The Gilded Hour - Sara Donati

Recording some gems from the first quarter of the book...


-- "In the midst of Lent Father Corcoran had given a thunderous sermon on the Rational Dress Society, which he took as proof of the continuing decline of the weaker sex. He predicted physical illness, infertility, and damnation." I had to look this up. From Wikipedia: "these dress reformists contested that women’s fashions were not only physically detrimental, but “the results of male conspiracy to make women subservient by cultivating them in slave psychology.” A change in fashions could change the whole position of women, allowing for greater social mobility, independence from men and marriage, the ability to work for wages, as well as physical movement and comfort." No wonder he was so against them! Quel horror- la determination des femmes!


-- "No one ever does anything out of charity," Anna went on. "Every choice we make benefits ourselves directly or indirectly. Even if it looks like a sacrifice, the alternative would be unbearable in some way. If I hadn't helped I wouldn't sleep well, and I need my sleep." Probably the closest expression I've ever found to how I personally feel about altruism.


-- "Yes," Sophie said, unable to keep the sharp edge out of her voice. "I am a fully trained physician." / There was a startled pause. "Oh, come now," Janine Campbell said with a half laugh. "You don't believe that yourself." Haters gonna hate.


-- "Anna sighed and patted her breasts. "Like two loaves of bread set out to rise." This line, and others like it, is how you can tell this book was written by a woman and not a man.


-- "You would learn the language. But you would miss your own language, your people. In a crowd, you hear nothing but this other language that has been so much work for you, it gives you a headache sometimes trying to follow. The people you talk to make fun of your accent, the way you turn sentences around. They insult you to your face. Then all of a sudden you hear somebody speaking your language. The language of your town and family, the language you heard around the dinner table as a little girl, or playing with other little girls like yourself. It's like being handed a wonderful present with no warning. Suddenly you're not alone in the world." "Mother" tongue, after all...


-- "Now you are boasting. How many languages do you speak?" / "I don't know... I've never counted." Must use this response someday in the future.


-- "We will keep trying until we succeed, or we all decide together that we've tried long enough." This would be a great quote for the wall?


"Overpopulation is not a joking matter, Dr. Savard. The underclasses are not capable of restraint and not willing to work hard enough to support so many children, so that we - you and I - must bear the financial burden. And what is the solution to that?"


"Why, birth control," Anna said, holding on to her temper with all her strength.


"Artificial contraceptives are illegal, as I hope you are aware."


Anna drew in a deep breath. "I am aware. So let me ask you, Mr. Johnson. Contraception is illegal and so is abortion. History makes it clear that human beings are not capable of abstinence. The poor - wait, what did you call them? The underclasses. How do you suggest their numbers be kept to levels you find acceptable?"


Mr. Johnson's gaze shifted away and then back, the muscles in his jaw pulsing and jumping. "Is that a serious question?" [...] He stood a little straighter. "The first problem is the influx of the worst of Europe. The moral and intellectual dregs must be turned away. If such a policy had been put in place at the right time, Michael and Dylan Joyce would have been born in Ireland, and feeding them would not fall to us."


"At the right time," Anna echoed. "So, after your forefathers arrived."


The muscles in his jaw were clenching again. "You misunderstand me."


"No, I don't think so. I think I understand you very well."

I have feelings about this bit, which in itself is about a page long on my Kindle's screen. In order, from top to bottom: (1) viewing overpopulation as a problem rather than an effect of poor housing options and a lack immigrant aid services, (2) classism, (3) arrogant moral superiority, due to the former classism undoubtedly, (4) viewing the people themselves negatively as a financial burden when the reality of social economics rarely support such conclusions (see $2.00 A Day about poverty in modern America and its history), (5) assuming that there is only one solution, and that it would actually make things better, (7) birth control, in context of this book, seems to mean female contraceptives and/or abortions, but why is there no mention yet of male contraceptives? Or did I miss something? (8) Artificial is relative depending upon the method/implement, (9) legality is decided, usually, in America, by jerks such as this male character, (10) and why is abstinence so impossible? Due to human nature - lust, desire, sexual attraction - or to human behavior - rape, sexual abuse, sexual coercion (male and female, to be clear)? (11) The linking of class status to wealth, which we admittedly still do today, but isn't it strange that money is the barometer for class and not something like moral decency? Instead, moral decency is assumed to derive from wealth, which is really strange. (12) The assumption that population control can be kept at acceptable levels - this is leading to that slippery slope of eugenics... (13) The American fear of an invasion of immigrants which is irony at its finest, (14) "the worst of Europe" isn't untrue, America and Australia both accepted prisoners as citizens back in the day, but this also discounts the possibility of being in the advantageous position of accepting brain drain candidates, as happened circa-WWII. Also, it assumes xenophobic tendencies and that foreigners cannot assimilate and be good, if not better, in their new country. (15) Alas, the moral and intellectual dregs that are already Americans (case in point) cannot be cast out! (16) Given the book is set in the 1880s, I assume this must be before the immigration caps were set that prohibited more than a certain number per race to enter the country per year, (17) the whole freaking exchange is like watching a political debate, (18) the burden of feeding would still exist but in the form of relief for another country or in trying to supply food resources to trade to them probably, (19) also, brutal and ignorantly made example because of the Irish potato famine, which, if I remember correctly, was kind of Britain's fault, (20) and the convenient excuse of being born on the right side of the fence thanks to the actions of one's ancestors - which is always sensitive for me since I myself was born into fortuitous circumstances thanks to my immigrant ancestors, and even I find myself falling into this kind of rhetoric sometimes although I don't think of myself as xenophobic at all. Is it the consequence of being raised in a society that still is? Does exposure to one kind of environment (social or regional or...?) have an effect? Perhaps it is the kind of company one keeps? Hmmm.... Still sorting that out.


-- "I have a very long name... And I am very tall. If they had thought to give you a longer name, maybe you would have grown to a full size." LOL. Oh man, if only....