Marilla, Alva, and Women With Gumption
Two of my favorite review copies I received this year, with heartfelt thanks to the publishers at St. Martin’s Press and William Morrow, were Therese Anne Fowler’s A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts and Sarah McCoy’s Marilla of Green Gables. Both feature main characters with real gumption.
I grew up going to the Newport mansions and can actually recall first learning about Alva Vanderbilt on the tours. I was thrilled to hear about a real life woman flouting convention and kicking butt. Fowler guides readers from the time when Alva saved her family from the poorhouse by making a strategic marriage, through eventually asserting herself in that marriage to do things her way, being ostracized herself from the other women of the elite wealthy society by fighting for women’s right to vote, and to when she eventually divorces her husband and marries for love. Fowler’s exploration of a complex and gutsy woman was such a wonderfully absorbing read that I highly recommend.
Similarly, I can recall reading the Anne books as a child and, I would imagine like most readers, slowly being won over to Marilla’s hard personality. Initially prickly and strict, we come to see that her tough shell hides a soft center and that her actions, though perhaps sometimes unreasonable, come from a place of trying to do what’s right. I thought that McCoy does an excellent job of further showing us how Marilla became the strong, capable, loyal woman we know in later books and it was so much fun getting to know Marilla as a young woman who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind nor stand up for what’s right.
Scroll down to see a list of books that I imagine might be in Alva and Marilla’s book stacks: more women with gumption. You’ll see that there’s something for every age.