Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Mary Westmacott - A Daughter's a Daughter

Ann Prentice was a quiet woman. She liked the simple things inlife - soft firelight and evenings at home. A quiet widow devoted to her only dear child, Sarah. Until she fell in with a fashionable crowd, going from party to party, trying things she would once have considered shocking and never quite thinking about the consequences. Why had she changed? And what was going to happen to her impressionable young daughter?
Ann Prentice is in love with Richard Cauldfield and hopes for new happiness. Her only daughter, cannot contemplate the idea of her mother marrying again and wrecks any chance of her remarriage. Resentment and jealousy corrode their relationship as each seeks relief in different directions. Are mother and daughter destined to be enemies for life or will their underlying love for each other finally win through?

Comment: I love Agatha Christie so it was no wonder I also tried her drama books, originally written under the pen name Mary Westmacott. 
So far, I read two of her drama/psychological stories and I have had a wonderful experience with one of the books while the other wasn't as impressive. I decided to give this one a go and see where it would lead...

In this story we meet quiet and supportive Ann Prentice, a mother who is just saying goodbye to her daughter Sarah while she's leaving for a bit of vacation on Switzerland. In the initial sentences we learn she will miss her daughter immensely but she will do what is necessary to let her be happy too.
During the time Sarah is away, Ann meets someone through common friends and they quickly fall in love. It might appear they won't have much in common but their personalities suit very well, at least until Sarah returns, clashes with her mother's intended Richard and everything falls apart.
After an ultimatum, Ann's life takes a turn for the worse and Sarah can't understand why but still accepts the new reality. But will things remain the same forever, won't they ever talk like they used to and make things right?

I'll include some mild spoilers!

This book is very thought provoking. One of those we read and think "ah if it was me, this would happen/wouldn't happen" but it's curious that it's always so easy to say things or to determine a course of action if it's, in fact, not us going through that situation. The spectator always knows best!
I do agree this was a very pertinent story on the psychological effect of someone's choices.

I think this was a very good story, well planned and executed, not long and adorned with unnecessary things. I'd say my biggest difficulty is the classic feel of the dialogues, which in the original language - not the same as mine own - can seem a little too different and weird.
The author knows her work and she developed a simple plot but with a lot to think about.
The characters were precise to the point, they feel realistic and still likable, although to my contemporary views, some things were a little over the top on how dismissive they appear.

Basically Ann is a wonderful character, one the reader can relate to and I certainly did, because I share her preference for cozy nights in and quietness instead of going out and partying.
Her daughter is young and has a different view on things but she was likable too and I could understand her jealousy in seeing how much Richard suited Ann. It's something to think about: should children, even grown up ones, interfere in their parent's choices? Are they entitled to it? And are parents correct in dismissing their children's opinions? Or giving in to them instead?
The drama happening was quite intense but I could see where this would go, the author left obvious clues in setting up Ann's choice.

After the big decision, Ann changes into a sort of a party girl, in the sense the stayed out most nights, she was always busy, she and Sarah stopped being confident and I think most readers would feel like defending one certain POV in the whole drama.
When Sarah asks Ann for advice on whether she should marry someone, I think the author exhibited her amazing writing skills by doing things in such a way, Ann's words were both suitable and vague.
What happens next disappointed me a little bit, I admit, especially when it comes to Sarah's understanding of things (shouldn't she be a little bit more aware of her actions?) but the drama never really stops, in particular when Richard shows up in their lives years after.

When the final confrontation between mother and daughter  happens, what has always been in front of the reader is finally put into words. Was it closure at last? I didn't feel it was but it worked to let things go to the final scene. I think Sarah learned a lesson, but didn't really made her change her mind on some things, Ann ends up feeling like someone who just wasn't as strong in her opinions and I think all readers would say she missed her shot by her own fault. However, again, it's so much easier to have the knowledge and power of wisdom after something happens.

I'd say that, for me, the biggest question here was, should we let our decisions impact our lives so much? It's difficult to own some decisions, to live by them and with them but once choices are made, should we just live with them? Resentment is very, very hard to ignore!
How much easier life would be if we could only do what is right for us and not caring about how that would affect others! But, alas, we do care and we do have to live among other people and face the result of choices every single day.
Just like the end of this book, I think, live in general is devastatingly bittersweet.
Grade: 8/10

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