With a life based on looks, Fanny begins to examine her past and the men who have pursued her, and, in the vein of a modern day movie, she begins to see them one by one to see what has become of them. Yet what could be more tragic for the woman who, having been used all her life to being beautiful, found that without her looks she had nothing left to fall back upon? But there is a delightful bit of humor scattered among Fannys almost pathetic attempt to discover if her life has had or might possibly still have any meaning. Elizabeth von Arnim put me in mind of Oscar Wilde, with her humor laid like a mosaic over the very serious issue of aging.
Mr Skeffington was Elizabeth von Arnims last published novel, written when in her 70s it certainly shows a certain preoccupation with ageing (as did her 1925 novel Love). (Spoiler, a certain book blogger not a million miles away will herself be approaching that birthday in thirteen months time so, despite still having this years birthday to get out of the way first, I entirely sympathised).
Elizabeth von Arnim takes up with an aging coquette, long after men have ceased to romanticize her. It's a cautionary tale and true enough. Perhaps the Paris Hiltons of the world are good for feminism! Perhaps Paris Hilton is good...for feminism? Perhaps Paris Hilton is good...for feminism? It's only human to utilize privilege...until you find that privilege gone. I want to spend time with protagonists that I truly love. I want to spend time with my Elizabeth, the still hopeful Elizabeth who dwells in fresh, sunlit gardens.
Mr. Skeffington (1944) imdb blurb - Popular and beautiful Fanny Trellis is forced into a loveless marriage with an older man, Jewish banker Job Skeffington, in order to save her beloved brother Trippy from an embezzlement charge and predictable complications result.
She was not explicit the way they would be nowadays. Fantastic read.
This novel should be required reading for any woman under forty who has ever uttered the words, "I am not a feminist." "Mr. Skeffington" is the polar opposite of feminism. She is an embarrassment, and much of the novel concerns her gradual recognition of the utter demise of her beauty, and by extension, of her power and value in society.
Von Arnim relates, with great humor and sensitivity, Fanny's growing realization that she is far from looking as young on the outside as she feels on the inside.
Otherwise this would be a four-star book.
Elizabeth, Countess Russell, was a British novelist and, through marriage, a member of the German nobility, known as Mary Annette Gräfin von Arnim. Count von Arnim died in 1910, and in 1916 Elizabeth married John Francis Stanley Russell, 2nd Earl Russell, Bertrand Russell's elder brother. The marriage ended in disaster, with Elizabeth escaping to the United States and the couple finally agreeing, in 1919, to get a divorce.