Monday, October 01, 2012

Book 13: The Wedding Dress

I originally saw this novel at a Barnes and Noble on one of their tables, possibly "summer reading" or something along those lines.  I read the description, and felt like I was in the market for some light chick lit with an emphasis on clothes.  I also decided it would be the perfect kind of disposable book to get on my Kindle and read on a long flight.  Unfortunately, I didn't actually take advantage of my ability to read the first chapter or even look more closely at the novel before buying it because it was definitely not what I was going for or expected at all.  I guess it is partially my fault, but since I was clearly not part of this novel's intended audience I ended up strongly disliking the book and its characters.  Oh, the characters.
According to the blurb on the back, the recently engaged Charlotte, who also happens to own a bridal shop, buys a mysterious trunk at an auction and discovers a gorgeous wedding gown.  Charlotte becomes fascinated with discovering the story behind this dress, which turns out to be a century old and have had three previous owners all while trying to determine her true feelings for her fiance - as I said, light chick lit with some clothes porn.  Unfortunately, I misinterpreted the following description: "the power of courage and faith, and the timeless beauty of finding true love."  I interpreted faith in a secular way, since many chick lit stories throw around the word faith but in that case it seems to be about faith in oneself, in love, or something else.  In this case, it was all about God.  The main character talked about praying on something at least five times in the first chapter.  Instead of a fun, fluffy read with a passionate love story, I got a wooden couple with no chemistry that tip toe around each other and talk about being friends, and who have been together for four months, engaged for two but haven't had sex.  Of course that is a personal preference but it's definitely not what I was looking for in what was supposed to be a trashy read.  I'm not sure if I should be unhappy with the publisher for not clearly stating faith in God, or with Barnes and Noble for putting it on a general interest table when perhaps normally it would have been shelved under Christian fiction, in which case I never would have seen this novel.
Additionally, I thought the writing was weak.  Granted, I wasn't exactly looking for strong writing, but since I wasn't being entertained in the fashion I expected, I started getting critical of certain narrative devices while reading it.  Emily, the first woman to wear the dress lives in early 20th century Alabama.  We, the reader, are supposed to believe she is a good person because she talks to black people and hires a black dressmaker, and, oh my gosh, doesn't understand why people are so upset about it.  Maybe it's just me, but taking a white Southern belle during Jim Crow and saying she's nice to black people seems like a lazy and easy way to say the character is good instead of actually developing the character and showing us that she is a good person.  Let's not focus on the fact that she hired the black dressmaker because she didn't like what the white dressmaker wanted to make (ie she was being a spoiled white girl that gets what she wants) rather than due to any desire to make a social statement.  If the author was really trying to make a statement about race or equality, maybe one of the four brides to wear the dress would have been black - or maybe there would have been a black character other than the dressmaker.  Instead, Hauck just uses a black character as window dressing to define her white heroine and give her some fake depth.
The present day heroine tracks down the history of the dress and all its previous owners, while also figuring out what she wants in the process, but the focus is mostly on Emily and Charlotte's stories.  I don't know, this book might be worth it to someone who is into Christian fiction, but honestly, while the novel isn't my cup of tea, the characters were also incredibly one dimensional, and boring, so I think it's just generally a weak book.

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