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Topic: Oct BoM: A Breach of Promise Discussion pgs. 93-191

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Subject: Oct BoM: A Breach of Promise Discussion pgs. 93-191
Date Posted: 9/30/2008 1:53 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2008
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My Observations:

I am enthralled by Perry's terrific descriptions of the courtroom and in particular, the strategy Rathbone is using and his interpretation of the various clues presented around the courtroom by the participants in the trial to gauge what is working for him or Sacheverall.  She is giving a good window on the 'art' of being a lawyer, as opposed to simply the mechanics of it--such as you see on TV in the various crime dramas. She also gives a great portrayal of the tools that remain to an attorney who is on the wrong side of a case, the losing and undefendable side.  Creativity there can mean the difference between a total loss, a mitigated loss and sometimes even a victory.

I found the description of Isaac Wolff given to be amazingly detailed and I was fascinated that he, who is the apparent denouement in the trial, is the dark, Celtic opposite physically to Melville's boyish Saxon fairness. I'm pondering who might play each of these characters in the movie.

Discussion Questions:

What do you suppose is behind the tension among Monk, Rathbone and Hester? It does not appear to be the standard love triangle.

Monk had an absolutely real and amazing reaction upon walking through the last completed building of Melville's design. Have you ever had that reaction to a building? Can one discern a person's soul through his or her work?  What would we be able to discern about you if we were to experience or view your work?

Throughout the first two sections of the book, Perry frequently gives us a character's musings on 'honor', fleshed out by examples of actions of what the 'honorable' choice or behavior in a certain situation would be.  How do the characters' notions compare with modern notions? Is honor a timeless notion or one that changes with time and societal or even situational changes?

As an attorney myself, in the particular field of corporate/tax/transactional law which is still male dominated, I chuckled at Rathbone's and Monk's notions of behavior appropriate for women, especially at the conclusion that making less appropriate choices might actually make a woman more like a man! Clearly this is a 180 degree contrast to today's attitudes---or is it? Do we women have it 'better' for having virtually all choices open to us today? Or have we simply created an impossible plateload for women who want careers and a family? Have we perhaps done ourselves a disservice?  And, what would Rathbone have to say about coming up against a female attorney like me in the courtroom?

Rathbone, in his musings on Isaac Wolff, and in his discussions at the tavern, displays an incredibly modern sensibility towards homosexuality and the idea that what one does in one's bedroom ought to be private. I find it hard to believe that a man of his time and position would have held such a liberal attitude--this is Victorian England, where even heterosexual activity was supressed entirely.  Why do you think Perry gives him this attitude? What purpose does it serve in her narrative?



Last Edited on: 10/1/08 1:20 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 10/6/2008 2:46 PM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
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I really don't think Melville is gay at this point. All of the "evidence" provided in court was so circumstantial, and I didn't buy the argument at all. But it would have probably been quite a scandalous idea back then. I do think Melville is hiding some secret, and Wolfe is in on it. I can't figure out whether they are up to something, or if they are just hiding something.

I am really not liking Savacherall, and am a bit appalled that he seems to be trying to court Zillah while these events are taking place. Oh, not really liking Zillah's mother right now, either.

I'm glad Monk has made an appearance now. The tension between Monk, Hester, and Rathbone is interesting. It seems that Rathbone is in love with Hester, Hester is in love with Monk, but Monk doesn't think he feels that way toward Hester. It's a bit sad. Perhaps as things flesh out in the court case and in the lives of the Sheldons, they will begin to better understand their relationships.


Last Edited on: 10/6/08 2:48 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 10/7/2008 11:39 AM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2006
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I sent my rental book back and just made some notes so I'm relying on others to jog my memory a bit!

I did feel that Perry had given a number of characters (perhaps too many) 20th century attitudes to make her points in this book.  By contrast, I felt she didn't develop the characters on the "other side" well or made them generally unsympathetic characters.

