This was different, but overall, I liked it.
In the beginning, I was a little put off by the frivolity of this woman. It had me wondering why this book has received so many 4 and 5 star rating. As I read further, there were threads of truth that remain poignant even in this century, that were woven throughout.
It is a short book, so this isn't an in depth look at the MC. But there were plenty of glimpses, both subtle and powerful, into the woman she was becoming. This book is the life story of a woman born in the 1890’s through 1960’s told via her letters to friends and family. I did not know this was the book’s formats and it took me awhile to get used to. The book kept my interest and I read it in 3 days, but there were so many things I didn’t like about it. They all had to do with the heroine. I could not relate to her on so many fronts.
If you don't want to read all my ramblings: in a nutshell, she was too materialistic, too concerned about status and wealth, and both her relationships with her husbands were unhealthy, both in totally different ways.
Here’s a parital list of her traits and actions that bugged me:
She was so concerned about her status in the community. She constantly rehearsed to newspapers editor’s her social prominence (p.271) She wanted to be friends with her neighbor because he was the newspaper editor and was so proud of her second husband's social progression.
So negative about her second husband. p.262 “ you do not know how fortunate you were to lose your husband while you still loved him.” OUCH!
So concerned that Cousin Josie’s will be to her and her father’s benefit.
So much emphasis on her wealth and in her later years on her material things; how to divide them among her heirs etc. She was so diligent to keep her money separate from her second husbands. She even disparaged Sam's connection to her house even though he didn't pay for it, as if ownership was the only mechanism to emotional connection (p. 253 "You would think he owned this house instead of just paying board all these years.")
That “affair” with Richard Prince. Next door hotel rooms, her defensiveness about it… so many problems on that front!
Why on earth did she marry Sam if she was so opposed to marriage?
“I escaped the manacles of motherhood when I remarried.” Another OUCH!
Disconnect in story: If Sam divorced his first wife because she wouldn't give him children, why did he not want children when Bess and Sam married? Were her kids enough for him? That's never resolved in the story.
Her first husbands' withdrawal from her was so obvious to me, but never caught her attention. She dismissed it as his dedication to work. I kept waiting for her to discover him having an affair. I don’t feel his emotional (& physical) distance from her was ever resolved in the book. That was a big failing for me in the story. How could Bess not see that and yet see her second husband’s faults so easily?
To think that the charity you want to be remembered for most, to mention on your obituary was the Shakespeare Club?
However, she was rich and could afford to travel, I do love to travel, but unfortunately I do not have the limitless funds to do it justice.
I wish the French letters would have been translated. No idea what was said in those couple letters.
p. 254 “I find the television seldom engages the mind as fully as it does the eye.” Ha!
p. 250 “be my guests for dinner at the airport restaurant. The food is always excellent.” Oh, how things have changed since 1955!
Hmmm.. maybe after all this ranting, I should have rated it one star. But, the writing was fine, it captured my attention, the book was clean, no swear words that I remember (that was one of its only saving graces). I just despised the heroine.
FREE BOOK ♡ A Woman of Independent Means ♨ The Richly Woven Story Of Bess Steed Garner, Whose Trials Amp; Triumphs From The Early S Through The S Make Her A Woman For All Ages A Deluxe Edition Of The Classic Novel Published InThat Spawned A Threepart TV Movie It's a book of letters from a woman of high society, beginning with her childhood letters to her sweetheart. She later marries him and they enjoy a life of luxury until his death. The book is touching, but I find the main character to be a bit bossy. Her insistence to have things her way all the time becomes a bit annoying, and she is outspoken to a fault. Her children, especially her daughter, become estranged from her near the end of her lift, as a result of her intrusive personality. The book is, as previously stated, touching, even if I don't always agree with the pointsofview of the persona. I tried a book without a single recommendationvery scary for me! I picked it up at the dollar store or a clearance rack and I fell in love with it. The entire book was written in letters over the span of an American women's life (late 1800's1969ish). She was a great character of strength and determination albeit selfish at times. Life deals her tragedy yet she often rises and grows from her losses. The word independent describes her perfectly (a bit like Scarlett O'Hara ) I am not sure if anyone else out there will love this book as I did but I would recommend it.i would give 4 1/2 stars I read this book thirty years ago and it was a light bulb moment for methe first time I had read a 'howto' on becoming independent in a relationship. Not meant to be a howto book, this is a beautiful story of a woman, her loves and life, told in diary format. It is a page turner, but the takeaway for me was how Bess illustrates the importance of every woman having her own financial security, her own thoughts and dreams. I thought it was so important that I bought copies for my own three daughters (who are inherently more independent that women were in past eras. But we all need this reminder).A Woman Of Independent Means My dear friend told me to run, not walk, to the bookstore and purchase a copy of this book. And my, am I glad I did. This epistolary novel is written through a series of letters throughout the life of Bess Steed Armstrong, a forthright woman of the early 1900s who believes in living life on her own terms. Because of inherited money, she is indeed a woman of independent means, which helps her fulfill her chosen life's paths. Through her letters we come to intimately know this woman of indomitable spirit and follow her as she experiences the sacrifices of love, the complexities of motherhood, the problems and joys of marriage, and the pain of great loss. At times I wasn't sure I even liked Bess. She is pushy and forthright to a fault...dare I say bossy? Or was she the pillar post of her family and friends, the strong one doing what no one else wanted to do? Love her or despise her, getting to know Bess is a wonderful read. This excellent novel, made up of a lifetime's correspondence from a woman to her family and friends running from the turn of the last Century to 1968, is a pageturner in all the best senses of that phrase. I cried at least twice while I was reading this story (an unusual occurrence for me) and couldn't read it quickly enough in order to find out what would happen next.
