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Topic: Virtual Book Club - November of the Heart Discussion

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Subject: Virtual Book Club - November of the Heart Discussion
Date Posted: 11/15/2009 8:59 AM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2008
Posts: 249
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I  would like to add a blanket Spoiler alert for this thread - in order to allow for free flowing discussions, we will be exploring all parts of the book, most likely giving away the entire story line.  Please do not read this thread if you wish to read the book without any preconceived notions.

 

 

I am trying a little less structure this month to see if we can generate
some more discussion.

What was your overall opinion of the book, the characters, the author?

What was your favorite part or thing about the book?

What was your least favorite part or thing about the book?
Date Posted: 11/15/2009 12:51 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2006
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This was probably my least favorite of the Spencer historicals I've read.  One of my least favorite parts was the authorial voice. I normally appreciate an omniscient narrator, but in this case I found it rather irritating. I guess I prefer the sharp, witty voice to the sentimental and sad.

I liked the different time period and the vivid depictions that made the conflict really come to life.  I wasn't interested in the sailing stuff but found it easy enough to skim past.

I liked the effort to make the parents more three-dimensional and not just villains. They did care about their daughter and grandchild, not just their social status.

Worst thing for me - I do *not* understand why Lorna chose not to marry Jens. The big hurdle seemed to be the fear of their baby being called a bastard. Um... wouldn't *getting married* have pretty much solved that problem? Instead she *ensured* he would be a bastard.

I think she's a well-drawn character, including the fact that she's not completely likeable.  And she does redeem herself in the end.

But I'm not sure I entirely believe that everything would be okay at the end. They would still face a tremendous amount of social stigma, I'd think. More than if they'd just gotten married in the first place.

Date Posted: 11/15/2009 9:56 PM ET
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Don't tell me I'm the only one who actually finished it?!

Date Posted: 11/15/2009 10:23 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
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I have to admit it sounded too depressing to me...so I returned it to the library since my mood at the couldn't handle anything depressing..I also hate when a couple is separated and this sounded like that was a definite..

Date Posted: 11/15/2009 10:36 PM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2009
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LOL, Willa! I have to admit I skimmed big parts of it, but I did finish.

On the plus side... I thought the author did a great job of characterization, especially of Lorna, her family and her friend Phoebe. Jens was attractive but not as well drawn. The setting was interesting and original... I didn't realize that the economics of the Midwest were so different a century ago.

The details of the setting - the house, gardens, convent, sailboats, food - were interesting initially, but the author wore out my interest in these things by midway through the book. Many of the secondary characters seemed more developed than they needed to be, and I don't think I've said that before about any book written in the last couple of decades. Lorna's younger siblings, for example, got a lot of space but didn't contribute much to the plot. I think a good editor would have recommended trimming more.

Willa, I agree the relationship between Lorna's parents was interesting and added to Lorna's own character and her mixed feelings about marriage.

There was a lot of misery and interpersonal tension in this plot, and I thought the handling of it was mediocre - I had some sympathy, but other authors have evoked more from me. The resolution at the end was touching and the image Spencer created was beautiful - I agree that it wasn't entirely believable, but the author acknowledged that when Lorna's parents didn't speak to her. In general I thought that Spencer handled the happy bits, including the end, better than the tension as the plot developed.

Date Posted: 11/15/2009 10:55 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2006
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I agree with just about all of your points. Okay, that's going to make for a dull discussion. ;-)

Date Posted: 11/16/2009 3:29 PM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2008
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Here is where I guess I spice the discussion up.  I actually enjoyed the book.  I like how the book was true to the time period and the characters reactions are more like what I think would have taken place in that time era.

I think her indecisiveness came from the intense pressure her mother was putting on her.  The weekly letters when she was in Milwaukee were brainwashing her.  Especially when she started to listen to the parts of what it would do to her brother and sisters.  She was 18, trying to stretch the dictates of women at the time yet still being true to her raising as an obedient child of the times.  I think the author did a great job showing the struggle with society versus what she wanted. 

I didn't quite understand the bastard part myself either.  Like it was said earlier, if they had just gotten married when they first found out then it wouldn't have been an issue, but other than that, I really enjoyed the book.

I also think that it ended in a good spot, sort of like the movie that leaves you guessing what happens next.  That's a whole additional story that would have clouded this one and dragged it out.  Its like the ending to Australia (I watched the movie for the first time this weekend so that's why this is sticking in my mind).

I would have to say my favorite part is when Phoebe showed Lorna that she was in the wrong in the situation.  I liked how she was honest with her friend and was there when she was needed and gave Lorna a kick in the pants to grow up.

Least favorite part is when her mother took the baby away.  That was horrible.  I cried too. 

Date Posted: 11/17/2009 8:40 AM ET
Member Since: 10/19/2007
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I love everything by Spencer.  The way she draws you into a story from the very beginning and hits detail after detail (though I did skim the book this time around.  It was my third re-read.....sometimes too much time spent on a history lesson gets annoying).  In this book, she spent a lot of time on a history lesson.  When they were in the dining room, you practically could smell the food.  When they were sailing, you could feel the wind in your hair.  She's amazing in that respect.

