Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review: Being Committed

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Being Committed
       
Author: Anna Maxted

Author's web page: http://annamaxtedbooks.squarespace.com/

Date: 2004
       
Publisher: Harper Collins
       
ISBN: 0-06-009670-5
       
Length: 372 pages
       
Quote: “I was a girl with the best gadgets, the smallest phone, the biggest TV. And yet I felt with the girl with the biggest phone, the smallest TV.”
       
When Hannah, the central character quoted above, starts narrating this novel, she’s been asked to marry a man three times. By the end, it will be four times. There are only two men in Hannah’s life, apart from work and family. Her commitment-phobic relationships with them form the plot of this romantic comedy.
       
Actually, it’s more of a psychological case study than a romantic comedy, and the psychology is not necessarily wrong, exactly, but older-fashioned than Hannah is. Hannah has a good oldfashioned Freudian complex about marriage because her parents have a bad marriage. In order to choose between her two less than thrilling young men, she has to shift her loyalties from her father to her mother, stop blaming her mother for sleeping with one of her primary school teachers and start blaming her father for sending her into the room where she caught them in flagrante delicto, and start thinking of her mother as “depressed” instead of “bad.”
       
I think what puts me, personally, off a script like this one is the historical reality that it was a script. There were a few dozen similar scripts. When I was Hannah’s age, which was probably around the time Anna Maxted was Hannah’s age, the scripts were taken very seriously. Presumably they did work for some people in real life, just as neatly as they do for Hannah in the novel. For people I actually knew, the scripts didn’t work, and instead of simply accepting that the scripts might have fitted some people’s real stories but not ours, the people who wanted our real lives to fit their scripts psycho-hexed us with creepy talk about our relatively trivial problems having deep roots that were probably destined to develop into real mental illness later on...
       
So Maxted trots Hannah through her psychological script, and it works for Hannah. I can suspend disbelief long enough to laugh at how neatly and comically it works for Hannah. If, at the end of the book, I like Hannah less than I liked her at the beginning, if I would never have accepted a second date with either of her men and if I hope no male friend or relative of mine would have asked Hannah for a second date...well, comedy is what we pay Maxted for, and comic characters are supposed to be thickwitted and have psychological blind spots a yard wide. I find myself thinking, “Hannah is awfully immature, Jason’s a bore, and Jack’s a jerk,” and then I remember how seldom fictional characters come alive even to those extents.


        
If you've read other romantic comedies by this writer and like her comedic style, you must have Being Committed. If  you like laughing at a fictional character more than with her, then you’ll probably enjoy Being Committed. There are better romantic comedies. Anna Maxted wrote some of them. But there are certainly worse ones. According to Amazon, quite a few people who normally like romances (which I don't) love Being Committed.

Fair Trade Books are books this web site is able to sell secondhand at a price from which we can send ten percent to the author. The baseline price, the one we put on nearly all Fair Trade Books, is $5 for the book + $5 for shipping. Shipping charges are consolidated for as many books as can be shipped in one package. Out of this total $10, the writer, or a charity of her/his choice, will receive $1. If you'd like to encourage Anna Maxted in this way, e-mail salolianigodagewi @ yahoo.com.