Monday, July 27, 2020

Book Review: The Spinster Diaries

By Jami Deise

Some of the world’s earliest novels were formatted as letters or diaries, and even today their stream-of-consciousness formats bring in new readers. Historians studying today’s era may look to Facebook status updates, tweets, and Snapchat stories as the most likely vehicle to chronicle lives; perhaps that’s why author Gina Fattore set her novel-in-diary form, The Spinster Diaries, in 2006.

Technically, Fattore’s heroine is “Journaling Through Anxiety;” anxiety derived from the fact that she’s just been diagnosed with a brain tumor (probably benign) and can’t decide what to do about it.

Fattore’s unnamed protagonist is a TV writer just like the author, but the book deals less with the day-to-day dealings of her job and co-workers and more with her obsession with eighteenth-century novelist and diarist Frances Burney, whom Fattore credits with inventing the chick-lit novel. As Fattore’s memoirist justifies her singleton life with a serenity that Bridget Jones would have envied, she chronicles Burney’s life as well. At the same time, though, it seems that Fattore’s heroine uses Burney’s life as a reason why she shouldn’t even try to date.

She’s also a huge fan of the Woody Allen movie Hannah and Her Sisters.

The book is marketed as a comedy, and for me, the most amusing parts of the novel were the heroine’s descriptions of her life as a TV writer. A 38-year-old size 14, she’s surrounded by thin blond “shoe girls” who believe all it takes to meet a man is reading a book at a certain café. There’s a little talk about the TV writers room, as well as a project she wants to develop on Burney. As a writer myself, I would have enjoyed more glimpses into her professional life.

I learned enough about Burney that I’m interested in reading the novels she wrote, Evelina, Cecelia: Or Memoirs of an Heiress, and Camilla and the Wanderer. Fattore’s book, however, is long on observation and short on plot. In a year filled with election drama, recession fear, and a pandemic, it feels more like a time capsule than a mirror.

Thanks to Prospect Park Books for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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