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Topic: Oct BoM: A Breach of Promise Discussion pgs. 305 - end

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Subject: Oct BoM: A Breach of Promise Discussion pgs. 305 - end
Date Posted: 9/30/2008 1:53 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2008
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My Observations:

Wow. When I read the description of this book as we were nominating titles for the October BoM, I figured ABOP was a standard, perhaps if we were lucky, just the better side of potboiler, detective/mystery story. I am stunned that there is so much more to this book. On one level, the average fan of detective/mystery MMPB novels finds an intricate, multi-layered mystery story, and Perry achieves what those sorts of readers demand most---she keeps the reader guessing and surprised until the end.

On the other hand, however, for more discerning readers, as I hold all on our HF forum to be, there is a much more academic layer to the book.  Perry uses her characters well to present her thoughts on women's rights and feminist theory. She builds this theme well and slowly too--just a hint in our first section, more in sections two and three, and finally it is in our face not just with the characters but in the reveals and suprises as well---there ends up being no event or subplot that is not related to this greater theme.

My only niggling reservations about just how well constructed the novel is is that we have an awful lot of very enlightened men and women parading through ABPO--more, I think, than we would have found in reality in 1860 London. I'm not quite sure it's believable.  I also find Perry's choice of setting this greater theme in 1860's London curious---clearly an easy choice on the side of building characters and plot points illustrating the narrow-minded side, but more difficult on the other. I think a better setting choice might have been WWII London or even 1910-20's London, as the beginnings of feminist awareness were appearing.

My last thought is that I think I would very much enjoy Anne Perry as a friend--because I am in awe of the mind that constructed this story on all these levels such that not one subplot, event or character thought is ultimately unrelated to her greater theme--the neatness of that boggles my mind.  Does she do that in all her novels???

Discussion Questions:

Why isn't this novel better known for its larger theme than as one in a series of Perry's William Monk novels?

Why would Perry choose a 'pulp'-style detective/mystery novel series in which to create and put forth the greater theme?

Are any of her characters jarring or perhaps 'too pat' ?

 



Last Edited on: 10/2/08 12:44 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 10/14/2008 12:28 AM ET
Member Since: 4/16/2008
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Well I finished the book today at work.

My thoughts on the novel overall:

I liked it. However,  I def think I would have enjoyed it more had I read earlier Monk books. After reading this one I will def be picking up the first in the series to see how it is. I might just be hooked!

I liked that it gave you enough information that you are able to guess and think that you might be right. However, most of the revelations in the book were a surprise. This, to me, made it fun. I didn't even mind that I was wrong!

I'm also sticking with what I said in another section, I wish the series focused on Rathbone instead of Monk as I found him to be the more interesting character. Also another series with Hester (think sitcom spinoff) would be very interesting.

My only complaint: I feel that it ended too quickly. I would have liked to see what happened when the truth was brought back to the Lamberts and I would have liked to see how Mrs Lambert reacted to the discoveries. I think that a lot of the parts regarding Gabriel, though interesting as they were, could have been slimmed down or cut out all together. I felt like there was possibly too much time spent on his particular subplot that could have been better spent elsewhere.

reading question responses:

I think that this book isn't more well known for the broader feminist themes mainly because of it's genre. I wouldn't say that the mystery/hisorical fiction genres are particularly noted for their political and social stances. Though, I do know that a lot of the novels contain these themes...however, I think most (unlike our discerning readers here at PBS) dismiss the genre when it comes to social commentary. It's their loss! Also, the fact that it comes so late in the series I think people would be hesitant to start so late fearing they would be missing out on the characters and story points and feel lost. If this were the first in the series I think it would be more accessable.

I think that Perry probably puts what she feels and thinks into her writing. Perhaps she is using her favorite vehicle to put forth her ideas in a non-abrassive, shove it down their throats kind of a way. I also would wonder if she intended this to be a social commentary of if that's just one of the "perks" at picking up her novels. I would be interested to see if these greater themes appear in more of her work....hers would be a fun brain to pick!

Athon Sheldon was a little one dimensional to me. However there was scarcely room for developement with all the other characters and plots going on. Martha was also not fully developed. But there is only so much room and the book was already a little long I think (though it was a good length for me).

sorry so long...I tend to ramble when it's late. :)

Date Posted: 10/14/2008 11:08 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
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I think most (unlike our discerning readers here at PBS) dismiss the genre when it comes to social commentary. It's their loss!

I agree! There are several mystery series that delve into the social and political issues of their era. Perry's are particularly good.