The Monk/Hester/Rathbone situation seems to have been a continuing one and since I haven't read the series, I'm probably missing some of the undertones here.  OTOH, somehow I get the feeling that Rathbone isn't that interested in marriage anyway.  Has anyone read the book where Rathbone presumably nearly proposed?  I'd go nuts trying to live like that - never saying what you meant.

Date Posted: 10/8/2008 10:48 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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I didn't ever think Melville was gay either. That would be a huge scandal then, but it wouldn't make for a very exciting mystery now. I enjoyed the twists and turns this book offered, and there were some that I did not expect at all!

I read the first book in the series and I thought then that Monk and Hester may be on their way to falling in love, but I was a bit surprised to see that in this, the ninth book, it hadn't happened yet. Rathbone doesn't seem the type to ever get married.

I thought that quite a few of the characters had a 20th century mentality, but I tried to keep in mind that there were women who breaking free during these times. Think of Gertrude Bell, Florence Nightingale, and there were also quite a few women writers speaking out then. Maybe the attitudes aren't so completely far-fetched as I first assumed, at least where women are concerned. I still think Rathbone's feelings towards homosexuality were pretty far-fetched. I do wonder if they had the same sort of attitude about it as mistresses - You can do it, but you can't let anyone know and have a scandal created.

Date Posted: 10/8/2008 11:56 AM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2006
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Perhaps I looked up the wrong Gertrude Bell, but isn't she a good bit later than this book?  The one I found wasn't born until 1868. 

This is certainly one of those times when I wish I were smarter.  A quick look finds woman writers either dying during this period or being born.  Someone female must have been contemporary but I didn't find her.  There are still areas where men far outnumber women and architecture is still be one.  It seems as though Perry may have chosen a fairly unlikely career for Melville.

I thought I read a book where Monk and Hester were married but then I'd read a couple of Anne Perrys and had her series confused and the other book featured her married couple.  I may be mistaken.  Of course, I don't know how they get out of it.  Maybe Hester files a breach of promise suit ;-)

As I thought about it more, I found  Rathbone's public defense of homosexual love extremely implausible.  Even if we can believe that he would believe this privately, I think the ensuing gossip and rumors would probably ruin his career.  Oscar Wilde's trial took place in 1895 but do we have any reason to believe that people were that different 30 years earlier?  I realize Wilde's case was much different but they would have prosecuted Wolff.  I believe a single man defending homosexual love in public would start enough rumors and gossip to destroy his reputation and law practice in 1860. 

I don't know if it was much safer for him to support Melville's posing as a man, although it was wonderful to see him come to understand why she was compelled to do it.  OTOH, many people are still extremely uncomfortable by the thought of people posing as a member of the opposite sex.  If we still feel that way, can we expect more understanding from the Victorians?

I wondered if everyone was really as blind to homosexuality as they pretended too.  Is Perry tidying up Rathbone?  Is he a realistic character?  Were men leading totally sexless lives considered normal by other men?  Do I want this question answered?

Date Posted: 10/10/2008 6:33 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2008
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One thought I have with the female vs male characters in this book. This is an era with women "coming of age" Although the times limit women's rights, I find most of the women characters are much stronger than the male, with the exception of Rathbone. He appears to be the only character that can consider opinions from the other side. This makes him somewhat "safe or neutral". Almost the exact opposite of Athol. (I returned my book to the library...working from memory.)
Date Posted: 10/12/2008 3:34 AM ET
Member Since: 4/16/2008
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okay I just finished this section.

I don't think Melville is gay. I also don't think that Wolf is gay. I don't know why but I'm not really buying it. I also wonder at Zillah commenting that Scanderval was "acting". I have a feeling that a good lot of the scandal of Melville being gay as made up.

As a lot of you have mentioned I noticed the presence of 21st century ideas and attitudes.  I do know that there were those such as Mary Wolstencraft shortly before this time period and Mary Shelley around this time period who believed in more progressive ideas regarding women and their place in society. And I'm sure there were people who didn't regard homosexuality in the scanadalous way that most people did....but they are in the very small minority. I have a hard time with books that depict fictional characters with the newer ideas, etc when in actually, had they really been in that time period odds are they wouldn't have had those thoughts at all!  But I understand why authors do it. But it still doesn't feel true to the time period...oh well :)

I'm very interested to read the next section and find out what happens! I still think that Melville is related...like a long lost brother or something. Especially since he's "unknown" except for the preceding 5 years in London. I imagine that the father had an affair, prior to his marriage, that resulted in Melville and Melville has come back but Lambert doesn't know about it...that would add a lot of drama.

