Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches (2011)
How is it possible to both enjoy a book and be aware at all times of its problematic nature? This book is a bit like a guilty pleasure, not only because it is a romance, but because it is not the kind of romantic relationship I would condone in real life. But hey, it’s about vampires and witches, so I’m just throwing realism to the windmills anyway.
If you want to have a bit laugh, go and read some of the one-star reviews of this book in Goodreads. Go ahead, I promise you’ll have a great time. I did, and I laughed, and I did not stop me from devouring the whole book and buying the trilogy. Alright, I might be weird.
In fact, I’d watched the series on dvd before, and I agreed with Mr. Smithereens that it was too schmaltzy. I could practically hear him roll his eye on the sofa. I didn’t really enjoy Teresa Palmer as Diana Bishop, but I sure did enjoy Downtown abbeyesque Matthew Goode as Matthew de Clairmont (how confusing that they have the same first name!). But it was one of those stories where the book has to be better than the series, because the action on the page is much more forgiving and the suspension of disbelief more effective. Also, I wanted more alchemy and more bookish details and I suspected these had been edited on screen.
On the ahem side, I can’t imagine that a relationship between two heroes would still be written this way in a post me-too world. If you concentrate on facts only, Matthew de Clairmont is borderline abusive, stalkerish, sneaky, and the way everyone is ok with him having his way with his girlfriend raises highbrows. Apparently consent is not vampires’ forte. Diana is annoyingly naive.
On the positive side, it’s a sweeping romance among people who love books, libraries, tea and history. And also magic. And time travel thrown into the mix for good measure (Outlander, anyone?). I am aware that my positive arguments are twice shorter than my negative ones, but it does not reflect the fun I had while reading it. Clearly, it could have been edited and details about clothes and food are largely unnecessary, but it still is quite a page turner and I ended up wanting more.