Tuesday, August 31, 2010

*re-read* Sorcery & Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

As stated, I've been pottering my way through some of Wrede's books because I really, really need them right now. I've been forced to read some things outside of my usual list due to training, which is a good thing and a bad thing. It's good because it's for a reader's advisory workshop and so widening my reading circle will be very helpful. It's bad because I hate being forced to read anything for any purposes (I now have a little over a week in which to read To The Lighthouse, for example, sigh, and I've been strangely slow about finding myself a copy...) and it tends to make me very irritable. So I have promised myself that for each book I read that I must, I can slip another one in there that I want. Books like Wrede's Regency England fantasies are such a perfect balm.

I read and reviewed Sorcery and Cecelia not that long ago, so I'm not going to go into a summary of it this time. But it was just as delightful the second time through, which justifies the purchase. And also, in my mind, justifies the purchase of the next two books in this series sight unseen. Ahem.

This is partially a book about effective communication. Cecy and Kate communicate very effectively with each other. They explain what is happening, they bounce ideas off each other, they lay out their theories and have a strong back and forth conversation. Something I noticed a lot more this time was how little the men, specifically James and Thomas, communicate to Kate and Cecy. And that many of the problems the girls cause (because they are both troublemakers) stem from this lack of communication. They are basically fumbling about, completely in the dark, using snippets of second-hand information and scraps thrown to them by the men, to try and figure out what the heck is happening -- this, though their stake in the game is entirely as large as either James' or Thomas'.

At first it irked me how little the men seemed to think of Cecy and Kate (as it clearly irked the girls, too) but then I realized that this is the more realistic scenario, for that time period; men and women didn't talk except in highly structured, socially-acceptable ways. The men wouldn't have thought that either Cecy or Kate could grasp the severity of the situation, or come up with any useful way to help, since they're just women, after all. Thomas even calls Kate "my dear half-wit" for a significant portion of the novel, though he cuts that out (thankfully, because that also irritated me as much as it irritated Kate) once it becomes quite clear that she's not vapid at all. Once he actually starts talking to her, rather than just deciding things for her. I thought, incidentally, that it was hilarious that she completely wrecked a plan of his simply because he hadn't bothered to tell her anything about it, though she played a significant part in it.

It is all quite infuriating as a reader, to want to sit down and shake the characters until they just talk to each other. It helps that it's infuriating for the girls, too, and it helps even more that it becomes very clear that it's a losing game when people don't talk to each other. Wrede uses the time period and societal conventions very effectively to showcase this point.

So, yes. I have ordered both the next books. I'm looking forward to reading them when they come in; it should be a riot.


Cecelia said...

I totally know what you mean about rewarding yourself with something YOU'LL like after you've been forced to read something else. I do that ALL THE TIME. And also? Wrede rocks. Nice choice.

Bookwyrme said...

I thought, incidentally, that it was hilarious that she completely wrecked a plan of his simply because he hadn't bothered to tell her anything about it, though she played a significant part in it.

She calls him on that, too.

Unknown said...

celi.a - She does, doesn't she? I always watch out for her backlist at used shops, because a lot of it isn't in print anymore even when it deserves to be.

Bookwyrme - I loved that scene for that reason, and even more this time through. I'm not 100% sure, but I believe it's after this scene that Thomas stops calling her "half-wit." I'd have to actually check the text to be sure of that, though.