This book certainly elicited some strong responses! The Sealed Letter took us through the story of Helen's divorce from Harry during the 1800s in Britain, during a time when divorce was uncommon. During a divorce, one's dirty laundry was aired quite publicly in court, and let's just say that Helen and Harry had A LOT of laundry! Helen's guilt is made fact in the beginning of the novel, so the novel is really more an examination of the so-called friendship that exists between Fido and Helen.
Let's start with Fido. Words used to describe Fido during our meeting were as follows: stupid, unlikable, naive, bad feminist, hypocritical, sneaky, and selfish. Haha. Poor Fido. That woman didn't have a chance with our group, and she was probably one of the most unlikable characters I've encountered in a long time.
Helen, on the other hand, could be described as the Master of Manipulation. But should we fault Helen for manipulating someone as dumb as Fido? (Okay, we probably should fault Helen that, but seriously—is anyone that naive?)
The most interesting point brought up was the fact that Helen may be a better feminist that Fido. Throughout the novel Fido discusses the "cause" and how she supports it. But in the end we see that Fido's ideals about the feminism movement are pretty far off base. She is afraid of herself, and so she is in effect literally afraid to stand for the movement. Fido is a door mat—her arguments toward the cause are laughable, and she would look great on my front porch.
So what makes Helen any better? She is a grand manipulator, and she is definitely guilty of being unfaithful to Harry. The difference between Helen and Fido is that Helen in free. Fido is so utterly confined by herself, and in contrast, Helen is totally free. Helen follows her heart, even if it leads her into the arms of other men. Fido only follows what's in her head—so it is unfortunate the Fido's brain is the size of a peanut!
The final betrayal is that Fido was the first person with whom Helen stepped outside her marriage. We find this out at the very end of the book, thankfully. Had I known it in the beginning I would have had no patience for Fido's preachy attitude toward Helen. When I learned at the end of the novel that Helen and Fido had been romantically involved, I was angry—how dare Fido pass judgement on Helen throughout the novel in the way she had! I realize that in Fido's miniscule brain, she believed that her and Helen had shared nothing more than a "sisterly bond," but still…adultery is adultery sister! If Fido is too dumb to understand that concept, then she has no right passing judgement on Helen.
Lastly, the concept of the sealed letter containing fabricated secrets of a lesbian relationship that Harry may or may not have been aware of was flawed. The whole point of the sealed letter was that it was to contain lie, which in the end was proven to be true. So really, either way, the sealed letter did little or nothing to further the plot—but that's only what I think! Comment if you disagree with me!
In the end, I would say Fido is an idiot, Harry is an idiot, and Helen walked off a free woman. Her legal fees were paid by Harry, she was able to extort a bunch of money from Fido, and she is off to the new world to start a new life. The clear winner is Helen. Thank goodness for that, because although she used her brain powers to do a of of manipulating and sneaking around, at least she has a brain.
Okay, time for the administrative stuff.
We are meeting on June 16 at 7:30 at the old Chapters where we used to meet because we need to do a serious browse. We will be discussing Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes. Check out the CBC Reads website for some really interesting pre-reading.
I would like to suggest Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin as a future selection. Check it out and let me know what you think.
For those of you who have read Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors—I am reading A Wolf at the Table right now. I have laughed, I have cried. I am only half way through, but this novel is so powerful! If you liked Running with Scissors, I highly recommend this book. But, be careful, because it is darker than his previous works. (I think you guys know too, I am just a huge Augusten Burroughs fan—so I might be biased!)
Jeanette has a new email address. If anyone needs it, contact me through email and I will send it to you!
I think that's it for May!
See you all in June!