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Thank Heaven Fasting by E L Delafield
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Thank Heaven Fasting (original 1932; edition 1988)

by E L Delafield

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131591,855 (3.94)40
Member:morninggray
Title:Thank Heaven Fasting
Authors:E L Delafield
Info:Virago (1988), Paperback
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Rating:*****
Tags:Auteur: UK, Taal: Engels, Classic, General Fiction, Virago Modern Classics, E.M. Delafield

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Thank Heaven Fasting by E. M. Delafield (1932)

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» See also 40 mentions

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Despite being a slim and seemingly lighthearted novel of the lives of upper class women in pre-modern England, this book creates a powerful understanding of the sadness and fear attendant to being an unmarried woman in this society. The rules governing their lives were so narrow, they were so seemingly given everything that, in fact, they were allowed nothing. I found that the work provided a penetrating discussion of women's roles while simultaneously being a very enjoyable story. ( )
1 vote annetobe | May 10, 2014 |
Thank Heaven Fasting falls along the same lines of Consequences, EM Delafield’s novel of a young Victorian woman who can’t seem to get her act together. Monica Ingram’s family belongs to upper crust London society, and the novel opens with Monica’s coming-out into society. The title of the novel comes from As You Like It: Thank heaven, fasting, for a good man’s love,” said by Rosamond as she’s posing as a man.

At the house in Easton Square, a rigid hierarchy remains in place, personified by Monica’s rather stern mother. The rules are absolute; even being allowed out up her own picture is a sort of victory, a symbol of independence, for Monica. She’s well aware of what’s expected of her: marry or perish, because women of her class weren’t trained for much else. And the goal was to be married within three years, or else run the risk of remaining a spinster (personified in the codependent Marlowe sisters, the eldest of whom, Frederica, is “on the shelf” at the age of 24). The rules are complicated: never let a man become familiar with you by using your Christian name, for example. And all of these rules are expressed in entendres, making it that much more difficult for more modern readers to understand (Delafield has a habit of having Monica mentally “translate” her mother’s words, which makes the flow of the book chunky in places). Everything a woman does must be at the expense of a man, too; or, at least getting a husband. As such, the characterizations of the men in this novel are pretty flat; none are memorable or likeable.

Although Monica has been raised to accept these rules without question, she still falls prey to the same pitfalls that many other young women do, in the form of a young mane named Captain Christopher Lane, who, the reader can tell, is up to no good. So it’s a testament to Monica’s youth that she can’t tell the difference between sincerely and falseness. It’s interesting to watch the cycle of Monica’s life: from acceptance of the rules imposed on her to a kind of rebellion to eventual conformism. Unlike Alex, the heroine of Consequences, Monica is neither brave nor different, and it’s because of this that her story doesn’t end as tragically as it could have. ( )
2 vote Kasthu | Mar 2, 2013 |
very happy not to be living then! ( )
  mahallett | Aug 14, 2012 |
Written between the wars, Thank Heaven Fasting is a tongue-in-cheek look at the lives of young women in upper crust English society who have no purpose in life except as a wife and, if luck should follow them, as a mother (preferably to a son). Daughters are burdens, to be married off but suitably, to the right man who is "quite, quite...".

Monica Ingram has every advantage: wealth, the right connections, and good looks of the pretty sort, as well as intelligence. She is also relatively uneducated and completely untrained for anything except for the role society has designated for her. She is only required to not make a misstep to ford the river from maidenhood to her purpose in life: marriage and motherhood. Even the slightest placing of a foot wrong will toss her into the river of dismissal, washed away to lonely (and useless) spinsterhood. Tongue-in-cheek, yes, but with tremendous social commentary on the privileged classes clinging to their Victorian way of life.

Delafield is really asking why women can't work, can't have a purpose other than the one prescribed to them by society's mores and their own biology but she does so behind a fan held coyly in front of the face of her intentions. The men she places in the field from which Monica can make a selection are weak, limp, damp, old or cads. The truly good men, men who have intellect and values, are just not "quite, quite..." according to the stifling guidelines of the Victorian upper crust.

It is a wonderful little book, full of things like Victorian hysteria beautifully portrayed in the sisters Fricky and Cecily Marlowe, with their male counterpart, Carol Anderson, with his steamroller sensibilities. The society portrayed will make you gasp with relief that we no longer live in it. The ending left me with a wry, lopsided half smile on my face. I couldn't put the book down, once I started it. Not a heavy read but a satisfying one.
6 vote tiffin | Nov 11, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
E. M. Delafieldprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fitzgerald, PenelopeAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Much was said in the days of Monica's early youth about being good.
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From the back cover:

When in the company of a young man a dutiful daughter should immediately assume an air of fresh, sparkling enjoyment. She should not speak of "being friends" with him--a young man is either eligible or he is not--and never, but never, should she get herself talked about, for a young girl who does so is doomed. "Men may dance with her, or flirt with her, but they don't propose." It would be quite a coup for a girl to find a husband during her first season, but if, God forbid, three seasons pass without success, she must join the ranks of those sad women who are a great embarrassment to society and, above all, to their disappointed mothers . . . With such thoughts in mind, how can Monica fail to look forward to her first ball?
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