The novel can be found on amazon here.
It’s been years since I read Austen’s Emma and I’ve never been able to read Don Quixote but I’ve always been attracted to the theme of the novel. So when A Body at Rest was proposed for a book club I delved right in.
And was somewhat put off by the protagonist. Wikipedia quotes Austen on writing Emma, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” I liked Emma, so unlike Austen, Susan Petrone accomplished Mrs. Austen’s goal with me..
Her character Martha acts so selfishly throughout the book from start to finish that I began to wonder if she was a sociopath. A truly horrible character with no redeeming values that I could find. But then I realized, no, she’s not a sociopath but is, I thought, possibly be a true representation of an overly educated but still skilless generation of people who are smug with self-satisfaction even though their curriculum vitae gives them no reason to be. Maybe they’re all sociopaths.
There are several episode of pure selfishness. One example early on brought this into focus. We have an aside about the importance of fully funding free clinics and national health care. Whether you agree or no all I could think was to tell the character, “So you’re white and educated yet you choose to not to get a job with health insurance but work as a cocktail waitress engaging in the risky behaviors of promiscuity and smoking and you want ME to pay for your health care? Go to hell.”
Heck, I think immature Emma was a teenager but Martha is pushing thirty. Ugh.
Anyway, the A Body of Rest’s Martha has no George Knightley to correct or critique her behavior. Everyone just seems to uncharacteristically roll along with the selfish behavior. They act as if her selfish behavior is just AOK. This made them all unbelievable. I could detail a dozen or so acts but don’t want to give away much more of the plot. Martha seems at the end just as selfish as at the beginning. So why make this trip?
Complete off-putting narrator aside (even Hannibal Lecter had some charm, for god’s sake!), I expected more to be said in a novel with two very different characters as inspiration. I also expected a sally or two but there was no real action. Quixote was pushed to the side for a large section of the story so we could bath in the narcissism and condescension of Martha. There were some good bits in there but what I thought was a wonderful premise to say so much about the human experience or today’s world versus 1800’s England or 1600’s Spain was squandered.
The prose was uneven and and times trite. The formatting (which I don’t hold against the author) of the ebook needs plenty of work.