know if you have read something outside of your comfort zone in 2020. How was the experience?

If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you can bet the water bill is higher. – Mrs Miracle

Adventure, Goldman, William

Review of The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Image result for the princess bride bookThe film adaptation of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride is a cult classic. But not many fans of the movie have read the book. Although this review will be spoiler-free, my intended audience is people familiar with the movie.

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I am always the last person to see a film. Less than a year ago, one of my best friends encouraged me to give The Princess Bride a try. Despite my dislike for fictional romance, I finally gave in and rented the movie from Amazon. I am the most movie-ignorant person I know.

To be honest, I wasn’t very impressed by the film. I enjoyed the outlandish characters and the parody on courtly romance, but nothing stood out to me as particularly noteworthy. Whenever I am disappointed by a hyped work, I convince myself that I’m missing something: Fans are seeing something that I’m just not seeing. But before re-watching the film, I thought to read William Goldman’s book. I have been inspired in the past to re-watch a movie because of the book (ex. The Lord of the Rings movies).

The first thing that struck me about the book was the frame narrative. The preface establishes the story as an abridgment of a larger European satire of the same name. A fictional William Goldman recounts his childhood love for S. Morgenstern’s book. His father read it to him for the first time while he was recovering from Pneumonia. But William was concerned that his son Billy would find the many asides and descriptions boring. William, himself, had always felt that those sections of Morgenstern’s book were unnecessary to the plot. Hence, the frame narrator’s decision to produce an abridgment of The Princess Bride. Multiple times in the story, our fictional William Goldman intervenes to tell the reader how he has edited the original work and the reasons for his edits. The frame narrative is much more prominent in the book than in the movie. I prefer the book’s metatextual elements for the questions they raise about the purpose of storytelling.

I was also surprised by William Goldman’s fictional persona. He is not a very likable character. William is the quintessential racist,misogynistic white male author. He is self-absorbed, dislikes his wife, and is absent from his son’s life. At first, the casual racism and misogyny were quite off-putting, but I am now convinced that the real William Goldman very consciously included those elements in order to parody aspects of the literary industry. The real author does not have a son, and his wife is not a psychiatrist.

The Princess Bride is the perfect book to read when sick. It is fast-paced and laugh-out-loud funny. Westley’s bad-ass persona is even more apparent in the book than the movie. He leaves Buttercup as a lowly farm boy, but develops some insane fighting skills in no time. Vizzini, Fezzik, and Inigo have the most interesting backstories. I recall not being able to keep the characters straight in the movie. Thankfully, they are more distinct in the book. Not once did I feel that the narrator’s interjections or character backstories undermined the general action of the story.

And yes, Inigo does give his famous line – about a dozen times.

There’s something quite Rabelaisian about the novel. I was surprised and entertained by the outrageous violence and occasional vulgarity in the novel. The narrator presents The Princess Bride as a story for children, but it is clearly written for adults. I’ve never laughed so hard while reading about torture!

I will certainly be rewatching the film adaptation in the near future. I will be paying close attention to how the film follows or modifies the book because William Goldman also wrote the screenplay for the movie. The next time I’m sick or unable to sleep, I will pick up A Princess Bride. It’s the perfect escapist read.