Also the back of the book talks about a tragic ending to the trial. My guess on that is that Wolf is murdered because someone thinks he's gay...or something along those lines. I don't forsee Ziallah or Melville to be the ones "tragically ended". we'll see though.

Oh and incase you haven't noticed, I like to speculate! lol

oh my, this was long. sorry for the essay!

Date Posted: 10/12/2008 1:05 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
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I agree with the consensus that Melville and Wolfe are not gay.  Something else is going on here.  I do think that Rathbone's defense of homosexuality also seems very 20th century.  I agree with Diana- the Oscar Wilde trial was not that much removed in time and it was a huge scandal!!  Wolfe would have been prosecuted  as well as Melville and both would probably have been jailed and publicly ruined at the very least.


The relationship between Monk and Hester is interesting and seems rather complicated, although I feel out of my depth with these characters.  They obviously have a past of some sort from previous books.  Hester seems very much a more "modern" woman type of character that the men of her era don't seem to know quite how to deal with; even her friends like Monk and Rathbone!  Hester seems to be a prototype for the career woman who wants fulfillment in both personal and professional life.  She seems to be paying the price for it in the sometimes ambiguous feelings her male friends and employers have for her regarding the type of life she leads.






Date Posted: 10/13/2008 9:23 PM ET
Member Since: 6/1/2007
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I don't think Melville and Wolff are gay either.  I also personally think the story could be just fine without the love triangle tension between Monk/Rathbone/Hester. The storyline and mystery itself has been good enough for me so far without the love story elements.  I'm not sure exactly what the tension is caused from and it is something we're all probably missing from the earlier books.  I like that Perdita is defying Athol and trying to learn about the mutiny in India for the sake of her husband.

As for buildings I don't recall any builiding ever having that reaction to a building.  I had a strong reaction when I saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the changing of the guard there in DC and of Arlington Cemetary in general but never a building.  I think you can discern someones soul through their work if they genuinely put their soul into their work (if that makes sense).  Like if you walked into my office and looked at the pile of papers on my desk, I don't think that would be an accurate representation of my soul but like with artists and writers and even architects I think it is possible.

I think on the choice of women in some ways we have it better and others we don't.  Yes we have all these choices now but some of those choices seem impossible.  Like with having a career or having a family in order to devote yourself 100% to one of those you have to give a little on the other.  Missing little Timmy's field trip is the opportunity cost of having a demanding career and being a SAHM to your kids means you give up the chance to have the career you wanted.  Also there are career women who look down at stay at home moms and SAHM's who look at career women as bad parents for choosing to work instead of stay home and take care of the kids so having the choice is good but its also been one more thing to divide us.  My son started preschool at the beginning of last month and today was the first day I was able to take him to school because I work and today I happened to be off.  Its the first time I had to consciously think about the fact that i was missing out on this time in his life because of my job and it really really bummed me out.  I don't cry about much anymore but that had me in tears on the way home today so today I guess I'm leaning more towards "having done ourselves a disservice" than I normally would. :)

I honestly don't know what Rathbone would do against a female attorney but I would like to be a fly on the wall in that courtroom :)

I thought Rathbone's views on homosexuality were quite modern too but I also think it is because it has not been proven that either of them are gay and his client is getting hosed because everyone else is assuming it is true because Melville won't give a good reason for ending the engagement so Rathbone's views I think are partially because he sees that both mens lives may be ruined over something unproven.  I think Perry gives him the attitude to convey that Rathbone is 100% invested in the interests of his client even if he knows his colleagues will disagree.  I also think Rathbone said it very well himself when he said there are lots of things he doesn't agree with but it doesn't mean someones life should be destroyed over it.