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Calais by Kathleen Winsor

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Calais by Kathleen Winsor

Postby Misfit » Thu August 5th, 2010, 10:33 pm

Hopefully no one objects, as this isn't technically historical (although the setting is about 50 years ago, but Moppet and I would like to chat amongst ourselves here with a buddy read.
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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Miss Moppet
Bibliophile
Location: North London
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Postby Miss Moppet » Thu August 5th, 2010, 11:26 pm

"Misfit" wrote:Hopefully no one objects, as this isn't technically historical (although the setting is about 50 years ago, but Moppet and I would like to chat amongst ourselves here with a buddy read.


Okay, before I launch in with my first impressions I'm going to share the covers. Here is Misfit's:

Image

Here is mine:

Image

I think Misfit's is soooo much better! Mine is too bland despite the attempt at phallic symbolism/reference to the heroine's name with the lily, and the gold title is not embossed. Sorry, but for a blockbuster of this vintage you expect a gold embossed title.

The 1966 aeroplane prologue is quite Barbara Taylor Bradford - seeing a character who has made it to the top and then backtracking to see how they got there. I have to say you get a sense of a time when air travel was actually glamorous, what with the steak and all. Maybe you can still get steak in first class. Then this about Arlette's NY townhouse:

The room was decorated in soft shades of mauve. The furniture, but for two overstuffed sofas, was Louis XV, upholstered in mauve, deep purple, ash rose, with two or three small chairs covered with crimson velvet.


Obviously Arlette has gone for the faux English country style - but wouldn't those colours clash? Crimson, pink and purple all in one room? And I bet the sofas are upholstered in chintz.

So far my impression of Arlette and Anthony is that they're somewhere between Leigh/Olivier and Taylor/Burton as a showbiz couple. Obviously all is not well in the marriage, because Arlette is taking a shine to some man she met on the plane.

Then it's back to 1945 and the future Arlette, Lily Malone, is 15. (Can't wait to find out why she chooses Arlette as a stage name - maybe because it rhymes with starlet?) I think Winsor does a good job of portraying a 15 year old's mental world (she herself was born about 10 years earlier than Lily so she would have been 15 in 1935 or thereabouts). I can understand how the death of Lily's parents fuels her ambition. But then Winsor always chooses to write about very ambitious women and I think that much is autobiographical. Also, I think she herself studied anthropology at university so that would have helped her portray Lily's aunt and uncle.

Did the scene where Lily dressed up in her mother's clothes remind you of Amber (unwittingly) wearing her mother's wedding dress?

The prologue, as I said, put me in mind of a Barbara Taylor Bradford novel - specifically Voice of the Heart which is about an actress. The section about Lily in her teens reminds me more of novels about growing up in the 50s like Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen or The Cheerleader - the very formal dating and worries about contraception and pregnancy. With Forever Amber and Star Money I got the impression KW wanted to be franker about sex than the publisher would allow her to be - even with all the fuss about Forever Amber there were deleted sex scenes, and Robert and Arabella, which she wrote at the same time but couldn't publish, is much stronger stuff (reckon the people who condemned Forever Amber from the pulpit would have fainted dead away if they'd read Robert and Arabella). Calais came out in the 1970s so she would finally have been free to write whatever she wanted.

Edited to say: I'm still only on page 58

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Fri August 6th, 2010, 12:09 am

I have to say you get a sense of a time when air travel was actually glamorous, what with the steak and all. Maybe you can still get steak in first class.


Hehe, I couldn't resist sending the quote about the steak in first class to our resident airline pilot Michele and she and her flight attendent had a good chuckle over that. I believe they went to the galley in search of steak and found none :D

I don't believe I have ever read BTB (or Jackie Collins either) so I don't have much to compare to.

So far my impression of Arlette and Anthony is that they're somewhere between Leigh/Olivier and Taylor/Burton as a showbiz couple. Obviously all is not well in the marriage, because Arlette is taking a shine to some man she met on the plane.


There is a very interesting twist on *Anthony* early on in the book. I do enjoy their love/hate relationship and how it works on their stage presence.

Did the scene where Lily dressed up in her mother's clothes remind you of Amber (unwittingly) wearing her mother's wedding dress?


Sorry, that went over my head, but an interesting comparison.

Even though she is a bit single minded towards her own agendas, I still liked Lily as a young girl. I know she *gets around* but still the sex is fairly tame compared to what we see in today's romances.

I'm about half way through and waiting for you but I do like the back-scenes and how a play comes to be bits a lot.
At home with a good book and the cat...

...is the only place I want to be

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Miss Moppet
Bibliophile
Location: North London
Contact:

Postby Miss Moppet » Fri August 6th, 2010, 12:29 am

"Misfit" wrote:Hehe, I couldn't resist sending the quote about the steak in first class to our resident airline pilot Michele and she and her flight attendent had a good chuckle over that. I believe they went to the galley in search of steak and found none :D


:mad: Things aren't what they used to be. I can't copy the images, but click on this link:

http://www.everythingpanam.com/1960_-_1970.html

and scroll down for the most priceless picture of steak being carved in the aisle of a Boeing 707 in the 1960s. Michele might appreciate it too!