Colleen, I too have noticed some unusually enlightened people in many of the historical books I've read! LOL. I think it's hard for an author not to impose our own current standards on times that were very different from our own. On the other hand, part of Monk's character's progression through the series has been to become more sympathetic, more open, more accepting of people outside the norm. Mostly due to Hester, with whom he did not get along at all for the first few books in the series.

I agree with Hannah that Rathbone should be featured more. He started out as a major character, and got phased into the background more and more, yet he's fully as interesting as Hester and Monk.

I am in awe of the mind that constructed this story on all these levels such that not one subplot, event or character thought is ultimately unrelated to her greater theme--the neatness of that boggles my mind.  Does she do that in all her novels???

Yes, I think she does, at least in the Monk books. (I was never able to get into her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series.) I've always found her mystery plots to be tightly constructed and as you said, the greater theme twists and turns throughout every scene.

Date Posted: 10/15/2008 12:37 AM ET
Member Since: 4/16/2008
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Janelle - have you read all of the Monk series?

Date Posted: 10/15/2008 11:29 AM ET
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Ok now after reading Janelle's comments I may have to start reading this entire series.  I am intrigued by the quality of the prose and I do love a good historical detective novel. 

 

I also feel that the number of enlightened individuals wandering the byways of London was remarkable for the times and I really was missing Mr. Rathbone by the end of the story.  I certainly wanted to see Delphine "get hers" for what she had done; but that could have been another entire story. 

Date Posted: 10/15/2008 2:11 PM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2006
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I've been a bit hesitant to ask, but I was wondering how you define "potboiler, detective/mystery story" and "'pulp'-style detective/mystery novel series", Colleen?

I do apologize, but somehow I'd thought that the previous section was the last one.  I think that was because it contained p.279 where I noticed the murder occurring.  I'm not a reader who normally tries to solve the mystery and I'd much rather be surprised.  In fact, I kept thinking that I must be wrong and there'd be a twist; however, I waited many pages until Monk (was it?) reached that conclusion.

I'd have been more impressed with Perry's plotting if it had all tied together more plausibly.  The last bit galloped along almost like an entirely different book.

ETA:  I wanted to add that I've enjoyed some of the speculations from the later contributors.  I happened to have found a spoiler so I never knew how I would have felt about Melville's secret but I thought some of the speculations were very good.  I would have thought the father would have checked out Melville's family too.  And where on earth did he find Dolly?



Last Edited on: 10/15/08 2:17 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 10/15/2008 3:30 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2008
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Hi, Diana---I hope I didn't offend you or anyone with my tongue in cheek references....

 

'potboiler' is not of my own coinage, but to me it means a book by one of those authors that just churns them out, same basic plot skeleton every time, only details change--I'd consider Harlequin Romances to be potboilers...I think the term comes from Dickensian London times, when authors would write such tracts to enable themselves to keep their 'pots boiling' and my example of a 'potboiler detective/mystery story' would be the Kinsey Millhone A is for.....  series...i just know I'm going to offend someone here....other potboilers to me would be Ellmore Leonard/John Grisham/lots of the romance writers---much as I respect another lawyer's work, and would love to write myself, I find his stuff kinda predictable....which is really what the core is--predictability.  'pulp style' would mean the same, so I suppose upon reflection i was being redundant, LOL.  There are lots of them on my bookshelf in both genres--I just got tired of their predictability.  And I expected this book, from its cover, to be more like that and was so very pleasantly surprised---giving new life to the old 'judging a book by its cover' saw.

Date Posted: 10/15/2008 7:17 PM ET
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I agree with Hannah that Rathbone should be featured more. He started out as a major character, and got phased into the background more and more, yet he's fully as interesting as Hester and Monk.

 

I agree as well - I actually thought that it was going to be a set up for a love triangle, and Rathbone kept fading and Monk and Hester came to the forefront.  Having said that, I really liked Hester and was excited when they got engaged.

 

Date Posted: 10/15/2008 10:30 PM ET
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Okay I just finished it and I liked how he tracked down the girls and made the Delphine/Dorothy connection and solved what happened to Samuel but as soon as I read the "Hester will you marry me?" I'm like Aw come on!  Did ya have to bring it back to the romance.  I agree with Hannah that it ended too quickly and it would have been far more interesting for them to out Delphine Lambert and her crimes and see the fallout from that then have the marriage proposal as a way to end the book.

Discussion Questions:

I agree with everyone else that its because the genre the book was in.  I think most would just read it as a run of the mill (albeit good one) historical mystery and not be looking for those major feminist themes. 

