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Late Bloomer: A Novel Hardcover – March 16, 2004
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
Pritchard's brilliant mix of romance and satire may have a heart made of cactus, but it goes down like hot Indian fry bread dipped in honey. "Shouldn't one live one's romance, not read about preposterous imaginary ones?" muses Prudence True Parker, college prof and single mom shortly before romance novelist Digby Deeds (aka Mildred Crawley) bequeaths her the last 40 plot lines from his bestselling Savage Passions series as a reward for passing him toilet paper in a lavatory. Parker, author of one award-winning book, hasn't written anything in years, but has mounting bills and a 17-year-old daughter to support, so she accepts. Then Parker meets gorgeous Ray Chasing Hawk, Comanche artist (and former porno films soundtrack composer), a self-styled "Lord of the Southern Plains," 14 years her junior. Although Hawk likes to bite rather than kiss and says, "[Y]ou are so white you glow in the dark," he's soon sharing Parker's Arizona nest, painting, modeling and preparing to become a Sun Dancer. Meanwhile, a parade of vividly drawn characters, including Hawk's fellow Sun Dancers, invade Parker's white-bread life as Hawk teaches Parker that "savage" love bears little resemblance to the novels she's been secretly writing. Pritchard's quicksilver ability to blend biting social/political commentary with a rueful analysis of relationships makes this lesson in true romance an absolutely sage-scented delight.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Arizonan Prudence True Parker teaches surprisingly effective touchy-feely writing classes at a community college. Divorced, 48, in debt, and excruciatingly lonely, she's also smart, funny, generous, spiritually inclined, and open to new experiences, of which there are many in this clever roller-coaster ride of a novel. First an enormously successful romance writer who specializes in romances about white women and hunky Native American warriors anoints Prudence his heir to the series Savage Passion. Prudence has no intention of writing such trash until she meets Ray Chasing Hawk, a gorgeous, young, and virile Comanche artist and model, and finds herself enacting a romance of her own. Or is she? Angry, difficult, and manipulative, Ray turns Prudence's life upside-down. Now truly desperate for cash, she starts writing Native American romances in secret, torrid, and cliched tales that play in ironic counterpoint to her increasingly complicated life. Pritchard overloads her otherwise wily tale with trivia, but her shrewd humor, canny insights, colorful characters, and intriguing plot prevail. Is this a romance? Yes, although by critiquing the genre, it transcends it. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Melissa Pritchard, who directs creative writing at Arizona State, is a funny, clever, successful writer but also reveals all the prejudices of the academic world of which she is a part. She begins the book with a nod to Janice Radway, whose groundbreaking book, Reading the Romance, analyzed why so many ordinary women read so many romance novels. Radway came to the conclusion that romances allow women some relief from the mundane, patriarchal system in which they find themselves and also give them a fantasy of being both independent and loved. She ended up with genuine respect for romance readers. Pritchard, apparently, not so much.
Pritchard's heroine, Prudence True Parker, is a struggling middle-aged English instructor at a community college (that is, the lowest of the low in the academic system), who is a sharp if snarky observer of the world around her. Somehow she falls into inheriting a romance novel series, which she only agrees to write because she is foolishly in debt, although she disdains romances. At the same time, a chance meeting with a young gorgeous Native American ends in a passionate tryst, which leads to a frustrating love affair with the typical enigmatic seemingly narcissistic hard-to-read hero. She is also caught between her newly widowed mother, who always finds fault with her, and her 20-year-old daughter, who also always finds fault with her. She is, at one and the same time, a typical romantic heroine and a sendup of the typical romantic heroine. She whines a lot for a woman nearing 50.
The novel is filled with Native American characters, most of whom are loud, annoying, shiftless, or narcissistic, the men in particular; and if it weren't for an extensive homage to Native American spiritualism at the end of the book, Pritchard could easily be accused of stereotyping. Thirty pages from the end, Prudence is hoping to rid herself of both her Indian lover and his ex-girlfriend who have both taken up residence in her house and thrown her life into chaos for a year, reclaiming her own feminist life. And yet, of course....
I'm not sure who this book appeals to. It's too literary and feminist for an ordinary romance, too romancified for a real literary critique or feminist take. An interesting read, but in the end I wasn't sure what Pritchard was trying to do or who she was appealing to. Perhaps a small group of former community college instructors, like Prudence True Parker--and me.
The idealized scenes which Prudence pens at late hours contrast with her complicated and messy real-life relationship with Ray. Prudence finds that our culture's idealized depictions of Native American life and the American West are much different from the reality - and, of course, that romance is never as easy as it seems.
Prudence's eventual journey to the Sun Dance with Ray and his spiritual mentors is both frustrating and enlightening, and she eventually finds a way to reconcile her personal romance story with her need to remain independent as a woman and her disdain for the empty promises of the "Savage Love" books she reluctantly authored. Prudence is joined in her midlife journey by her artistic daughter Fiona, her widowed mother, and an assortment of memorable friends and foes.
Parker's writing is tart, satirical, and her observations are bitingly accurate. Whether you are a fan of romance (or you sometimes read it as a guilty pleasure,)or you are a lover of realistic, serious literature, you will surely relate to Pritchard's deft examination of a complicated real-life romance story.
Digby is dying, and with little forethought, leaves Prudence forty romance plots to write. Life soon imitates art as Prudence pens her first Indian romance. She becomes "involved" with Ray Chasing Hawk, a Native American activist, artist and model and discovers that real life is more complicated but better than any romance novel.
Pritchard deftly blends beautiful prose with hilarious situations. I laughed a lot and somehow, by the end of the book, didn't mind growing older so very much. I had a bit of trouble getting started and the situations sometimes seemed a bit over the top but I kept turning the pages and was happy thatI did.