To judge this book only in comparison to Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility is unjust to Jane Austen. In Mansfield Park, Austen creates an extremely timid, shy, but highly moral character, then places her in a situation in which she must make a choice: either stick to her principles or face social pressure and denunciation. I found witnessing Fanny’s development and the novel’s outcome to be a rare treat.
(Fanny Price’s image is by Flominowa)
The painter Margaret Bernadine Hall was so touched by Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables that she painted this image of Fantine, with baby Cosette in her crib. While plump, ruddy cheeked Cosette sleeps peacefully, her mother’s misery is evident. We know from the novel that she was extremely poor and if you look carefully, you will detect an empty bottle on the table behind her. As for the chiaroscuro (the treatment of light and shade in a painting), by making both the background and Fantine’s shirt black, the painter is guiding us directly to her hopeless eyes and downturned mouth. A very powerful image.
There is such beauty in this painting. I love the lively colors, but I especially savor the sense of warmth in the painting. The loving mother has her arms protectively around her snuggled-up daughter, and the daughter is smiling safely in her snug cocoon, unperturbed by the scary parts of the fairy tale. The light shade is illuminating them softly from within as the sun is setting from without. Yevgeniy has suspended this beautiful moment between mother and daughter, capturing the meaning of motherhood with every aspect of this delightful painting.
Happy Mother’s Day to those who are celebrating!
One of my top favorite painters is William Bouguereau. Here is one of his version of a young girl reading. Other than the utter beauty and charm of the setting and the girl, my favorite part is her fingers, on the verge of turning a page. As she patiently looks at us, her eyes seem to indicate she is giving us this moment, but in another moment she will go back to reading her book. What a delightful moment Bouguereau has depicted!
Much like deciding on a theme and a final climax in advance, I find that remembering the answer to this question helps my writing stay focused.
Who am I writing for? First and foremost, I write for myself. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is true for all writers. We have something so huge and important bursting from within us, we are eager to give it shape in the form of a narrative.
But once in a while we all imagine another person reading the creation we’ve so painstakingly slaved over. And each of us has the perfect reader in mind, the kind of person with whom you would treasure talking about your novel. Your book will give this person an “Aha!” moment, igniting a spark of understanding to an unanswered question.
My ideal reader is me at a younger age, back when I was still searching for myself. A book like Travel Secrets would have been exactly what I was looking for: An empowering tale of personal growth via a fun, romantic journey (using the word “romance” in a sense that the heroine strives to be the best version of herself).
Here’s a picture of me at fourteen, right before the punk phase. Underneath the tough attitude is a fragile soul that has been bullied for over a decade, and whose secret desire is to find a way to be happy in this life. What kind of answers she would have found in my novel? I think I will leave that for another post.