The Duchess by Danielle Steele is the first book that I have read of the author. It was recommended to me by a colleague. She said if I enjoyed any feminist work, I’d like this book.
The truth is, I am ambivalent towards feminism. But once in a while it makes sense to read books referred by others, if only to expose yourself to different types of writing. And I haven’t been reading a lot lately.
The Duchess is a coming-of-age tale of a teenaged girl. Set in an era in England where women did not inherit their parents’ money or properties, even if they were duchesses, this is a story of Angelique, who gets thrown out of her house when her step-brother Tristan steps in as the new duke, after the death of her father. It is the story of how she gets forced into a life of service, and eventually, due to the cruel turn of events, ends up running a high-end brothel in Paris. She does find the love of her life and her happy ending, but none of them come easy.
What I liked best about this book is how Danielle keeps the story real. At no point does it feel that Angelique has it easy. Her life is hard. She has no family, and no one to take care of. She finds herself in difficult situations but she tries to make the best of what life deals at her. She does not give in, and she never pities herself. She accepts her fate and tries to deal with it in a manner which she finds befitting herself. The writing is easy to read and relatable, and it becomes easier for the reader to sink into the story.
The only thing that I don’t like about this story is how it keeps repeating itself – especially in the first hundred odd pages where the author keeps reiterating Angelique’s pain in losing her father and her brother’s cruelty. It becomes unbearable after a point. Also, for a book which is about a woman, it is surprising how it paints many of the other women characters in a shallow manner, and never tries to give a voice to women who choose to love their parties and their frivolities over caring for their children. Even with a protagonist who ends up running a brothel and fighting to give a better life to the prostitutes, this book in many places just end up reiterating what’s traditionally acceptable for a woman, and shows little tolerance for women who don’t care to have a blazing mission in life.
Be it as it may, it’s been a while since I read a work of fiction and this one made me want to get back to my reading. Maybe, we’ll see more book reviews on the blog in future.