The Undomestic Goddess: Chick Lit That Raises Many Questions

 

Chick lit is not usually my cup of tea but last week I went to stay at my mother’s for a week and found this in my sister’s newly bought collection. Since its been a long time since I read a book and as usually I have lots of free time at ammi’s, I decided to give this book a try. The blurb looked interesting enough:

Upon actual reading, here’s what I found:

Plot

The plot is about a young workaholic lawyer who is fired due to a mistake she accidentally conducts in her high powered job. Dazed and with no sense of direction, she boards a train to escape the city and lands in a village in which due to a misunderstanding she ends up becoming a housekeeper for a rich couple. It is captivating as the protagonist is faced with funny situations throughout the book. At times though the incidents depicted seem a little too farfetched but the book does not get boring at any point.

Writing Style

The writing style is engaging no doubt and one is draw into the situation from the very beginning when you find the overworked, stressed protagonist, Samantha Sweeting, halfheartedly getting ready for a relaxing massage session gifted by her aunt.

Characters

The characters are strong especially the protagonist. As a stressed workaholic, I could relate to the characters at so many levels. Her idea of makings to do lists and then forgetting about them is such a relatable task for a woman like me who keeps things safely only to forget later where she kept them and my to do lists fade due to my procrastination. However, there is one flaw in the characters that is more reflected towards the end and that is at times they appear one-dimensional. For example, in a situation a colleague says to Samantha while luring her towards the job she has left that she is the best legal mind of the generation. This dialogue becomes a little hard to digest when all the characters you encounter are too brilliant, too beautiful or too dumb or stupid. This presence of extremes of a single quality in a character renders them a little unbelievable.

Cliches

*Spoiler Alert*

The male love interest who looks poor but in fact turns out to be rich. This is a theme that has been done to death in all chick lit novels whether its Danielle Steel, Judith McNaught or any other. It isn’t a lie when men say that women are drawn to money since the authors of all chick lit believe that if they made the guy poor it would rob their story out of the super perfect happy ending.

Quotable Quotes

Despite being a happy go lucky novel, this novel has some seriously thought pro quotes and at a level it does raise questions in the mind about the relationship between women and the workplace, the redefined gender roles according to the modern era and the stress it puts on women.

Read the dialogue below:

“Well, for God’s sake, Samantha. Do you expect me to take all this seriously? Jesus.”
He takes off the apron and throws it down on the table. “Serving food to a bunch of
airheads. Letting them patronize you.”
“I have a job to do,” I say tightly, opening the oven to check on the salmon. “So if
you’re not going to help me—”
“This is not the job you should be doing!” he suddenly explodes. “Samantha, this is a
fucking travesty. You have more brains than anyone in that room, and you’re serving
them? You’re curtsying to them? You’re cleaning their bathrooms?”
He sounds so passionate, I turn round. All traces of teasing have gone from his face.
“Samantha, you’re one of the most brilliant people I know.” His voice is jerky with
anger. “You have the best legal mind any of us has ever seen. I cannot let you throw
away your life on this… deluded crap.”
“It’s not deluded crap!” I reply, incensed. “Just because I’m not ‘using my
degree,’just because I’m not in some office, I’m wasting my life? Guy, I’m happy.
I’m enjoying life in a way I’ve never done before. I like cooking. I like running a
house. I like picking strawberries from the garden—”

This highlights such an interesting perception present even in our society. A highly educated woman who “chooses” to stay at home is looked down upon and is called a degree waster. However the sole purpose of getting an education should not be about getting a job. Education is to broaden one’s vision and make one capable to face the challenges of life head on.

Similarly, the dialogue below raises questions about another dilemma of our society.

“You can pop a button on yourself, dear!” Mrs. Farley is shocked. “It won’t take you
two minutes. You must have a spare button in your workbox?”
My what?
“I don’t have a workbox,” I explain as politely as I can. “I don’t really do sewing.”
“You can sew a simple button on, surely!” she exclaims.
“No,” I say, a bit rankled at her expression. “But it’s no problem. I’ll send it back to
the dry cleaners.”
Mrs. Farley is appalled. “You can’t sew a button on? Your mother never taught you?”
I stifle a laugh at the thought of my mother sewing on a button. “Er… no. She didn’t.”
“In my day,” says Mrs. Farley, shaking her head, “all well-educated girls were taught
how to sew on a button, darn a sock, and turn a collar.”
None of this means anything to me. Turn a collar. It’s gibberish.
“Well, in my day… we weren’t,” I reply politely. “We were taught to study for our
exams and get a career worth having. We were taught to have opinions. We were
taught to use our brains,” I can’t resist adding.
Mrs. Farley doesn’t seem impressed. “It’s a shame,” she says at last, and pats me
sympathetically.
“It’s not a shame,” I say tightly.
“All right, dear,” says Mrs. Farley in pacifying tones, and heads across the hallway to
her flat.
Somehow this goads me even more.
“How is it a shame?” I demand, stepping out of my doorway. “How? OK, maybe I
can’t sew on a button. But I can restructure a corporate finance agreement and save
my client thirty million pounds. That’s what I can do.”
Mrs. Farley regards me from her doorway. “It’s a shame,” she repeats, as though she
didn’t even hear me. “Good night, dear.” She closes the door and I emit a squeal of
exasperation.
“Did you never hear of feminism?” I cry at her door.

Career oriented women look down upon house chores and feel proud to declare that they have no idea about housework. Many girls studying professional studies these days don’t know how to cook, clean and sew. I am not endorsing that all women should learn this but at a level all humans, whether men or women should know how to take care of a house. Call me old fashioned but a well-educated man/woman who cannot sew a button or wash a bathroom is nothing to be proud of. A person should be multi talented and be not dependent on anyone for anything. While raising our daughters to be independent of men we are making them dependent on maids and househelp.

Conclusion

Both homemakers and career women will see themselves reflected at some point in Samantha Sweeting’s character. Despite being a lighthearted book it does leave you with a very apt question at the end of the day:
Should we judge a brilliant woman’s choice whether she chooses to work and stay at home after getting a degree?

-This Review Was Submitted by Raiya Sohail Hashmi

Facebook: Raiya Writes

Twitter: @raiyatweets

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