Showing 151 - 160 of 251 annotations contributed by Duffin, Jacalyn

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

David Moray is a wealthy physician in his fifties who lives in a Swiss villa, where he indulges his passion for collecting art. He is contemplating a relationship with the stylish yet impoverished Frida von Altishofer, but an idle comment overheard at a party brings an intoxicating memory from his youth. As an idealistic medical student, he once loved and planned to marry Mary Cameron, a simple, highland lass. But first, David had to take a long sea voyage as a ship doctor to recover from tuberculosis; there he met pouting but provocative Doris, and her hopeful parents.

The prospect of a fabulous income in the family’s drug business makes him abandon Mary and a medical practice. He marries Doris but within a short time she is permanently committed to an asylum. The family semi-apologizes for not having told him of her illness. David compensates for his miserable marriage with material possessions that are a proxy for self esteem, until Doris dies and sets him free.

The overhead remark sends him back to Scotland only to discover that his jilted Mary, who had married a minister, is now dead. Her daughter, Kathy, is a nurse and the very spit of her mother. He falls in love all over again. Kathy will not marry him unless he returns to practice and joins her and her uncle as missionaries in Africa. Full of good intentions, he agrees. But he does not tell Kathy about Mary, and he forces himself on her against her will.

When he assimilates the very real dangers of mission work, he simply fails to show up for the appointed rendezvous; he will marry Frida and keep his cherished possessions instead. Told bluntly by Frida of the marriage and of her mother’s past, Kathy drowns herself. David must identify her body. He then hangs himself from a Judas Tree.

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The Doctor's Wife

Moore, Brian

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Forty-something, a surgeon’s wife, Mrs. Sheila Redden of Ireland arrives in Paris en route to the south of France for a second honeymoon. She has booked the same hotel room as the first honeymoon. Her husband, Kevin, is delayed by his surgical obligations, and promises to join her, but she knows that he is not keen on the trip.

While in Paris she meets Tom, an American at least ten years younger who follows her to the south. They begin a love affair that overwhelms her with its emotional and sexual power. Kevin stays home, at her urging, but he becomes suspicious and uses a fake illness in their teenage son in an attempt to lure her back. Then he flies to the resort to confront her. His brutal manner convinces Sheila to leave him.

Tom wants her to return with him to Vermont. She consults a priest for advice. In desperation Kevin appeals to Sheila’s brother, also a physician. They medicalize her love for Tom as a symptom of early menopause and try to bring her home. Allowing Tom (and the reader) to believe she will go with him, she finally decides for a job in London and solitude in modest rented rooms.

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Elizabeth and After

Cohen, Matt

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Carl McKelvey returns to his home town in eastern Ontario, looking for work, anxious to see his daughter, and not daring to hope that his broken marriage with Chrissy can be rebuilt. She is living with Fred, who has political aspirations. He finds his widowed father, William, living in a senior’s home, disoriented and angry. The local politician/used-car salesman gives Carl work renovating a house and renting videos, but only the reclusive Adam seems to take an interest in his well-being.

Through a series of flashbacks told from shifting perspectives, the people of this small community are gradually connected to each other through their relationships with Carl’s sophisticated mother, Elizabeth. She was killed a decade ago on New Year’s Eve, when her car crashed into an oak tree, her drunken son at the wheel. Guilt, remorse, and shame plague Carl, but he little realizes that the same feelings combined with regret are the constant companions of Adam who was once Elizabeth’s improbable lover and Carl’s biological father.

Adam sifts through a series of secret, wild plans intended to "save" Carl. Finally, he drives himself and Fred into the same tree that killed Elizabeth, leaving his estate and a letter for Carl. In the end, Carl seems to have reclaimed his daughter and reestablished his life, but his future with Chrissy is ambiguous.

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The Dress Lodger

Holman, Sheri

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In early nineteenth-century England, Gustine is a "dress lodger" who rents a room and a fraying but elegant robe which she wears to work as a prostitute. The dissolute, violent landlord takes all her earnings and to keep her from hiding the money or stealing the dress, he has her followed by an elderly, sinister-seeming woman, called "the Eye."

Gustine has a baby, born with its heart on the outside of its chest (ectopia)--the beating muscle is covered only in a thin membrane. Gustine loves her child and tries to care for it, in the grinding poverty and filth of the crowded rooming house. She is convinced that the Eye is dangerous.

The young physician, Dr. Henry Chiver, is intent on making his name as a scientific doctor and educator through dissections. Cholera breaks out in the town to challenge his skill; even when confronted with death, however, he perceives an opportunity for research much to the alarm and disgust of citizens who fail to understand the advantages promised by an act of desecration. He is both attracted to Gustine and appalled by her profession; but when he discovers the secret of her child he sees yet another opportunity and his obsession to become a famous researcher makes him lose sight of all that is appropriate.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Canadian narrator, Marie, is in a Paris archive, reading and translating excerpts from the diary of the Jewish mother of Marcel Proust. The entries cover the period from 1890 to 1905. Mme. Proust and her physician husband make excuses for their son's lax behavior, and they worry over his chronic asthma, his social agenda, his apparent lack of interest in women, and his risky future as a writer. Like the entire country, the Proust family divides over the anti-Semitic Dreyfus affair. Later, Mme. Proust writes of her own illness with cancer.

Nearly half a century later, young Sophie Bensimon is sent to safety in Canada from France by her Jewish parents who were never heard from again. In reaction to this loss, Sophie walls herself from emotional expression. Her childless, adoptive parents, the Plots, have difficulty understanding her return to France to search for evidence of her birth parents' demise. She too must cope with archives, papers, and bureaucracy, but she discovers some details of their fate at Auschwitz. She marries a doctor, keeps a kosher kitchen, and worries over every minor event in the life of her son, Max.