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Fri August 6th, 2010, 1:16 am

Funny, dad worked for Northwest in the 60's and 70's and back then flying *stand by* was typically first class - with a trip to the cock pit for the kiddos (me). I don't recall steaks but I don't recall what they fed us either.

PS, back then round trip first class Seattle to Honolulu? $8 US.

I recall when the 747's first came out, dad took us on a personal tour. Woohoo. We even got a blow-by-blow by DB Cooper's plane came back to SeaTac for servicing.

I believe I am showing my age :rolleyes:
At home with a good book and the cat...

...is the only place I want to be

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Fri August 6th, 2010, 2:23 am

When I was a little kid I remember that most of my beloved grandma's flatware and glassware were things she had kept from airplane trips -- they were genuine metal flatware and genuine glass (and of course they all had the airline logos and so nothing matched). Nowadays it's cheapo cheapo plastic and the meals (if you even get one) are like those microwave meals you buy in the frozen section of the grocery store.

No, my grandma wasn't a klepto or anything like that, she was really a wonderful person, she just had a quirky habit of keeping her glass and her flatware from airlines (and hotels, too, I believe) :o . And no, I didn't inherit that tendency from her!!!!

Gaslight
Scribbler

Postby Gaslight » Fri August 6th, 2010, 12:39 pm

OK, I'm not reading this at the moment, but Cathy will be sending me her copy when she's done. So glad I'm getting the good cover, because I don't want that clitoral headlight beaming at me every time I pick it up. :D

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Fri August 6th, 2010, 1:25 pm

"Gaslight" wrote:OK, I'm not reading this at the moment, but Cathy will be sending me her copy when she's done. So glad I'm getting the good cover, because I don't want that clitoral headlight beaming at me every time I pick it up. :D


Yep, you're getting the one with the stars on it. There's another cover I've seen with a white background and blonde woman. I'll find it later. Brower's being slower than molassas :mad:
At home with a good book and the cat...

...is the only place I want to be

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Miss Moppet
Bibliophile
Location: North London
Contact:

On page 242

Postby Miss Moppet » Fri August 6th, 2010, 8:30 pm

"Misfit" wrote:Yep, you're getting the one with the stars on it. There's another cover I've seen with a white background and blonde woman. I'll find it later. Brower's being slower than molassas :mad:


Image

Very 1970s and although Arlette is blonde I don't image her looking quite like that. But I haven't really got a good mental picture of her. KW keeps on about this Jade Ring smile and I'm imagining a smile like Vivien Leigh's but beyond that I can't really picture Arlette.

Right, well. A couple of things puzzle me:

Lily is 18 when she is about to start her senior year at university. Isn't that about three years too early? Now on the page I've got to her brother Michael is 22 and "soon to become an associate professor of microbiology." They seem like a precocious family is all I'm saying.

KW tends to have stock characters - Alicia reminds me of Georgia who is the heroine's agent in Star Money - an older glamorous woman who acts as mentor/role model to the beautiful young ingenue. And Arlette is widely distributing her favours in typical Winsor heroine style. I've just got to the part where she's in bed with the producer or director or whatever he is. She likes mixing business with pleasure doesn't she?

Anthony's identity - came as a total surprise - didn't see that coming at all. Good twist.

I'm really enjoying it although I think it's a tad overwritten and the sex scenes are a bit, um, gushy - I think Lily's earlier sexual experiences were better written. Also, although it goes into a lot of detail about how Arlette spends her Sundays, etc, I actually find that interesting.

I have to wonder - could Arlette really afford to be this disdainful of roles in modern plays or in film? She has a private income, but even so, unemployment in the theatre is something like 90%. Surely she couldn't afford to be that fussy, at least while she's climbing the ladder?

I love all the female rivalry - Barbara Sloan and now Jennifer Knight. Although I had to laugh when Arlette wondered why she didn't hear from Barbara and Jack after her great success as Katharina when she betrayed one and dumped the other - what does she expect? The Jennifer situation was the classic "understudy waits for the star to sprain her ankle" thing but it was really well done.

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Fri August 6th, 2010, 8:42 pm

Anthony's identity - came as a total surprise - didn't see that coming at all. Good twist.


I didn't see that either.

Lily is 18 when she is about to start her senior year at university. Isn't that about three years too early? Now on the page I've got to her brother Michael is 22 and "soon to become an associate professor of microbiology." They seem like a precocious family is all I'm saying.


I thought she was still in HS and starting her senior year there and lived in a uni town.

I'm really enjoying it although I think it's a tad overwritten and the sex scenes are a bit, um, gushy - I think Lily's earlier sexual experiences were better written. Also, although it goes into a lot of detail about how Arlette spends her Sundays, etc, I actually find that interesting.


Despite all the sex she's having the scenes are still rather tame. The relationship with the manager/director was a bit odd though IMHO.

I've really appreciated how Arlette and Anthony play off of each other and how they use that to develop their on-stage characters. Rather Richard Burton/Liz Taylor-ish.

Did she write this before or after that big old affair?
At home with a good book and the cat...

...is the only place I want to be


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