The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue

sealed-letterDonoghue’s novel  was an interesting read — largely due to the fact that it is so heavily based on a real divorce case and the state of women’s rights during a divorce. But I found it very difficult to slip into the story and care about the characters. The outcome is what interested me — whether or not Harry would get his divorce from Helen. Interestingly enough, the contents of the sealed letter were not what kept me turning the page; I figured Fido would escape without much damage in the end.

The two women — Fido and Helen — are an interesting pair but neither had winning personalities, and I struggled to care about either of them in the end. The author does, though, presents female friendship in all its complexity, which I found pretty interesting.

The cursive font used for the letters, however, was the biggest detriment to The Sealed Letter. The font was incredibly hard to read, and I had to squint and guess to make out the letters’ content. So much of this novel depends on the letters that I was very frustrated in my inability to read them.

The Sealed Letter was well-written no doubt, but it lacked the eloquence and gripping plot like other books in its genre. Still, I thought Donoghue made this scandal divorce case into an enjoyable read.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Donoghue, Emma. The Sealed Letter. New York: Harcourt, 2008. 397 pgs. ISBN: 015101549X. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Harcourt. Retrieved: March 21, 2009.

GWTW Read-Along: Chp. 26-37 Notes

gone-with-the-windI was afraid to pick up Gone with the Wind after the ending was spoiled for me, but I easily slipped back into the life of Scarlett O’Hara. Life at Tara has become an even greater struggle for Scarlett, despite the Civil War ending with the Confederacy’s surrender. Gerald, Scarlett’s father, is unable to cope with the death of Scarlett’s mother, Ellen, and “until he died Gerald would always be waiting for Ellen, always listening for her. He was in some dim border line country where time was standing still and Ellen was always in the next room.” {pg. 436} And, for that matter, neither can Scarlett; she refuses to grieve or even allow Ellen’s name to echo throughout the halls of Tara.

But I think this is the only example of Scarlett’s immaturity in this section of the read-along because Scarlett has taken the weight that, according to Ashley, three men should shoulder rather than a woman. During this section, Scarlett answers her own questions and fears through her own hard work by her hands and, I guess, her flirtation.

“Again and again, she thought: “What shall I do? Where shall I turn? Isn’t there anybody in the world who can help me?” Where had all the security of the world gone? Why wasn’t there someone, some strong wise person to take the burdens from her? She wasn’t made to carry them. She didn’t know how to carry them.” {pg. 474}

But she does; she carries all of their burdens. She cares for all thirteen people boarded at Tara; she picks cotton in the fields, which she originally and her sisters still consider “slave work”; she stands up to the Yankees when they come to rob her and Jonas Wilkerson when he and Emmie Slattery come to buy/rob Tara from her; she does everything she can to raise money in order the pay the taxes on Tara — a whopping $300.

In her frantic attempt to save Tara, Scarlett turns to Rhett Butler to save her, to save Tara, She attempts to confess {fake} love for him, but Rhett rejects her after feeling her palm — a very strange moment in the book, if you ask me.

“This was a stranger’s palm, not Scarlett O’Hara’s soft, white, dimpled, helpless one. This hand was rough from work, brown with sunburn, splotched with freckles. The nails were broken and irregular, there were heavy calluses on the cushions of the palm, a half-healed blister on the thumb. The read which boiling at had left last month was ugly and glaring.” {pg. 579}

But the state of Scarlett’s palms hold a deeper meaning for Rhett, who realizes that Scarlett is only there for his money, which she hopes to get her hands on through marriage or mistresshood. Rhett previously suggested mistresshood — twice, in fact — but Rhett rejects it when Scarlett extends the offer. However, I can’t decide if it’s because of his pride, because he honestly cannot access the funds, or because he doesn’t want Scarlett to stoop to that level on her own.

On her way back to Aunt Pittypat’s after her disastrous proposal to Rhett, Scarlett runs into Frank Kennedy and tricks him into marrying her by telling him that Suellen, his in-name-only fiancée, has decided to marry another man. It’s a low, dirty move but I believe Scarlett is so in love with Tara that she would do anything to save it — as evident in her proposal for Rhett.

“Sometimes Frank sighed, thinking he had caught a tropic bird, all flame and jewel color, when a wren would have served him just as well. In fact, much better.” {pg. 643}

Frank gives Scarlett the tax money to save Tara after they marry, and once it’s safe {for now} Scarlett sets her sights on owning the sawmill Frank was originally going to buy with the money. It’s Rhett, though who gives her the money, but this time the loan only comes with the stipulation that Scarlett doesn’t use to it help Ashley.

Ah, Ashley Wilkes. Ashley returns from the Yankee prisoner-of-war camp, and confesses his love for Scarlett.

“I love you, your courage and your stubbornness and your fire and your utter ruthlessness. How much do I love you? So much that a moment ago I would have outraged the hospitality of the house which has sheltered me and my family, forgotten the best wife any man ever had — enough to take you here in the mud like a –” {pg. 534}

But Ashley is an honorable man, refusing to run off to Mexico with Scarlett in favor of staying with Melanie and their son, Beau. It’s this and Ashley’s reminder of how Scarlett’s “still got Tara” {pg. 535} that made me forget his past transgressions and actually like him.

I’m excited to see where Gone with the Wind is going because, despite knowing the ending, I don’t know how Scarlett gets from this point to Rhett’s famous words at the end of the novel. It’s a beautiful book and I’m very excited to continue on with Matt’s reading plans:

  • Week 1 {March 1-7}: end of Chp. 9 or pg. 196
  • Week 2 {March 8-14}: end of Chp. 25 or pg. 436
  • Week 3 {March 15-21}: end of Chp. 37 or pg. 644
  • Week 4 {March 22-28}: end of Chp. 50 or pg. 892
  • Week 5 {March 29-April 4}: end of Chp. 63 or pg. 1037