Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Why She Married Him
The title Why She Married Him immediately conjures up memories of books that address you as 'Dear Reader' and involve the long hidden secret of the Duke's real heir. Things that are right up my alley. While those specific elements are not present in this novel by Myriam Chapman there are many of the other conventions of Victorian novels and contemporary historical fiction: immigration, lost wealth, struggles with poverty, racism and the struggle for intellectual and emotional freedom. Unfortunately there is little else.
Why She Married Him is the story of Nina Schavranski. Nina is a Russian Jewish immigrant in Belle Epoch Paris. She and her family had to leave their comfortable life in the Ukraine because of the pogroms. Their comfort and community were replaced by poverty and ghettos. When the novel opens it is 1912 and Nina has just married a man she doesn't love. Unhappiness and strife ensue.
Chapman does a magnificent job in recreating the place and time of Nina's life. You can feel the fabrics, taste the food, see your way around this world. What you don't find in this novel is any interior life in the characters. Their lives are the events on the page and no more. That's disappointing but what is good about this book has me intrigued enough that I will look for Chapman's next novel.