I think the whole bastard thing was a showing of how strong willed both characters were.  Jens made it this far on his own and knew he would always be beneath these people.   Lorna was strong willed and hated to show her need for him as well.   And she hated the fact that her parents held money and security over her head.  The sensuality in the book was amazing as well.  I notice that wasn't one of your questions, but a lot of people assume Spencer is a demure writer when it's actually the opposite.  I thought her heated bedroom scenes were over the top in this one.  And I thought Lorna was very risque for the era to just jump right into it with the hired help.

I hated the father....but loved the fact that he was true to his character.....loud, bloated, wealthy snob.  I felt like the mother was a victim of her generation.  She envied the freedom that Lorna strove for, but knew it was wrong to try to acheive it.  Perfect characterization of a woman in that time period....being held down for proprieties sake.

Date Posted: 11/17/2009 8:50 AM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2008
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That's true, we didn't talk about the sensuality in this book.  I definitely felt the pull of the lovers.  I could really feel their love and desire for each other and I  thought the love scenes were really really well done.  They were, i guess the word I am looking for is Classical.  They weren't cheap or taudry.  They felt to me like a well done love scene in an R rated movie. 

I have to agree with Monica that Spencer is a great author who really made you feel like you were right there, part of the action.

Date Posted: 11/17/2009 10:26 AM ET
Member Since: 2/3/2009
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Sorry I'm late to the party, but I just finished the book last night. And I'll admit, when I first started the book, I seriously considered DNFing it by the first few chapters. I don't know if I just wasn't in the right mindset or what, but Spencer's attention to detail was grating on my nerves. I really don't need to know what brand of stemware they were using! Some detail is good, like with the sailing aspect, but her descriptions of the surroundings were over the top for me. But eventually, I was able to look beyond that (I skimmed large sections of descriptive paragraphs, lol) and was sucked into the love story between Lorna and Jens, because their feelings for each other were truly sweet. 

So, overall, I liked the book. I don't know that it made me a fan of Spencer, but I'd probably be open to reading something else by her. I loved the story itself, the setting and time period, and the nautical aspect really intrigued me. The characters were well-developed, Lorna especially, but I agree, I could have used a deeper look into Jens' way of thinking. I, too, liked the fact that Lorna wasn't entirely likable, and was actually surprised by that development when the time came. And I also didn't really understand her reasons for not marrying Jens. It seemed to me she spent her young adult life bucking social protocol, but all it took was a parental guilt trip and this strong, independent woman turned into a meek mouse. 

But Willa, I have to disagree with you on one point. The parents, in my opinion, came off as total villains. I hated them even more than I hated Annie's parents in Annie's Song, lol. Apart from that one tiny glimpse of humanity we saw out of  Levinia, I didn't see them as having one redeeming quality. I guess the mark of a good story is one that sparks emotion, and I was definitely enraged by the parents' repeated actions of placing their social standing far above and beyond the feelings of their own children, which, of course, was the standard of that time. 

My favorite part of this book was the ending, from Lorna's talk with Phoebe till the last page. A great way to wrap up the discord between Jens and Lorna, I thought, and it redeemed any other misgivings I  may have had about the book. 

Date Posted: 11/17/2009 10:29 AM ET
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Oh, and as far as the sensuality goes, I thought it was pretty mild. Sweet, definitely, and romantic, but mild. But that could be because I read this after reading Lucy Monroe! lol

Date Posted: 11/17/2009 12:13 PM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2008
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I am trying to decide which set of parents I didn't like more - Annie's Song or November of the Heart.  I think I would have to go with Annie's song, only beacuse I don't think those characters were as well developed as these and that was as annoying as their actions.

I do agree that there were some details over the top in this book.  I remember thinking in the beginning of the book that her descriptions of the clothes and such were so detailed that even I, as a costume design major in school, didn't know (or remember) all the terms she used.

Date Posted: 11/19/2009 2:51 PM ET
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Gina brought up a good point comparing the parents in Annie's Song and November of the Heart.  If I remember correctly, they are relatively close in time.  What other things can we compare and contrast between the two books?  For example - "east" versus west.

Date Posted: 11/19/2009 4:18 PM ET
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It's interesting that both sets of parents were very concerned about thei reputations/social status but it took vastly different forms. I can't see Lorna's parents letting her roam around dressed in rags. That's probably an east vs. west thing.

Date Posted: 11/20/2009 4:26 AM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2009
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Jennifer, one thing that occurs to me is that in both books the parents attempted to control the daughter's marriage as well as the fate of the illegitimate child. I really don't think of the US as a country where arranged marriages ever held sway, so I wonder how historical that attitude was? Obviously in Annie's Song the parents thought Annie wasn't competent to make decisions or raise a child, so that provides some excuse for their actions.

Date Posted: 11/20/2009 9:16 AM ET
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Very interesting point. 

I actually do think there were still arranged marriages here in the US as people immigrated and brought the ways of the old country with them.  People today still have arranged marriages its just not as prolific as it was in the past and definitely not the norm.

