Thursday, April 4, 2013

VERA by Elizabeth von Arnim

book cover Original Publication Date: 1921

Genre: satire/comedy

Topics: love, marriage, feminism, Gothic

By heidenkind

Ten signs you shouldn't marry that guy you're going to marry according to Elizabeth von Arnim:

  • He's old enough to be your father.
  • Your friends hate him. ALL your friends.
  • Your family also hates him; but even worse, he doesn't give a shit if they do or not.
  • When he talks politics, he bears an eerie resemblance to Dick Cheney.
  • His last wife died under mysterious circumstances.
  • The only thing that upsets him about this is it infringes on his schedule.
  • He has absolutely no imagination.
  • Or sense of humor.
  • He reminds you of a two-year-old, but requires even more attention.
  • His library consists entirely of expensive books he bought in bulk, keeps locked behind glass, has never read, and has no intention of ever reading.

Vera is often called a satire of Gothic romance in summaries of the novel, and it is--but not in a silly Airplane! sort of way, more in a here's-what-it-would-really-be-like-bitches sort of way. It's the story of Lucy, a young girl who meets Everard Wemyss literally hours after her father has died, leaving her an orphan. It goes without saying she's in a vulnerable state. Coincidentally, Wemyss himself has recently lost his wife, Vera, under mysterious circumstances. Was it suicide or an accident? No one really knows, but the two deaths pull Everard and Lucy together. It's almost like they're meant to be! But how long will Lucy survive once Everard takes her back to his ominous estate and the site of Vera's death?

What makes Vera different from other Gothic romances--such as, for example, Rebecca--is that Everard really is as awful as he seems. Worse, actually. The man has no redeeming qualities WHATSOEVER. He's a narcissistic, selfish bastard and an emotional vampire. Lucy's constant excuses for his controlling behavior and acceptance of his insults are MIND BOGGLING.

I know right now you're thinking Vera is probably depressing, but weirdly it's not. It is actually funny, if only because Arnim is so clever and takes such delight in making us hate Everard (fun fact: he is supposedly based on her second husband). You also can't help but laugh at Everard because he is so ridiculously awful.

I'm not sure I would recommend Vera to fans of Rebecca, because the purpose of the two books is completely different, despite the similarities in plot. I would definitely recommend it to people who enjoyed The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, found Twilight infuriating, or if the heroes of Gothic romances annoy you with their douchey-ness. It is a really good book.

Download Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim at GirleBooks|Librivox|Project Gutenberg