I finished Garman and Worse finally the other day. I had anticipated reading a lot while I was on vacation at home to US to see family. Unfortunately, I didn’t get ANY reading done until the plane ride home. I usually get a lot done on vacation, but this one didn’t really lend itself to reading for some reason. Probably because I was with family.
This book was so much more then what I wrote about in my last post. Focusing on one aspect that I didn’t really see coming was what it said about the life of women during the time period, the book was published in Norway, 1885 . There are three young women whose lives we experience. Our first women is Madeline, at first a feisty young women we think is going to make a love match with a fisherman. But of course, this wouldn’t do. She is from a merchant family and can’t lower herself to this level. She is sent to live with the rest of Garman clan in town. Here she is taken under the wing by Fanny, Madeline’s cousin-in-law. Fanny uses Madeline to prop herself up by making her feel at once befriend and also someone of a lower order. They both fall for Delphin, who though he wants Madeline, let’s himself be flattered into an affair with Fanny. Madeline secretly catches them coming from an assignation and falls apart. Though she turns down a minister’s marriage proposal, she ends up being tricked into the marriage as she struggles to deal with Fanny and Delphin’s deception. Delphin runs off when he hears of Madeline’s engagement and Fanny is left to continue her little games with others. The fact that Madeline is tricked into marriage so easily for someone who knew what she wanted, shows what being in “society” could do to woman. Of course there is remorse at the end for what could have been. At the end of the book she sees her first love, Per, and his wife together and the life they have set up for themselves. She can’t resist running to Per when she knows he is alone and apologising for not being stronger. He is very upset by this and you can see that he still loves her.
The second young lady is Marianne, who sews for the Garman household. We learn that she was once very beautiful and though she tried to rebuff one of the young men of the household she was impregnated by him. He was sent off for bring shame to the family. She lost the baby, but was always none as the “fallen” woman. In a bigger community she might have been able to go somewhere else for employment. But, her brother and father worked for Garman and Worse as boat builders, so she was stuck working for the family that was part of her downfall. She is very ill and eventually dies. I can hardly bring myself to tell you how that all ends, so you’ll have to read what happens at her death and burial.
The last and only redeemed young lady is Rachel Garman. Throughout much of the story I didn’t like her because she was cold and demanding. I found myself more caught up in Madeline’s story line. At the end though, you find that she is the only one that actually comes out well. She had very demanding ideas of what kind of man she wanted. She thinks that the local school teacher who has religious aspirations will be the one. He will get in the pulpit and let the sinners know what they should do and she was going to be so proud and then marry him. Lucky, for her, the head of the church gets a hold of him first and warns him off the topic of his sermon. Rachel is mad about what she sees as a character flaw in the teacher and goes off of him. All this time there has been Tom Worse in the background. He is the grandson of the Worse that started the firm with the original Garman. Tom though has set himself up in his own business, I was never able to get it very clear but I think that when his dad died the firm was taken over by the Garman’s with the Worse family still receiving some, but not much, of the profit. Anyway, when Rachel’s father dies she is placed in the guardianship of Tom along with her younger brother. Her older brother took over the business, so I assume Rachel’s dad must have figured he had enough to do. In Tom, Rachel has found an ally. Rachel goes to him because she feels restless. She doesn’t know what to do with herself and doesn’t want to just get married and be a wife. Tom encourages her to go to a friend of his in France and see if she can find any employment that she will enjoy doing. This is what is so amazing. He doesn’t just say, oh you silly thing go do some charity work. He wants her to choose what she is to do. She does find her passion and her business acumen (which appears to be better than her older brother). By the end of the book Tom and Rachel get happily married, and I felt at least someone’s life ended happily!
I also read Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, before I left for the States. That will be another blog post though. So now I’m starting another Norwegian book The Family at Gilje by Jonas Lie. I also read a good review of Berlin: Imagine a City by Rory MacLean, so I’ll see what that is like.