The books were recommended by my grand daughters, well-informed and avid readers and aware of both femininity and feminism. They love a good fantasy or romance, but are quick to criticize anything they find phoney. They can recognize an effective plot, convincing characters, and themes that demand attention and require thought. I respect their judgement and read through the Harry Potter series, the Golden Compass series, the dragon books by Christopher Paolini, and the Inkspell books by Cornelia Funke. I’ll take their word anytime!
The Twilight series is a wonderful example of the gothic tradition in fiction, a tradition with deep and honorable roots… Dickens, Hardy, Austen, the Bronte sisters, du Maurier and many, many more! Forbidden love, appealing characters, exotic settings, temptation, danger, tragic loss, a happy ending… what is not to enjoy? The writing is strong and the reader who is willing to suspend disbelief and to enter vicariously into the situation is in for a delightful surprise.
Alas, several of the friends in my book group declined to read the book when I chose it: too juvenile, trashy, not “real” or “serious” literature. I beg to differ. These are books that can be taken quite seriously. In this politically correct environment no author could publish a novel involving conflicts based on race, religion, ethnicity, or economic class. (Could even Shakespeare get away with The Merchant of Venice or Othello or The Taming of the Shrew to-day? Raw anti-Semitism, racism, and misogyny! But that is for a different argument!) By writing about fantasy characters, Stephanie Meyers can explore serious issues involving family and clan, loyalty, responsibility in decision making, respect in relationships, honesty and integrity. The young readers are quite capable of recognizing and considering the issues that inform the conflict, and they are too busy and too smart to waste their precious time reading silly books!
Bella is the perfect heroine: ordinary, smart enough and pretty enough but not outstanding, only child in a “broken” family, now miles away from her rather silly mother and living with her caring but clueless dad, trying to make friends in a new high school and in a small town so different from her former home that it might as well be on a different planet. She meets two boys and they both fall in love with her. Edward is “cool”, intelligent, sophisticated, weirdly beautiful, strong and fast, and very rich. He saves her life, and then refuses to take any credit. His father is the town doctor. His siblings are wonderful. Their house is astonishing. They welcome her and treat her with respect. Alas, Edward is a vampire. The other boy, Jacob, is “hot”, smart, athletic, exotic looking, a great mechanic, caring and protective, a leader in his peer group. He lives on the reservation. He is a werewolf. None of the “normal” human boys are nearly as dynamic, although nerdy Mike gives it a good try. Although Edward and Jacob are natural enemies, their real identities are secrets in the town. Their love for Bella is dangerous to her, and to their respective groups. That love is intense, but must be cautious and completely chaste. The erotic tension that ensues, and the decisions that Bella must make, create a fascinating story.
I like Bella. She is a serious, competent young woman, who faces the challenges in her life with intelligence, dignity, and responsibility. There could be worse role models. There certainly are many worse stories and films.
Here’s to Romance, and especially a good old-fashioned Gothic thriller!
Trailer for book one: Twilight
Trailer for book two: New Moon
Trailer for book three: Eclipse
Trailer for book four, part one: Breaking Dawn
Here is Edward playing Bella’s Lullaby
And here is Edward playing Claire de Lune