Thursday, February 18, 2010
In Which Trai Reviews 'Morning Glory'
The Book: Morning Glory
The Author: LaVyrle Spencer (FYI, her name = ridiculously hard to spell and/or pronounce)
How I Found It: The very enthusiastic recommendations of the lovely ladies who pointed me towards pretty much all of the forties books I read/will read.
The Review: Oh, wow, talk about high expectations for this one! The people who directed me towards it in the first place told me it was lovely, and then a whole bunch of people in the comments section over at Smart Bitches mentioned it as the book that got them into romance. I went into the book wondering if it could possibly live up to all that hype, and I'm quite pleased to say it did.
The novel opens with a brief prologue taking place in 1917. Chloe See has come back to Whitney, Georgia to live with her parents after bearing an illegitimate child. Her father is a religious revival leader and her mother a very fervent churchgoer herself, and refuse to even look at her child. Taking their daughter and granddaughter home, they lock them in the house and refuse to let them out for fear of being shamed.
Years later, in 1941, a man named Will Parker has just recently started working at a sawmill. He is a loner and a drifter, not prone to making friends. Soon enough, he is fired from the sawmill due to the fact that he has a prison record and was recently paroled. The men take jabs at him and mention an ad placed by a local woman-- one about seeking a husband.
That woman is the illegitimate child of Chloe See. She is Eleanor Dinsmore, called Elly, a recent widow with two sons and a third child of her late husband's on the way. She has been ridiculed all her life by the townspeople and refuses to go beyond the confines of the farm. Will goes to answer Elly's ad and finds her living in poor conditions, her husband never having been much for keeping up the place, but agrees to stay around and help her with the farm, the main reason she needs a husband.
Will slowly proves himself to be dependable and reliable, and Elly comes to trust herself and her boys around him, even with his past criminal record. In time, they follow through with marriage. It slowly becomes clear to them that they love each other. Through the birth of a child, war, and a criminal trial, their love manages to sustain the unlikely pairing.
This book was pretty much everything I was looking for in a romance. Elly and Will were very well-developed characters and I certainly felt for both of them. I also really enjoyed the character of Miss Beasley, a spinster librarian who is very kind to Will and Elly and a real sweetheart. She's the type of character I picture Kathy Bates playing in a movie, for some reason.
The characters were nicely fleshed out, and I also enjoyed how well Spencer handled the family relationships. The gradual developing of Will's relationship with Donald Wade and Thomas, Elly's sons, was so sweet to read, and Elly was portrayed as a wonderful mother. I really liked seeing a positive depiction of a growing relationship between a stand-in parent and the children.
Spencer also did well blending a few different genres. There was the romance between Elly and Will. There was the domestic elements of their life on the farm and the little things Will does to improve it. There was the parts of the book that took place during the war, and Spencer's detailing of what Will experienced and what the country was going through. And then there was the sort of crime drama of the last fifty or sixty pages, as someone in the town is killed and Will is suspected of the crime. The story was well-put-together and flowed easily.
The book was more explicit than I was expecting, I will say that-- it was written in the eighties, so I suppose it doesn't have to be all that clean, but I was a little stunned at the amount of detail and phrasing Spencer put in. It wasn't a bad thing, though; it felt authentic and that was all that mattered.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed this book. The growing love between Elly and Will was a real pleasure to read and I just really loved how well it captured the quiet, little things in life, like Will's simple joy at finally having someone love him, or even something as small as getting to have a library card. I can really understand why people flock to this book to read and reread it, and I'd like to try more of Spencer's, in addition to getting myself a nice, sturdy copy for rereading! Really highly recommended to romance fans and fans of the forties.