The author is very sneaky in that she gives Bess noble motives but a lessthanideal way of going about them. She runs a fine thread of control through the lives of her loved ones, and then is truly surprised and hurt when they rebel. I was always interested in Bess, sometimes exasperated by her, but never bored with her. I loved every moment I was allowed to spend in her presence and hated getting to the last page of the book, because it meant that I'd have to say goodbye to Bess and her loved ones.
Found my copy of this book as I was gathering books to take to the HalfPrice Book seller/buyer. (My husband does this for me so I won't come home with more than I took there. So I've never been in the store. Not that I need to with a Kindle Fire and a hot Amazon account.) I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw an inscription from my mother who has been gone from this life so many years ago. She always gave me a book for my birthday, a hard back book with an inscription inside. Those I have held onto forever. Some, my dad even wrote a note inside. She quit giving me books as I grew up and moved on with my life. Until I found this book. It was quite the exception. These pages are brown now since it was a 1st printing of the paperbacks. First Avon Printing, July, 1979. "Laurie DarlingHope you enjoy this book as much as I didLove, Mom" . My heart is full and hurting a little. I will reread this book and remember..... her and the bookagain.
Not many books do I read more than once. This was one. I read it about 35 years ago when I was busy raising 5 kids, and a husband, and it had a big impact on my life. I have just requested it from the library so that I can read it again! I can’t think of higher praise I could give for any book. It was recommended to me by my mother who, I believe, identified with Bess. I certainly saw the comparisons when I read it, as did my sisters.
One reviewer described the story as "A portrait of a woman with all her frailties, strengths, failures and victories combining to prove that living a life is an accomplishment.” Told through personal letters covering a period of about 60 years, it introduced several significant characters without having to keep track of too many. The author was skillful with the flow and cohesiveness of the story despite the lack of return letters, and I enjoyed this epistolary style. One of its strengths was giving the reader the opportunity to read between the lines and see the letter writer’s flaws revealed, flaws of which the character herself was unaware. It made her presence real and authentic. Another thing I found interesting was how she described events in her life differently, depending to whom she was writing. She acknowledges this very human trait in herself when she writes the following:
"by compressing and editing the events of my life, I infuse them with a dramatic intensity totally lacking at the time, but oddly enough I find that years later what I remember is not the event as I lived it but as I described it in a letter.”
Bess, the protagonist, was a fully fleshed out, sympathetic character. I cried when she cried and rejoiced when she rejoiced. I understood her struggles between social conventions and personal choices. She was not a perfect person and some of those choices were unwise. They conveyed a feeling to her children that foreign travel and social status were more valued than they. She was more excited about an article mentioning her in the New York Times than she was about the arrival of another greatgrandchild. In her latter years she did not seem to recognize this choice as the cause of a distance between herself and her children.
My feelings for Bess veered between deep admiration and frustration: admiration for her optimism and determination in the face of all the misfortunes in her life, and frustration for her prideful opinions and treatment of others. She maintained a fine thread of control in the lives of her children, and then was truly surprised and hurt by the distance between her and them as adults.
The book inspired me to consider the influence and extent (and limits) of my own words and actions upon the lives of my children and gave me a determination to establish a close relationship with them, especially with my daughters. There were a few of scenes that were so moving I'll never forget them. One of these was a point where she expressed her opinion that a woman needs to have some money of her own. Due to circumstances and persons in my own life at the time, this was something that had a strong impact. Another was a point when Bess realized that if she wanted something done right, she would have to do it herself, a realization I came to myself at the time I read it.
The book clearly gives a social picture of each generation covered. The huge historic and cultural changes of the era come alive through Bess's gaze, and it's fascinating to see her struggling. Her determination and success in handling those things were admirable and inspiring.
This is a short read with a good deal of depth. There is some humor and the story is wonderful.
It will touch your heart, inspire you and make you think. In the words of another reviewer, “Read it slowly, savor it, enjoy it, and then... remember it forever.”
This was different, but overall, I liked it.