My full review of Duran’s latest is published now at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (my first review for SBTB, a site I absolutely love and of which I am very, very excited to be even a tiny part).
An excerpt of my favorite part of the review:
More than anything, it is Nora’s reality as a high-born woman maneuvering in this dangerous political landscape that I found most interesting. English common law held that a woman was covered legally by her father and then husband (for this reason, it is referred to as “coverture”). She could not own property, sign contracts, or earn wages under her own name but also, in many cases, was not able to be held legally responsible for her actions. Widows, like Nora, had more power under the law but for high-born women, even if they legally had some power, they were restrained culturally and socially by their position. Duran captures this magnificently.
Throughout At Your Pleasure, Nora talks often about the constraint she feels around her ability to choose her path in life, the duty to be a good wife/daughter/sister, “the whole burdensome world of womanhood,” and how tragically her desires would deviate from the choices she felt compelled to make. Other readers have commented online and to me personally that they find Nora to be frustrating because she often makes dumb or strange decisions or takes too long to make critical ones. Her character can seem confusing for this reason. And while I share these feelings and did find Nora to be irritating at times, I thought that Duran highlighted how feeling so harnessed by legal and cultural bindings would cause delay and inconsistency in a woman’s decisions. Nora is constantly trying to decipher if she is making the right decision, if she is doing so for herself or for someone else, and, if for someone else, why she is doing it at all. She feels used and used up.
Also, snapped a screen shot of my post as a headliner on SBTB for, you know, posterity and all that: