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Stephanie
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Middle Book Discussion: Relationships

O’Farrell’s novel is steeped in secrets. As the story of Esme and Kitty unfolds simultaneously with the story of Iris and Alex, O’Farrell offers clues about the true nature of these relationships. How do these two stories relate to each other? How does it affect your feelings about the characters?

This thread is suitable for those who have read midway through the book. Please contain your answers to the first half of the book to avoid spoilers.
Stephanie
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IBIS
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Re: Middle Book Discussion: Relationships

Maggie O'Farrell created a parallel structure between Esme and Iris' relationship, and the one with Iris and Alex.

Esme and Iris are thrown together by the institution's closing down, and, in effect, making Esme homeless. Iris takes it upon herself to give Esme a home.

Alex as young boy, kept running away from his mother, and Iris and Sadie provided Alex a home during his school holidays.

It seems that Iris symbolizes home to both Esme and Alex.

As the novel progresses, we discover that Iris' relationship to both Esme and Alex goes beyond mere hospitality. Their bonds are even more tightly knitted...with Esme it's revealed to a very tight blood relationship; and with Alex, a very tight emotional bond, more intimate than Iris was willing to admit to herself.
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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IBIS
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Re: Middle Book Discussion: Relationships

Another thought I had is that Iris and Esme are mirror images of each other; I don't mean it physically, because Esme keeps thinking that Iris reminds her so much of her mother.

By mirror images I mean their "independence" is very similar. I kept wondering if Iris, had she been born 70 years earlier, would have suffered the same fate as Esme.
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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Stephanie
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Re: Middle Book Discussion: Relationships

Or if Esme, born 50 years later, might have been a corporate executive.

I think if she had been offered the education she wanted and the option to do some kind of "good works" (since her father didn't want her to be employed), she could have been a happy woman.

While it wasn't so rare for men to feel that way, but at the same time, plenty of women worked in the 1930s - my grandmother, for instance.
Stephanie
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Cahill42
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Re: Middle Book Discussion: Relationships



Stephanie wrote:
Or if Esme, born 50 years later, might have been a corporate executive.

I think if she had been offered the education she wanted and the option to do some kind of "good works" (since her father didn't want her to be employed), she could have been a happy woman.

While it wasn't so rare for men to feel that way, but at the same time, plenty of women worked in the 1930s - my grandmother, for instance.




I don't think that it was just men that had that opinion, but society in general (aleit a society run primarily by men). It's going to sound a bit snobbish, but I think in particular it was people of a certain class and possibly relgious background that held the opinion that women shouldn't have jobs, should be in the home, even when there are nannies and housekeepers to run the household. Gads, no wonder so many women went a bit cuckoo.

I agree that, if given the chance, Esme could have really made something out of herself, accomplished something besides her "vanishing act."

WWII marked a real turnaround for women in the workforce. With so many of "the boys" off fighting Hilter, who but the gals back home would fill the factories? My grandmother too worked in the 1930s and 40s. An original "Rosie the Riveter," she is.
Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.---J.K. Rowling

I'm a leaf on the wind, watch me soar.---Wash
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Stephanie
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Re: Middle Book Discussion: Relationships

I think the "Rosies" of the 40s were the ones that wrought real change. They realized that schoolhouses, offices and hospitals were not the only places women could earn a living, that they did not need a man to keep a roof over their heads and that there was more to life than cooking and washing.
Stephanie
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