The second question I'm not so sure.  Maybe the attitudes against women during this time period where she writes this series really irked her and of course she's the author so this is her chance to turn it around and have more enlightened people in the novel where it would get the point across but the reader would see there was another side to the story (if that makes any sense at all).

As for characters, I too think she should have stuck with Rathbone a little more.  I mean, where the heck did he go in the last hundred pages???  Also I think she should have developed Sheldon and Perdita a little more.  I would say I couldn't even get as good of a picture of Hester as I would have liked but I think that is because I haven't read the novels in the series prior to this one and I would have felt I had known the character alot better if I had.

Overall, not something I would usually read but I liked this BOM :)

Date Posted: 10/15/2008 11:53 PM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2006
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potboiler' is not of my own coinage, but to me it means a book by one of those authors that just churns them out, same basic plot skeleton every time, only details change--I'd consider Harlequin Romances to be potboilers...I think the term comes from Dickensian London times, when authors would write such tracts to enable themselves to keep their 'pots boiling' and my example of a 'potboiler detective/mystery story' would be the Kinsey Millhone A is for.....  series...i just know I'm going to offend someone here....other potboilers to me would be Ellmore Leonard/John Grisham/lots of the romance writers---much as I respect another lawyer's work, and would love to write myself, I find his stuff kinda predictable....which is really what the core is--predictability.  'pulp style' would mean the same, so I suppose upon reflection i was being redundant, LOL.  There are lots of them on my bookshelf in both genres--I just got tired of their predictability.  And I expected this book, from its cover, to be more like that and was so very pleasantly surprised---giving new life to the old 'judging a book by its cover' saw.

Thanks, Colleen.  I hated to ask but I wasn't sure what you meant by them so it was hard to respond to this section.   I seem to have found quite a few political and social stances in otherwise fairly standard mystery series.  I just left one as a DNF because it seemed to be heading toward "animals good," "people bad," Texans shoot everything."  Perry's message didn't seem out of the ordinary and I felt like I'd been bludgeoned with it by the end of the book. 

I'm no expert but "pulp" to me has meant the pulp detective fiction and Perry doesn't fit into that genre so I was confused there.  Solomon's Vineyard was probably the last piece of pulp I read.

Since this is my first group read here, I'm not sure how it was picked, but I assumed you had some say in it so I was a bit puzzled that you'd choose it if you expected it to be a potboiler ;)  I know your dogs picked it but I feel sure my dog wouldn't have picked this one, although I still haven't decided exactly what my he'd read.  Probably something that interspersed brief bouts of action with long naps.

I found potboiler described as a popular book and one written to pay the bills.  Using those definitions, I think Perry's work probably does fall into the category, although she is certainly a better writer than many.  Still, I didn't find the book that exceptional. 

The fact that all the subplots come together would be impressive if the solutions were realistic or adequately explained, but they aren't.  The last section is a fun read but I'm not sure there's a darned thing in it that I could really believe was likely to have happened and it feels rushed - like let's get this over with now.

I agree that the late 1800's or the early 20th century would have been a better fit for the feminist theme.  Perhaps Perry needed to write two different books because I don't think the breach of promise really worked well with the feminist issues. 

If I had to rate it, I suppose I'd give it a C+ or a B.

Date Posted: 10/16/2008 2:31 AM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
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Hi, Hannah! Yes, I've read the whole Monk series. At least, I think I have...there may be one or two recent releases I've missed. I didn't make the connection till last night that this "Breach of Promise" book y'all were reading was actually one of the Monk books. So I thought I'd just pile on at the end, LOL.

Date Posted: 10/16/2008 8:09 AM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2006
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Janelle,

Does that mean it's not very much like a "Monk" book?  I do think I read one a long time ago because Hester seems familiar and I know I read a couple of Anne Perrys; however, at least one was the Pitts series.

Date Posted: 10/17/2008 3:26 PM ET
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Diana, no, I'd say it's a typical Monk book. I just have a lousy memory and didn't recognize the title. LOL.

Date Posted: 10/17/2008 4:04 PM ET
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Janelle,

I read somewhere that it had an alternate title.  it may not be your fault for not recognizing it (can't remember the details). 

Thanks for the info.  So many series authors will spend about 1/3 of the book recapping the backstory.  I guess we can't accuse Perry of that!

Date Posted: 10/18/2008 7:09 PM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
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I thought everything was tied up pretty well by the end of the book. All of the storylines that didn't seem to have much to do with each other actually did.

