“My generation understood a lot about duty to others, and very little about duty to ourselves.”
It has been a while, I know, but here I am again. Happy and above all a healthy 2021!
As you will have noticed as a regular reader, there has been a very long radio silence. That’s because I have taken time to think about what I wanted blogging-wise. The original idea of Petite Teacher was to inspire fellow teacher to dress better. It slowly evolved into a blog that was a bit of fashion, a bit of travelling, a bit of life lessons, some cooking and some literature. A bit of everything actually and for me it became a blog on which “one cannot see the forest for the trees”. Although I still love many of my blog posts, I felt I should refocus and concentrate on a niche among all that interests me.
And a choice has been made…
I will focus on books and the pleasure and learnings they bring their readers. That’s why I have started a second blog, focussing very much on book clubs and how they can make most out the books they read. When you want to know more, check out www.bookclubpost.com
On Petite Teacher I will publish some bookish blog posts too now and then, but with a different touch. I will link the books more to life lessons, since this blog is called Petite Teacher for a reason, isn’t it?
I hope you are joining me on this new Petite Teacher journey. So, let’s begin with…
In The Beginning
What could be a better book to start with at the beginning of a New Year and at the beginning of a new blogging style than a book with this title?
What is it about?
Well, about a family. In the beginning there is a family. It is a very ordinary family, just like yours or mine – Ben, Rose and their three children. One morning Rose is boiling eggs in the kitchen when, without warning, Ben leaves her. Rose is all of the sudden left to face life alone.
In the novel “In The Beginning” we read the story of Ben and Rose’s marriage and how Rose struggles to re-invent her life after he has left her. We read how the marriage was “In The Beginning” and we follow Rose for one year after the break-up. In this year she manages to create her own new beginning.
Catherine Dunne, the author, uses simple prose and has a good eye for both sharp and subtle observations. She delivers these sharp and subtle observations with lots of humour. When you have finished this novel you will not only admire Rose, but also know (again) that it pays off to reflect what you want and to live your life accordingly.
Summary of In The Beginning
One morning, out of the blue, Ben tells Rose he is leaving her. Devastated and numb by this news, Rose decides to stick to her routines as best as she can to survive the day. And so we read how she gets through the first week. She gets help from her friend Jane and, unexpectedly, from her teenage son. In one week she evolves from an obedient housewife (whose days are filled with keeping the house clean and organised, with taking care of the children and with cooking the most exquisite meals for her husband and serving them on time too) into a woman who takes the initiative in unknown territories.
In between those 7 days, we can read in flashbacks how Ben and Rose came together and how their relationship took shape. This makes us understand why the marriage was as it was when Ben thought it was enough.
The novel has got 4 parts, like the family consists of 4 members. The first part is a daily account of Rose’s life, not just the day, but even the time is mentioned. In the course of the novel the time lapses are further apart, which is in line with Rose’s growth into the new situation. In total the 4 parts deal with the first year. We mainly read the story through Rose’s eyes, though there are a few chapters written from Ben’s point of view.
Review of In The Beginning
The title sounds pretty biblical and the author plays with this by describing how Rose creates order in the chaos of her life after Ben left during 6 days. On the 7th day she rests. I think that was cleverly done and by using this short timeframe, the author makes clear how much we are able to do when we are in a survival modus. Any of you who has been in some kind of traumatic situation can probably relate to this.
I thought it was very refreshing to read a novel that was so domestic. Many novels have got quite an amount of drama in it, with unexpected turns and twists and sometimes far-stretched actions undertaken by the characters. Rose takes revenge on Ben by drinking his expensive wine, throwing some glasses against the wall of his new apartment and by going to the airport to park his car into a different spot, making sure he will get stressed upon arrival. I think these kind of actions are closer to what many readers would do when faced with domestic drama than you will find in many other books. I liked that ordinary approach of an ordinary woman with an ordinary family a lot.
The novel can only be bought as an e-read version (good for the environment) or as a second-hand “traditional” book (good for the environment too, less so for the author) only. I think that is a shame, since the novel may be nearly 25 years old but the topic is unfortunately still very actual. Many relationships fall apart and often women struggle with the emotional and financial consequences of a break-up, especially when there are children involved.
Lessons learned from In The Beginning
The main lesson I took from this novel is that it is important to keep in mind what you want and not just do what you think is expected from you. That was also one of the lessons you can take from Michelle Obama’s Becoming by the way.
The novel also brings the message across that you are stronger than you think you are and I know that is true. I have seen it with friends who have lost their husbands. Every single one of them has managed to find their own new beginning, just like Rose found hers.
Wishing you not only a good new beginning, but a fantastic year full of love, laughter, luck, liberty and literature.
Those of you who are interested in more information about “In The Beginning” can have a look at my reading guide on Book Club Post.