Saturday, July 27, 2013

an antidote for Downton Abbey withdrawal

I am incredibly susceptible to suggestion. If you so much as mention a book you're reading, odds are good I'll add it to my to-read list. Whether I ever actually pick it up is another question entirely.

Last week my friend AE raved on Twitter about a book she was reading. My fiction deficiency is well documented here, so to get a glowing endorsement of a relatively new novel from someone whose taste I find very similar to my own, well.

It became a must-read. Okay. In reality, it was on sale for $12 at Target and I was in the mood to do some impulse shopping.

The American Heiress is the debut novel from British author and poet Daisy Goodwin. I fully agree with this New York Times review from a few years ago that the British title, The Last Duchess, is superior. But you know we Americans are far more intrigued by money than by royalty, right?

Ha. Ha ha ha. #royalbaby obsession, anybody?

I said when I started this blog that I wasn't interested in doing book reviews and that remains true. There's an art to a great book review, and it's not one that I have much patience for. Summaries invariably leave out key plot pieces/subjects of discussion and I hate not being thorough. So I'll just share two themes that I enjoyed from the book.

First and foremost, Goodwin's novel satisfied my longing for Downton Abbey. The plot of the book is incredibly similar to the show (British aristocrat marries wealthy American in order, in part, to save his legacy). The edition I bought has a Q&A with Goodwin in the back and she addresses some of the similarity between the two. I have to confess I found myself comparing the two often (it didn't help that her main character is also named Cora!) which isn't entirely fair since they're two different mediums. I think it's probably easier for me to connect to the characters on Downton Abbey with 3 seasons to watch them develop than Goodwin could accomplish in 400 pages.

Second, I was reading this alongside Lean In. Talk about polar opposites! I felt ridiculous having them both on the table at Starbucks at the same time. That said, I think that because I was processing Sheryl Sandberg's work on women in power I looked at the role of women in The American Heiress with more insight than I probably would have normally. Goodwin wasn't trying to write a treatise on the rights of women in the Gilded Age and I don't want to put words in her mouth (or on her page, as it may be). But it's not hard to see that while a lot has changed for women in 150 years, some things are still remarkably the same.

I flew through the book, reading nearly 500 pages in two days. I read incredibly quickly, so don't take that as me saying it was superb. It was however very good, I don't regret buying it, and I'll look for more from Daisy Goodwin in the future.

Any other Downton addicts out there? What was the last novel you read?


  1. I have not seen Downton Abbey. I just signed up for a trial month of Netflix, though, so I will have to see if it's available online. I have heard nothing but good things!

    I just finished a novel yesterday that was pretty good, but kind of bothered me as it involved infidelity, which is a topic that I really struggle with. Now I am reading a Sarah Dessen book. I avoided her for awhile because sometimes YA characters lack depth, but I read my first book by her last month and loved it so decided to read another one. I have one other eBook to read and THEN I will read Lean In, I think!

  2. Oh I love DA! I'm so excited for it come back in January.

  3. I love Downton so much and kept drawing similarities between the show and this book too, but I still loved it. and I cannot wait for Downton to come back!

  4. Sounds like a good read (har), although I'm not really into Downton Abbery...

  5. I have heard I need to get into Downtown Abbey!


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