I knew I didn't like the mother very much early on, and the end just reinforced it to me. Like several others, I also would have liked to see how things turned out--the ending was so sudden.

I'm thinking I will go back and read some of the other books in this series. I love historical fiction, and I love mysteries, and the two genres come together nicely in this series for me. I think seeing the development of Monk and Hester's relationship may help it to not seem so odd, although I'm a sucker for a happy ending so was happy when they got engaged.



Last Edited on: 10/19/08 1:09 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 10/19/2008 4:05 PM ET
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Diana--regarding our choice process--it's slightly different every month, but it begins the same, with the 'general' for that month selecting a theme or topic that the book must be about or qualify for--typically, given our HF additction, a certain period in history.  For October, as I recall, we'd been having some exchanges on some current topic and folks discovered my profession, plus we have some paralegals and one amazing, I-can-find-the-answer-to-anything law firm librarian, so somehow that morphed into someone suggesting we try to find a BoM that had a lawyer as a main character, with a good historical setting and with whatever the case/litigation going on  in the plot was, of lesser importance than the main story.  We came up with about a dozen choices that we all thought fit the bill, and THEN my puppies made the actual selection in the manner described. he he he.

 

November BoM was the same nominating front end process, but I think our Nov general had her BF choose what we're reading.

 

I hope you keep reading with us in the BoM-ers, I loved your input!

Date Posted: 10/20/2008 11:26 AM ET
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Thanks, Colleen.

You certainly didn't have to explain it to me!  However I had checked out all the choices and I was having a tough time finding the theme.  You had quite a variety there!  (I will often check the books on such lists just to see if there's anything I might want to read - I'm so darned picky and I still get books I don't like at all, lol.)

All I can say is better your dogs than mine.  I think you'd be cancelling the BOM!

Thanks for the kind words.  I would love to join another time but I don't think it will be Nov.

ETA:  I enjoyed the discussion very much - forgot to say that!

 



Last Edited on: 10/20/08 2:20 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 10/21/2008 6:06 PM ET
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I was glad Diana joined us too! I try my best to nag her into hanging out with us, lol. Poor, Diana!

I'm ashamed to say that I didn't even see this section of the discusiion until now. I thought there were only three threads going for the book.

I'm wondering if anyone now feels compelled to finish reading the rest of this series?

Date Posted: 10/21/2008 7:36 PM ET
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I'm thinking I may have to, Valli.  I hate coming in at the middle of anything and I really don't have a good feel for the character of Monk.  Supposedly this series features him and I need to know all the backstories.

Date Posted: 10/22/2008 12:27 AM ET
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Maureen Jennings has written a series that reminds me a bit of Perry's. Jennings policeman, William Murdoch, labors in late 19th century Toronto.  So far I've only read "Under the Dragon's Tail, which is the second in the series. 

(Valli did suggest I do this but it was mostly the fault of Booksfree who obligingly sent the book as soon as I put it at the top of the list, lol.)

Date Posted: 10/22/2008 10:01 AM ET
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Cheryl, I read the first book in the series right before we started this one and I thought it was a better read. In the first book, something happened to Monk that really affected him and his career and I think it would have been helpful to know that so we could understand Monk a bit better. I think I might go back and read book two one of these days.

Date Posted: 10/23/2008 6:57 PM ET
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I just started one of the Pitt books, Seven Dials, and found that there is a bit of a similarity to BOP. One character, actually, he's the dead guy now, but his associates say he was the type of guy who seduces unmarried women, leads them to believe he will marry them, and then leaves them which then makes society believe they have something wrong with them or are damaged goods. Sound familiar? I don't know that this is going to be pertinent to the mystery, but I thought it was interesting that this premise has surfaced in two of the three Perry books I've read. Maybe this sort of thing was a bigger problem than I thought back then. Or, maybe Perry has written too many mysteries and is having to recycle a bit. ;-)

Seven Dials is actually not a bad read so far, but it is a very late book in the series and I feel like I've missed a lot.

Date Posted: 10/24/2008 1:37 PM ET
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Or maybe the subject matter is near and dear to her heart?!

Date Posted: 10/26/2008 4:33 PM ET
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I wonder if it's just an aspect to society back then that really intrigues Perry? Because it's def not like that now! It is a little hard to relate to...maybe it just really interests Perry that that's how things were....(note: add to list of things to ask Perry if I ever meet her lol)

I think I want to read the rest of the series...but I'm not allowed to buy a new book until 2009...I have too many on my personal TBR pile...however, they are on my list of what I will be getting when the time comes!