Wednesday, October 10

Rightfully Mine - Doris Mortman

The elegant, widowed Madame Gabrielle Didier is attractive, elegant and knowledgeable. She assists, rather than merely works for, one of New York's most well established auction houses, specialising in French antiques. But Gabrielle is not what she seems, and a spiteful woman could bring her world tumbling around her ears. She had no idea that the world of antiques would be so treacherous, or so rewarding.
For Gabrielle is, in reality, Gaby Cocroft, suburban housewife until her husband of sixteen years left her for another woman - leaving her unemployable (no wife of his would ever work) and all but penniless. Frustrated and disillusioned after endless rejections when her resume is truthful, Gaby decided to make herself over. Orphaned as a child, she took inspiration from the French aunt who raised her thereafter, and thus was born Gabrielle.
I loved this thick and juicy pre-chick lit novel (published in 1989) when I first read it, a disturbing 18 years ago, and I quite looked forward to rereading it. Clearly my taste has changed somewhat in that time, which I suppose is reassuring. The underlying story - a faithful woman abandoned, a family feud passed on from one generation to the next, treasure stolen by Nazi commanders, and the quest for love - was fine and even, in places, gripping if predictable. But the florid and overblown style was exhausting - of particular note "A gray melancholia clouded Gaby's eyes"; "his fingers tangled in the web of her femininity"; "the delicacy of the older woman's maquillage"; "her femininity, her sexuality, the very core of her womanhood had lain dormant for years"; and "Why him? Why now? Why not?"
Every woman in beautiful, her beauty documented over and over again. And the author clearly researched the world of antiques and New York society of the time, because the text is littered with names and detailed descriptions, all of which are useless to an ignoramus like myself. At almost 790 pages, this took me several days to plod through (taking refreshing Greenwoodian breaks between times).
I finished Rightfully Mine feeling as though I had eaten an entire, heavily iced and cream filled chocolate cake, and now need a plate of steamed broccoli. Ugh. I'm classifying it as chick lit/romance because that's the closest category. - Alex

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