I’m a bit of a gender-ist when it comes to reading.
I’ll pick up an Atwood novel, even a Shields, long before I’ll pick up a Richler. In fact, if I were stuck on a desert island with only Barney’s Version to keep me company – a book I’ve now attempted to read three times and have always failed exquisitely – I would be forced to use the pages to make fire.
And don’t even get me started on Hemingway.
Anyway, back to my gender-ism.
I admit to believing the plot twist that sees a young, intelligent female hook up with an old man (who is charming or smart or whatever) is a tool used by male authors to make themselves feel better about something. Some use it, I think, to feel better about their midlife crises. Others to somehow reassure themselves their daughters need them.
I know, it’s messed up. And wow, creepy.
Although it surely can’t be any more screwed-up than one of Danielle Steel’s typical, sprawling tales.
Anyway, I’m not always right.
(That was easier to write than I expected.)
And so, the main character in Melissa Bank’s The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing engages in an all-too complex relationship with a much, much older man.
The man, Archie, is not Jane’s only attachment. Which is what makes the book so perfect compared to so many other forays into modern urban romance.
Jane is not “destined” to be with some man from the start. Like real life, it is stupid (or terribly Austen?) to assume one man is meant for one woman. Or that steps in the wrong direction would actually lead you to lose the love of your life.
Perhaps the author goes out of her way to prove there is no such thing as a love of one’s life. But it’s a worthy side-trip just to shake the romance out of a girl.
At the very base of Archie and Jane’s relationship is at least a hint of a complex.
The hint grows to a firm thump on the head.
(If you are planning to read this book, which is an excellent example of when chick lit gets hilariously smart, please do not read the following excerpt. It will ruin the story for you.)
After a while, he said, “Honey.”
“Yes, honey,” I said.
He put a little box in my hand. I looked at it. It was that robin’s egg blue from Tiffany. I opened the blue box, and there was a velvet one inside, and I opened that. I looked at the ring. It was platinum with one diamond. It was just the ring I would’ve wanted, if I’d wanted a ring from him.
I said, “It’s beautiful.”
He heard the remorse in it. “Oh,” he said, “I see.”
I was about to say, I can’t make a big decision right now – I can barely trust myself to decide what earrings to wear. But I said, “I’m sorry, honey.”
He spoke softly. “I knew you wouldn’t marry me when you didn’t ask me to the funeral.”
My father was gone. I felt I couldn’t lose anything else, but just then I realized I already had: I’d lost the hope that I would ever be loved in just that way again. (p. 198-199)