Friday, June 19, 2009

seriously romantic: my grandmother's books

when i completed my master's project, i dedicated it to my two grandmothers, two women who have had an incredible presence and effect on my life. my maternal grandmother, in particular, shaped my likes and dislikes in ways that i am still sometimes surprised by. she passed away just before the new year, and one of the things i inherited was her collection of harlequin romance books.

she started collecting them after her mother died. she had cared for her mother as she aged and during one last illness and suddenly found that she had a lot of time on her hands. so she signed up to receive six books a month from the harlequin reader service. the bulk of her collection runs from 1977 to 1988, which coincides with my grandfather's death. she didn't save every single book, only the good ones [of the later years she kept very few, which indicates that the books were getting a little, shall we say, spicier and this more than anything likely contributed to her cancellation of her subscription to the service], and she was so organized she kept them in numerical order and had each book listed in a composition notebook by number. when i was younger borrowing one meant my initial was penciled into the book, so that she would know where it was. my grandmother was such a stickler.

i am slowly making my way through the series. as a fairly modern, contemporary woman, reading the older books [some of them are reprints from the 1960s] is on some levels a bit horrifying--the things a young, single woman could and couldn't do at that time are shocking, what is considered scandalous behavior is astounding to me. however, the overall tone of the novels actually convey an innocent earnestness.

the primness and sexism evident in the novels at the time lead to amusement more than a call to arms to militant feminism. these books were written by women for women, so it's clear that the sexism is a mere reflection of the times rather than an ideological manifesto. more often than not, i end up laughing at the more egregiously sexist passages.

in any case, to share my enjoyment of these books, i'm going to be posting some reviews and thoughts on them over the summer. my goal is to read all of them by summer's end. i probably won't review all of them, but will do my best to note down my thoughts as i read them.


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