I recently read Natasha Lester’s A Kiss for Mr. Fitzgerald and I thought it was a pretty is fun, frothy ride. Yes, it so very, very soap opera-ish, but damn if it wasn’t a great soap opera.
I feel glad, I guess to have read A Kiss for Mr. Fitzgerald as it brought me some fun when I needed it. This was a easy, breezy read that I still found pretty engaging despite the genre not really being my speed.
This book is, I think, marketed as Historical Fiction, but in my opinion, it doesn’t really fit that into that genre nicely. When I think of historical fiction, I think of works where the setting completely informs everything about the world and story – the language, the plot, the characterization, the very fiber of the threats of the story. The book is seeped in its time and can’t truly be separated from it. It’s not possible to have that book without that time. A Kiss for Mr. Fitzgerald is not that book. While its setting is the New York City and New England of the early 1920s, it doesn’t really feel as that time completely informs it. Lester uses 20s slang, but it feels slightly awkward at times, as though there’s a window of sorts between the words and the time it wants to emulate. Honestly, the plot and characters could essentially be translated to nearly any pre-1960ish period and work nearly just as well. Hell, it probably would work if it were set in now, with a change in the profession the main character, Evie, has set her sights upon.
Because of this, I have a hard time seriously considering this historical fiction and instead, this reads as women’s fiction to me. This genre isn’t exactly one I spend much time reading. I’m fairly certain that this will make me seem snobbish and as an elitist, and I don’t mean to come off as such. Though this blog doesn’t seem to suggest it, but the vast majority of things I tend to read fall into the nebulous category of “literary fiction”, simply as that tends to be what I prefer. Knowing that it’s not exactly good to essentially barricade myself into a self imposed ghetto of sorts, I periodically seek out books from other genres to read, which are often those I end up talking about here.
This has ended well a few times, as I might genuinely enjoy the book I end up reading. It has, sadly, ended most of the time more unfortunately, with me disliking what I read and then placing myself into another self imposed lit fic exile until I feel brave enough to strike out at something else again. Women’s Fiction, to me, tends to focus very much on the main character’s relationships with the others in her life and tend to have a very focused plot. Plot isn’t precisely something I’m hugely concerned about when reading – I read for character and characterization more than anything else.
Anyway, I genuinely enjoyed A Kiss For Mr. Fitzgerald more than I thought I would, which is, of course, a wonderful thing to experience as a reader. I found it, on the whole, cute and delightful!
I will say that the protagonist, Evie Lockhart, frustrated me at times – she was far too self-sacrificial and she was self-sacrificial so very, very often. Evie was the lamb led to slaughter all. the.time. And she was often taking it upon herself to go towards the executioner!
Yes, it’s good to care for those in your life, but perhaps I’m just a seriously terrible human, but there’s only so many times you can put others ahead of yourself before it gets monotonous and annoying and eye-rolling.
It annoyed me so much that so many of Evie’s problems come solely from the men in her life. The men get by with little to no consequences while so much of it falls on Evie’s shoulders. I assume Lester did this because of the time period – women weren’t as free as we are now and men were so much more likely to skirt out of trouble. But there’s only so many times, as a reader, that we can watch our protagonist get beaten down over and over again and watch as she thinks that she’s the reason for her own pain. She wasn’t. Ever. Evie’s one crime is that she dared to want to be someone and something her society decided was unacceptable.
And honestly, while I know part of the self-sacrificial thing is supposed to make us think more of Evie; to make her seem benevolent and good in a story filled with selfish and good-but-somewhat-dense people, but it just made me annoyed with her. The fact that she willingly and wholeheartedly resigned herself to throwing away her own happiness to protect others…I wasn’t feeling it. At all. Especially towards the end of the book, I just kept muttering “Dammit, Evie!” I suppose I prefer my heroines a bit more selfish than selfless. Female characters who are more “screw the consequences, I’m in it for me!” are more interesting than those who allow themselves to be browbeaten into submission or unhappiness. Perhaps I recognize myself in the latter and find that I don’t like what I see.
Anywho, these quibbles are fairly minor because, as I said, I really had a lot of fun with this one, despite myself.