Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Small Room by May Sarton

This was a book I read for the February meeting of my Lesbian Book Club. It was disappointing as there was very little lesbianism. The book focuses more on a young, new professor at a women's college who encounters a personal and ethical dilemma when she is faced with a student's plagerism. A couple of more minor characters were lesbian, though it was more of a matter-of-fact than a stand-out point in anyway, which is okay, I was just sort of disappointed - it is a lesbian book club, afterall, though I said at the beginning that I was open to other options, including simply "women's literature."

The story line was pretty easy to follow with the exception of several episodes wherein members of the teaching staff get together in a social environment and end up talking "shop," including the plagerism scandal, even though they try to keep reminding each other not to do just that. In these sections, which were sprinked throughout, I found it very difficult to follow the conversation, to pin down who had what opinion on the issue, recognize references to what I assume were philosophers (?) and even came across a few "big words" that I didn't know, which was very bizarre for me. Not bragging, just saying.

Also, and perhaps this is due to my own experience dealing with plagerism as a teacher, but the effect of this student's actions were...over-dramatic? for me. The disagreement about it between a husband and wife nearly broke up their marriage, for example. This plagirism scenario was much different than my experience, not as clear cut, so ultimately, though, I can see how it would be an issue with huge effects on the characters which it surrounds.

On a final note, I found the old-fashioned language, though perhaps true to the time period during which the novel is set, which I think is the same as the time period during which the novel was written and published, gave it an almost comical or frivolous or light-hearted impression for the reader, or at least for me as a reader. It was like a veil laying over the seriousness of the story. I think sometimes I just don't trust archaic language written by modern writers, it feels inauthentic. Though this novel was published in 1961, so maybe this is the way people, including the author, talked back then.

Overall an okay read. I don't regret that I read it, made me think again about issues surrounding education, but I didn't get much out of it. - 3 stars


hamilcar barca said...

how is the Book Club going? do you have some regular attendees?

Amber said...

I have two or three regulars.

It's a nice little group, small enough to have some really deep and insightful conversation.

I'd like to see it grow a little more, maybe two or three more people, but I'm enjoying it.

I don't feel so bad about the size, because the local library, which outreaches to the entire community, only has 4 regulars (myself and the leader included) so I think I'm doing pretty well for a lesbian book club.

Thanks for asking!