As Marie struggles against a pressing deadline to research and translate without reinterpretation, she is aware that her choices will inevitably skew her findings. With this work, she imposes herself, her tastes and her needs on another woman's past. And she remembers her passionate love for Max whose genuine fondness for her finds no sexual expression because he, like Marcel Proust, prefers men.

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Floating Bridge

Munro, Alice

Last Updated: May-17-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story takes place on a drive home to the country from a medical appointment in town. Jinny has cancer and is on chemotherapy; she feels unwell and wears an uncomfortable hat because she has lost her hair. Her visit to the doctor ends with disconcerting news, but her husband, Neal, seems uninterested. In a supposed effort to be cheerful, he plays up to Helen, the young woman whom they are taking home to help while Jinny is ill. She senses that Neal will have a life and loves beyond her existence.

In the van, Neal becomes obsessed with teasing Helen about a forgotten pair of shoes; over her objections, he insists on picking them up from friends. Neither the girl nor Jinny are eager to visit this place, which turns out to be a bleak trailer-home surrounded by unfriendly dogs and occupied by a garrulous, obese couple that invite them to visit. Jinny just wants to go home and stays in the van, but Neal ignores her wishes and goes inside for a beer, which extends into a meal.

The teenage son, Ricky, returns to find Jinny waiting. More sympathetic than anyone else has been that day, he offers to drive her home. She surprises herself by leaving with Ricky at the wheel of Neal's van and by not caring what the others might think. He chooses a back-road that passes over a floating bridge. They stop. The dusk turns to dark and the stars emerge over dark water; exquisite beauty in a simple spot.

Jinny suddenly realizes that she has been without her hat all the while. The lad then kisses the much older woman. He admits it is the first time he has kissed a married woman; she tells him it will not likely be the last, and, soberly, he agrees. The tiny adventure of betrayal--an innocent form of sexual retaliation against her husband--brings a sense of hilarity, self-worth, and well being "for the time given."

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Paris Requiem

Appignanesi, Lisa

Last Updated: May-17-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

James Norton travels from Boston to Paris at his domineering mother's urging to bring home his fragile sister, Ellie, and their journalist brother, Rafael. He discovers Rafael devastated by the death of his Jewish lover, Olympe. Suicide, accident, or murder? Ellie is confined to a wheelchair owing to an unexplained paralysis. James is drawn into finding solutions to both problems and his investigations lead him to seedy brothels, the bureau of a hypnotist, the morgue of aspiring neurologists, and the wards of la Salpetrière, the famous neuropsychiatric hospital for women. The autopsy reveals that Olympe had been pregnant and the questions about her death multiply. The exoneration and return to France of Dreyfus plays as a backdrop.

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Hero

Carson, Anne

Last Updated: Apr-24-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A woman begins the morning by assessing her mother's mood through her reaction to breakfast toast. They are off to visit her father who has dementia and no memory of his past as a war hero, or of his present as husband and parent. Yet a fleeting smile suggests that, on some level, unbeknownst to him and inaccessible to them, remain shreds of the same person.

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The Beekeeper's Pupil

George, Sara

Last Updated: Dec-01-2005
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The son of a poor widow, François Burnens is overwhelmed with his good fortune when he is hired to assist the gentleman-scientist, François Huber. Blind since the age of 19, Huber studies bees, helped by his wife in his observations at their Geneva home. Now expecting their second child, the couple realizes that she must concentrate on the family. Through Burnens's diary, from 1785 to 1794, the young man grows as a scientist, a writer, and a human being. Charles Bonnet and other scientists visit in person or in citation.

The domestic drama of the home plays against a backdrop of the menacing turbulence in nearby France. Burnens' admiration, respect and pity for Huber keeps him in the modestly-paid employ for nine long years. But his fascination with an artistically talented young woman shows him that his situation as a valued servant must come to an end.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

In 1950 London, lower middle-class (but upper middle- aged) Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton) devotes herself to family and "helping" others. With empathic cheeriness, she visits shut-ins, provides tea for the bedridden, feeds lonely men, and "brings on their bleeding" for girls in trouble. She also tends her cantankerous, ailing mother, who has never revealed the identity of Vera’s father.

The men in Vera’s life are bruised and confused by end of the war. Exuding affection, she cooks, irons, sews, and listens to their litanies of loss and derring-do. Her son, Sid, is an extroverted clothing salesman and her dowdy daughter, Ethel (Alex Kelly), is a pathologically shy factory-worker; neither seems adequate for the task of living alone. But Vera and her husband, Stan (Phil Davis), are happy in each other, their offspring, and their modest existence.

Only the friend, Nellie, knows of the help for young girls. She extracts a secret two-guinea fee for advising the girl, but Vera receives not a penny. Over the years, the two women have solved problems for mothers with too many children, mothers with no man, and mothers who were raped. They also safely abort insouciant party girls who are blas?about men, sex, and consequences.

But a young girl falls seriously ill following an abortion and is sent to hospital. Under pressure from police, the girl’s mother divulges Vera’s name. The police barge in to arrest her just as the Drake family celebrates Ethel’s engagement to one of the lonely men, Reg (Eddie Marsan).

The criminal charges come as a complete surprise to the family. Sid seethes with anger and disbelief, but Stan’s implicit faith in his wife brings him and the others to support her through the long trial. The judge hands her a stiff thirty-month sentence intended "as a deterrent." But in prison, Vera meets two other abortionists who tell her that she is lucky: both are serving much longer, second sentences, because their "girls" had died.

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