 

Here is something else I was waiting for and was surprised I didn't see, Spencer had mentioned several times early in the story about how Lorna's brother knew things by spying on people with his spyglass.  I was surprised that she never had him see Lorna and Jens together.

Date Posted: 11/20/2009 10:45 AM ET
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I was expecting that too, Jennifer. Kind of a red herring, throwing us off the path about how Lorna and Jens' relationship was going to be "outed."

I also liked how the "other guy" was actually kinda sweet. Usually, if there is an antagonist introduced into a love triangle, he's a DB (nasty hidden temper, whores around, etc.), but Taylor really didn't do anything wrong. Which makes Lorna's choice of Jens all the much better, because he wasn't the clear winner. 

Date Posted: 11/20/2009 10:54 AM ET
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I think Taylor was so sweet, that he was almost a non-character.  Spencer really didn't spend a lot of time on him and I would agree with you that it does make her time with Jens that much more special since she had a good choice that her parents liked and that she could like, etc.  I

did think it was a little weird that he ended up with her sister.  Whether or not Lorna wanted him, as Jenny, I would have felt like second choice and wonder if he was with me to be with me or just the family connection, which goes back to the arranged marriages idea and what was socially acceptable at the time.

Date Posted: 11/20/2009 11:53 AM ET
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Yeah, that whole sister thing was definitely weird. 

The other thing I forgot to mention was how much I loved the Aunt Agnes character. If any of you were fans of the show Pushing Daisies (may you rest in peace), she reminded me of the Aunt Vivian character - kind of whacky, mourning after a lost love. I loved how she was an integral part of the story, offering the only family support Lorna had. 

Date Posted: 11/20/2009 1:07 PM ET
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I loved Aunt Agnes too.  :)  I wanted to stand up and cheer and I wanted to tell Henrietta to go jump in the lake or Lorna to stick her with a very sharp hat pin. 

Date Posted: 11/20/2009 3:10 PM ET
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Aunt Agnes was awesome. Am I the only one who didn't like Taylor? He called Aunt Agnes crazy (or something implying that) early on, and I was ready for Lorna to ditch him at that point. And when he gave her the watch, I thought he was condescending - our parents want this and you've turned out well, so I guess I'll marry you. He was too stuck on convention and status himself.

But then, I'm way too picky in real life... maybe an arranged marriage would have been just the thing for me. ;)



Last Edited on: 11/20/09 3:13 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/21/2010 11:36 PM ET
Member Since: 11/11/2005
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Well Gina, if you were fashionably late to this party, then feel like I'm arriving when everybody else is saying their goodbye's LOL.  Sorry for joining the discussion so late ....

I had a slightly different perspective on this book than most people, because I live in the Twin Cities.   I don't live in St. Paul, but I have been there quite a few times!    And I've toured a few of the stone mansions on Summit Hill.   White Bear Lake is a suburb of St. Paul now, so it kind of blew my mind that that this family moved there from St. Paul every summer. 

Most of the characters and the locations seemed so real to me.    The descriptions got me from the very first page, when Spencer detailed the setting and food at that elaborate meal (asparagus ice?  pickled nasturium seeds?).  I could have done with a little less of the boat building details, but other than that I loved every bit of historical detail that Spencer gave us.

Someone above me said that they thought the secondary characters were too developed, but I loved them and wished that we had MORE of them.   Loved Aunt Agnes and wish that Spencer would have told us the story of Agnes and her Captain.   Loved Theron and his spyglass.  And yes, I did think it a a little odd that Theron or anybody else didn't discover their secret love affair that first summer, since Lorna was sneaking off to see him ALL OF THE TIME.    But then I realized that during this time, the rich were very very rich (this was before income taxes) and it was totally and completely unthinkable for someone of Lorna's class to get involved with someone of Jens' class.  I'm not saying that it didn't happen, just that noone wanted to THINK that it could happen.   I believe the servants had to have suspected, but never said anything.   And the rest of the family and her friends just didn't see it because they didn't want to see it.

What I didn't like?  Well, as mentioned above I could have done with a little less details about the boat building and sailing.  That all went straight over my head.   (Although I could easily picture Jens planing and sanding the wood and glistening with sweat.    Yummmmmmmmm.)   And I could have done with a little less anguish between Jens and Lorna and time spent apart.   Honestly, I wanted to clunk their heads together to make them realize how stubborn each of them was being!   Thankfully Phoebe finally did just that for Lorna (figuratively speaking, of course).

Loved the ending though, even if it was a touch unrealistic.    Especially that final scene.  I could just picture them both trying to struggle up out of the tangle of clothes on the floor and popping their heads over the edge of the bed to make sure that Danny was OK.






Last Edited on: 1/21/10 11:37 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/22/2010 9:35 AM ET
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How cool that you live in that area.  I totally understand how that adds a whole new element to the story.  I live in the suburbs of Chicago so when I was reading Devil in the White City it really adds a different element to the story when you can so perfectly picture the settings. 

Its been so long since I read this book now, but as I read your response I was totally transported right back to the story.  Put a little smile on my face.  :)