Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Heredity by Jenny Davidson

Yeah, well, it turns out that I read this at some point in the hazy past. Somewhere in the third chapter (7 pages in) I felt the little tug in my brain that means, “oh crap, I know what is going to happen. How exactly do we get there?”

Anyway, this is the story of Elizabeth Mann, a twenty-something gal with the usual death wish—she treats sex and drinking like an abusive spouse and doesn’t seem to want to change. The first paragraph of the book sets all this up:
“I hang up the phone one afternoon in early June and consider my options. I can kill myself. I can kill my father. Or I can simply disappear and move someplace nobody will even think of looking. If I flee the East Coast, I can by in Austin or Albuquerque in some low-profile line of work (bike messenger, grill cook, egg donor). Eggs could mean big money, but who would want them minus the Ivy League credentials?”

This line also mentions the other theme of the book- fertility. Elizabeth’s lover is a test-tube baby maker, so is her dad. While doing basic research for a guidebook on the UK (the escape she eventually chooses) she ends up in the Hunterian Museum and sees the skeleton of Jonathan Wild, the famous thief taker and criminal. She becomes enamored with him. This was an idea that I loved. I have had a few historical crushes myself and I think that they can inspire great creativity and new, exciting obsessions. In Heredity, her crush makes Elizabeth feel like making babies.

All in all, a great premise. The execution was marred by the occasionally terrible dialogue, especially when the not-very-likeable Elizabeth fights with her boyfriend and the jarring coincidences that spur the plot along, including an auction where a bawdy manuscript is won that just so happens to tie into the story. The bawdiness was kind of fun if you like your sex scenes 1700s-style.

The final plot twist that fails to be all that surprising and the overall feeling of the book was dashed off, weird since at the same time, a good amount of research obviously went into it.

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