Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Proposition by Judith Ivory *****

I read this book about 2 years ago, and wrote the following review. I recently got the audio with narrator Steven Crossley, who was superb! Audio notes, such as they were, at the end:


Ah, I'm in love! With this book! It was soooo wonderful and fun, and, hmmmm, it reminded me in many ways of Ms. Ivory's other book, The Indiscretion, which I also loved. In fact, since I listened to the marvelous Barbara Rosenblat read The Indiscretion, I kept hearing her in my head for this book as well. What fun!

The premise is similar but not the same in the 2 books. In this book, there's both a Pygmalion (think My Fair Lady) element and a Cinderella element, with both the hero and the heroine cast in the role of Cinderella.

Our heroine, almost 6-feet-tall Edwina, is an orphan and a spinster. When her father died, when she was 17, he left no male issue so his title (Marquis, I believe) went to a second cousin, Xavier. Xavier was a mean old bastard who pretty much threw Edwina out, although she did manage to keep a place to live. She supports herself as, of all things, a linguist, mostly by teaching young women how to behave and speak for their coming-out into the bon ton. She's a little gawky, and bookish, and thin, and thinks of herself as all that and less. She really suffers from a lack of self-esteem.

Mick first sees only Edwina's legs, from a prone position in a women's shop, where he is doing his job - ratcatcher. He can see under the screen where she is changing, and he's entranced. Later, through a little mixup, he is chased into the tea room next door where the folks chasing him manage to completely trash the place, chasing after him and his rat-catching ferret. A pair of twin brothers step in to save the day - although no one can understand Mick because of his thick Cockney/Cornish accent (which intrigues Edwina), the brothers decide Mick would make an excellent bet - can he, or can he not, become a proper gentleman under Edwina's tutelage? They pay off the tea room owner and the folks chasing Mick, and proceed to make The Proposition: They will pay Mick 120 pounds, all of Edwina's expenses, and buy him clothes if she can take him to the Uelle Ball in 6 weeks and pass him off as a viscount.

And wouldn't you know, the fanciest ball around, the most coveted, and it's given by mean ol' cousin Xavier too?

Of course, Edwina is interested. Mick is, well, maybe interested. So they bite - and Mick moves into Edwina's home so they can spend 12 hours a day getting him polished. He brings along his helpers - his faitherful rat terrier Magic, who is truly a Notable Pet, Freddie the aging ferret, and his other dogs and ferrets that he needs to run his ratcatching business.

Over the course of the 6 weeks, Ivory paints a delightful tale of Mick and Winnie (his pet name for her) as their relationship morphs from teacher and student to friends to his teaching her... Well, it's truly marvelous as they both grow and change into their new roles as more than friends. At one point, Mick takes Winnie to his side of town where they dance for hours in a pub and she truly learns to let down her hair and enjoy life.

Meanwhile, there's a question of the true identity of the twin brothers who started the whole thing, and the real reason behind The Proposition.

And also meanwhile, there's the underlying problem of Mick falling in love with Winnie but realizing he isn't her station, and will never be. Winnie suffers from the same problem - she is fast falling in love with the handsome ratcatcher, but she's not even sure she recognizes this new person, Michael, that she is creating.

When they finally, finally make it to the ball.....

Ya gotta just read it to find out. Right there at the end is a dash of suspense and intrigue and I sat at the edge of my seat wondering, wondering. Then there's a nice long and satisfying epilogue with a very funny ending. I loved it!

5 stars!

So, as I've said before, there's only one thing better than a favorite book - it's a favorite book read by a fabulous narrator! Steven Crossley did such a marvelous job with Mick's and Winnie's voices - he used the tone of the character in the narration from his or her POV - he has a wonderful way of using pauses to great effect (see my review of Mackenzie's Mountain new narrator, who just sort of barreled through without pausing). I love the story so much, and loved his voice and his narration! 10 stars!


Cindy W said...

I'm looking forward to this one. Did you listen to it or read?

aunt rowena said...

I read it - I see there's an audio cassette available but if it's not on, I'm outta luck. No cassette-to-ipod converter.