December 27, 2009

TSS: A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey

Happy last Sunday of the year! Can you believe that 2010 is almost here? Only 5 more days! Crazy.

Well, in honor of the last Sunday Salon of 2009, I am bringing to you (possibly) my last book review of the year, as well. I loved this book and you'll see the myriad of reasons why below.

BOOK #: 91
REASON READ: My friend, Heather
PUBLISHER: Penguin Group
GENRE: Women's Fiction
FORMAT/PAGES: Paperback/279
RATING: 5/5 Stars

So, I am at my friend Heather's house for a Christmas party for all of us who had been in the same Hospice Grief Group this year. It was so much fun laughing and giggling with these girls who have become like a second family to me. We all went through the same thing at the same time- losing a parent- and that brings you together like little else can.

Well, while I knew Heather liked to read and she was writing a book about her mother, I had no idea just how MUCH she liked to read. She had several bookcases of books, plus she told me boxes downstairs. I instantly loved her even more. She picked up a book called A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey. I had heard of the book but never read it. When Heather learned this, she put the book in my hands and said read this book. It is my favorite.

So, after I finished reading Thousand Pieces of Gold, I picked up this book to read. And I LOVED it. I seriously, completely, adoringly love this book. I have to go get myself my own copy.

This book, first published in 1978, is based partially off of Hailey's grandmother and partially based off of the feminist movement of the 1970s. The heroine, Elizabeth, called Bess, was born in 1890 and inherited a legacy- of both wealth and of a spirit full of determination, ambition, and a passion for life. The book is written in an epistolary format, as letters from Bess to all of the loved ones in her life. From Bess' letters the reader gathers all the information they need. Bess goes through trials in her life that could knock even a strong woman down- yet Bess is determined to prevail. The reader witnesses Bess go from a simple grade-school girl to a devoted wife and mother to a self-sufficient, courageous woman with an open mind and a willing soul.

I learned so many life lessons from this book. Bess taught me so much about how to love an independent spirit and how to become more of an independent woman myself. What could be a greater gift from a book than to show you a reflection of yourself? The language was charming, classy, and enthralling. I was drawn into the story and always wanted to know what happened to Bess next and what choice she would decide to make. I wanted to see where she would go abroad next, who she would decide to write to next and why, I wanted to see what choices she made at every turn of her life, from her daughter getting hit by a car to her decisions to invest in the stock market and be in control of her finances to how she related to those around her, whether a childhood friend or her mother-in-law.

Bess fascinated me and I had to close the book last night so I wouldn't finish it until today. I didn't want to leave Bess. I loved how completely capable she was, how socially adept, how open-minded she is to others different from herself (she even gets her "colored" housekeeper into her exclusive Dallas Shakespeare Club when she realizes how well-versed in Shakespeare she is and wants to support her in this.) I loved almost everything about Bess. She did have kind of a wondering eye, if nothing else, and she was more than a little stubborn, but she did own her responsibilities and she owned her mistakes.

I really recommend this book to women everywhere. If you haven't read it, run over to your library or bookstore and read this book! I can hardly wait to hear what you think of it, too.

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE QUOTES (although there are many more):

"I am always amazed to hear people say the first weeks or months of marriage are the best and then, 'the honeymoon is over.' Of course I thought I loved you with all my heart when we were married, but it took marriage to teach me the outer limits of my anatomy, both physical and spiritual, and now I know that every moment we share further increases my capacity for love." (to her husband, Rob, in 1917)

"I see now how much of what a man becomes is due to the woman at his side. A life can go in so many different directions and though a man may be the captain of his soul, he needs a good navigator at his side if he dares sail into uncharted seas." (to her father and stepmother, in 1919)

"Our parents- and the older generation they represent- provide a barrier against death, and when both of them are gone, as both of mine are now, there is nothing between us and our own mortality. Now it is my turn to stand as a shield between my children and the enemy." (to her sister-in-law, in 1922)

"Nature as a process provides for no growth past physical maturity. Only the individual, through an effort of will and imagination, can add, enhance, enrich. Life unresisted merely subtracts. I no longer believe an individual can change the fate of other people, no matter how much she loves them, but I will not relinquish the responsibility for my own life until the day I die." (to a friend, in 1942)

" J'ai le coeur gros- a French expression to denote a heart swollen with emotion." (in a letter to friends, in 1967)

If you have read and reviewed this book, please leave me a comment and I will link to your post!


  1. I love a passionate review! You've sold me. I've heard of the title before but never have picked it up!
    Thanks for this.

  2. You've definitely got me interested in this one!

  3. That sounds like a wonderful book. Thank you for sharing those beautiful quotes with us too! :-)

  4. I enjoy epistolary novels, and this one sounds fantastic! Thanks for the review.

  5. I read this book years ago and just loved it too. I remember giving a copy to my mother and sister because I felt they had to read it. Great review!

  6. This sounds like a wonderful novel. I am not at all familiar with the author, but it looks like I'll have to give her a try. Thanks for the great review.

  7. Heather sounds like an awesome person. :) Isn't is great when you can share the love a book with a friend?

    This book sounds like it would be perfect for the Women Unbound Challenge. You should join it.

  8. What a gorgeously written review! I read this book right after college, because my mom turned me on to it. I loved it, and there were many quotes which I copied down and savored.

  9. Michelle: Why, thank you! Your compliment has certainly brought joy to my day!

    Steph: I hope you do read it!

    Marie: There are so many more great quotes, too. I had trouble deciding which ones to use!

    Trisha: They are a new favorite of mine, as well.

    Bermudaonion: Oh I have already done that! Both my sisters, my mom, and my best friend. Now I am recommending it to all the lady readers of my blog! It really is a fantastic book.

    LF: I wasn't either, though I had heard her name. She has not written but a few more and I think this is her most famous book.

    Heidenkind: You're right. Heather IS awesome. I will have to check that challenge out, too. Thanks, Tasha!

    LS: Thank you so much! I am going to go get my own copy now so I will have all the quotes always at my disposal!

  10. I remember reading this a long time ago, but I don't really remember the story. I should probably take another peek at it.

  11. I've heard of this book but have never read it. It's going on my wishlist for sure after reading your wonderful review. I am a fan of epistolary fiction so this is a bonus!

  12. Another one I've heard of but never read .. I had it in my head that it was about society ladies or something!!! I think you have a great new book buddy!

  13. I heard about this one several years ago & completely forgot about it. You've gotten it back (near the top) on my TBR list. My last two have have been pretty bad, so I'm really looking for a great next read. Thanks!

  14. I love epistolary novels and have this one on the tbr shelves somewhere. Obviously I need to get to it sooner rather than later.


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