Constance Ring

Amalie Skram, Author, Judith Messick, Translator, Katherine Hanson, Translator Seal Press (CA) $10.95 (307p) ISBN 978-0-931188-60-2
This novel, first published in Norway in 1885, in some ways is refreshingly dissimilar from other works of its era. Skram outspokenly covers such topics as sex, adultery and women's rights in her story of a woman trapped into marriage and betrayed by hypocritical men. Skram animates her writing with conviction by describing the minutiae of everyday lifean apartment's furnishings, the goings-on at a supper party. The first portion of her book, in which the title character, a vibrant woman in her early 20s, is stifled in a marriage to a boor 16 years her senior, is compelling indeed. Skram's description of Constance's slide into depression after she learns of her husband's adultery appears autobiographical (an afterword notes the author's hospitalizations for mental breakdowns). But in the novel's major flaw, Constance retains her childishly idealistic notions of love and marriage. She marries again, only to learn that her second husband has an illegitimate child. To spite him, she sleeps with a musician and then finds that her lover has been having an affair with her maid. Skram makes an important point on the double standard for men and women, and equates marrying for money with prostitution. However, Constance's unchanging behavior and total passivity are ultimately boring. The three men in her life are variations on the same monotonous theme. And although Skram departs from convention for most of the book, she punishes her adulterous heroine in the denouement, true to Victorian form. (April)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-8101-1967-3
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