Monday, September 7, 2020

251. The Charwoman's Daughter

The Charwoman's Daughter
James Stephens
1912
Around 250 pages


I thought a Charwoman was a chambermaid, but I guess it's a dated term for a cleaning person (as opposed to a maid, who typically lived with the household). So the charwoman in question is actually more fortunate than I realized. Doesn't stop her from behaving...strangely.

Mrs. Makebelieve (yes, that is the character's name) hates her station in life and hopes one day Mary, her daughter, will marry rich and thus create a better life for them. Mary attracts the attention of a burly policeman, but isn't sure if she wants to get married.

This is a very weird book with very weird characters. Mrs. Makebelieve hugs her daughter so tightly that she hurts her, and Mary's dearest ambition is to be the victim of domestic violence. "Will not women cherish a bruise that it may be medicined by male kisses?" Stephens asks. Uh, can I reply to that question on behalf of my people? 

So in a lot of ways, it just felt like another failed attempt by a man trying to capture the female psyche. He did a better job with the characterization of Dublin, which is where this story takes place. His passages about St. Stephen's Green really hit me in the feels, as that was my favorite place in Dublin when I visited. I always find it fascinating when we read a book from the 1900s or earlier and the building/location being described is the same today. As an American, I'm used to places constantly changing.

Overall, though, you can skip the adventures of Mary Makebelieve and not be worse off for it.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Good friends with James Joyce.

Joyce initially expressed interest in having James Stephens help him finish Finnigan's Wake. Ultimately, Joyce was able to finish the book himself.

UP NEXT: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. A shortie shortster, so I should have this one up soon.



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