Showing posts with label husbands. Show all posts
Showing posts with label husbands. Show all posts

05 March 2017

Behind Closed Doors


Paris — Behind Closed Doors
B. A. Paris’ Behind Closed Doors represents another in a long series of HIM— ‘husband is monstrous’— novels, also known as HIS, HIT, HIC (husband is sociopath, toxic, cruel) etc. They’re everywhere. The last one I read (and saw as a film) was The Girl on the Train. Both were recommended by my writer/editor friend Sharon.

It comes as no surprise that half the population devour these books with glee. The key to bridging the gender gap in Women Good / Men Bad literature is whether the author can bring the bad guy convincingly to life. Therein lies the strength of Closed Doors but also its main shortcoming.

Behind Closed Doors is the story of a woman whose nightmare begins when she marries a lawyer. Bad first move of course, but matters immediately grow worse, much worse. No matter how stepfordized she becomes, her situation can never improve but only deepen and darken.

I didn’t fall easily into the story. I wrote Sharon,
“I’m finding Behind Closed Doors … well, uncomfortable. 160 pages in, I keep looking for a place to grab hold, mainly a character to really like. It’s not that I dislike the protagonist but it’s taking time to reveal her. … The writing is a bit high-schoolish with godawful word substitutions for ‘said’. One I remember was “Blah, blah, blah,” he smoothed. But I’m trusting the plot will pay off.”
Eventually it did.

The part about ‘said’ refers to speech tags, which Rob Lopresti calls unnecessary stage directions. Fancy speech tags ‘tell, not show.’ In other words, if the dialogue is strong enough, a writer shouldn’t have to sit down with a thesaurus and tell the reader what to think or feel. The rule isn’t absolute, so we’re taught if we must use supplemental speech tags, to make certain they actually mean to communicate, to pass on words through talking. ‘Frowned’ and ‘smiled’ fail that test but it didn’t stop the author from employing them.

Right about now, the author is probably sticking voodoo pins in a Leigh doll ($5.99 at the SleuthSayers store), but bear with me, our policy is to write why we like books. Besides, this is a first-time author, so getting a book out in this market is a success in itself.

After finishing the book, I wrote to Sharon again,
“The payoff in the last chapter was worth it– I really liked how Esther involved herself. The writing became stronger as it neared the end, where her internal dialogue of her fear and hope takes over as events wrap up in Thailand and she rehashes everything in her mind during the flight home.”
As I touched upon earlier, characterization proves to be the author’s weakness and great strength. Until the final fifth of the book, I found it difficult to identify with the narrator/heroine. I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t quite decide why– after all, she’s a devoted sister and a potentially loving wife. Yet one gem leapt out to bring our protagonist into focus. As an artist, she created a large painting for her fianc√©, literally kissing the canvas using differing shades of lipstick. That’s a lovely hint what she’s like and I wanted more. This is why I stayed with the book despite early reservations.

Behind the Door
Behind Closed Doors is another in a series of novels brought to my attention by my friend Sharon– teacher, editor, writer, my friend Steve’s inamorata. She analyzes recommendations from magazines, the Oprah Book Club, and featured reads from her local library web site. Of her choices, Gone Girl remains my favorite.
For once, I would have loved to know more about secondary characters, especially Esther, but as we discover, Esther isn’t merely a secondary character.

Unlike The Girl on the Train, the author doesn’t play around trying to fool us. From the outset, we learn this man who came into her life is one sick, well… I can’t think of a sufficiently awful word to describe him.

Paris has created one of the most evil antagonists ever, one who makes Gregory Anton / Sergius Bauer / Jack Manningham (Gaslight) seem like a maladjusted schoolboy. For someone who breaks a heart for enjoyment, there should be a special Dantean subcircle, but this fiend goes several levels worse. I reached a point I felt no ill could match what this guy deserved.

Shortly past the halfway mark, I began to see how this must end. The payoff was worth the trip. In approval, I sipped a glass of sherry, a special red from the Montilla region of Spain. Taste the story; I think you’ll like it.

31 May 2012

Trifling Through "Trifles"


The play, "Trifles", is a one act play written by Susan Glaspell based on a true story of the murder of John Hossack. Glaspell was working as a reporter for the Des Moines Daily News and covered the case. The wife was accused as the killer and convicted, with the verdict later overturned on appeal. A year following the play, Glaspell used the play's storyline to compose her short story, "A Jury of Her Peers."

Reading this mystery play inspired me to be more observant and look to the little things to make a better assessment of what is really going on in my life and those around me. It is the little things we normally dismiss as irrelevant that accurately tell the true story often hidden beneath the obvious like an extravagant gift beneath wispy and inexpensive tissue papers. It is the little things that happen in our lives that gathered together comprise who we become. How and more importantly why a person chooses to do the things they do are subliminally addressed in this play where it is indeed the little things, the trifles, that count.

The historical setting of "Trifles" engages the reader in a look back at a not-so-distant time when women were supposed to be like children: seen and not heard. A woman's worth was less than a man's in more than wage earnings in these early twentieth century days. She was important as a bearer of children, keeper of the home and to pleasure a man. Other than that, she probably gained some recognition among other women by her homemade jams, quilting expertise and attendance at church, but rarely for her intelligence of reasoning skills. Though smart women surely were in abundance, they were stifled by men who were more physically strong and in charge. By the setting of this story, women had not had opportunity to exercise the right to vote much less be a voice heard in a community unless it dealt with child rearing or recipe collections.

Thinking like Sherlock Holmes in an investigation, it was the women who emerged as the true detectives due to the fact they unearthed the truth of the crime and its motive by seeing what the men could not: the little clues left behind to follow like Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs.

The women also acted as the self-appointed jury by deciding to allow her to get away with the murder, especially since the crime seemed justified to another woman, the men weren't wise enough to pick up on the not-so-hidden clues and a jury of the women's peers would surely not be her own, but a panel of twelve angry men who would more likely view a woman killing her husband as guilty without consideration of the circumstances leading to the crime.

Taking a cue from the men, the women left them to make their own evaluations as the men studied the crime scene in their Barney Fife manner undertaking the homicide analysis enough to formulate what had happened in the household leading to the husband's death. In their arrogance, the men didn't consult with the women on what a woman may have thought or done in such circumstances. Instead, believing themselves smarter than the fairer sex, the men brought the women along only to gather some clothing items for the widow in her jail cell awaiting their investigation report.

Irony runs rampant through the play as the men repeatedly give little relevance to the women and their mentions of the little things they notice in the household. The men overlook the importance of no outside communication via the party line telephone not hooked up to this home because the husband was too cheap to invest in the service even though his wife had once been a very social type whose isolation had robbed her of more than a cheerful song to sing. The dead bird who would sing no more was reminiscent of the new widow who had also been trapped, caged and no longer allowed to sing by a stingy and jealous husband. The men could not see beyond the empty birdcage with a broken door. The half-cleaned table should have been something to note in an otherwise clean household, but the men overlooked its importance.

History shows the strides women have made in being taken seriously for their choices whether they decide to become homemakers, astronauts, detectives or merely portraying ones on television. The true worth of any of us is by how we choose to define ourselves and not what others say we are or should be.

We've come a long way baby, and a lot of that was accomplished by not overlooking the little things in life. Sometimes the little things really are a matter of life or death.