Monday, June 30, 2008

Birthdays and Eclipse

My youngest son's birthday was sunday. My oldest son's birthday is thursday. And no, it wasn't planned that way. :) We had a small party for both of them on saturday, with just close family and friends. I made their birthday cakes, topped with their favorite action figure/movie character, and we've still got leftover cake. It's going to be a year before I want to look at frosting again, much less eat it.

And so I was sitting in a mess of wrapping paper, drooping balloons, and suffering from sugar coma when I picked up ECLIPSE by Stephanie Meyer.

I read TWILIGHT because it was recommended by friends with taste in books similar to my own. It had that rough around the edges quality that sometimes comes with first-time-authors, but I found it very enjoyable. Even difficult to put down. When I picked up NEW MOON, I was excited to see where the story was going. I loved the first half, with all the character development that Bella struggled through. She was becoming her own woman, working through all the pain and heartache Edward had caused her, and becoming stronger as a result.

Then, Edward returns. All that strength and self-reliance went out the window. I can understand still loving him. I can understand not wanting harm to come to him. But I can't understand how she takes him back as though nothing has happened. If it were me, I'd be livid with Edward. I'd have saved his life, then screamed at him until either his ear drums burst or I didn't have a voice left. And I would do this because of how much I still loved him, and because of all the pain and heartache he had put me through, and was still putting me through. I would have made him earn back my trust, proving that he would never put me through all that again. But Bella doesn't do this. She simply wipes away her suffering like it was chalk on a blackboard. In doing so, it makes her pain seem more like a minor inconvenience instead of the life-shattering misery described in those early chapters.

But I digress. I'm here to talk about ECLIPSE.

It was with a mixture of trepidation and curiosity that I picked up this book. I was curious where the author was going to take Bella's character. I wanted to see Bella regain that self-reliance and self-respect, basically all the positive development she'd made while with Jacob. I expected her to walk away in a huff each time Edward treated her like a child. I expected her to put him in his place when he got overprotective. But, sadly, she didn't. She remains blindly agreeable to Edward, never gets mad at him for anything, and thinks it's okay to have to ask permission (!) to visit her friends.

I understand that Bella and Edward are supposed to have this amazing, larger-than-life bond, but I really don't like Bella's character when she's around him. She's too meek and subservient, and their relationship seems one-sided and unhealthy. But when she's with Jacob, she's spunky, firey, and keeps Jacob in line. She's a completely different person, and I like her much better. Split personality? Or was this on purpose? If so, I would have liked some kind of explanation.

Based on interviews with the author and such, I think Bella and Edward will ultimately remain a couple. Because of this (as well as the long line of strong, iron-willed, work-horse women in my family), Bella is not a role model I'd want for my daughters. That is, if I had any. :) But I don't, and it's likely to stay that way.

This review is likely going to make me unpopular with the fans of the series. But that's okay - free speech and all that. :) So let me have it if you so choose, or simply tell me why you love the story. I'd love to hear it.


Vivien V. said...

I agree that Bella kind of flip-flops between the fiery girl that she is, and a subservient damsel-in-distress.

However, Edward is very controlling, and she does love him, so I think her personality is justified around him.

And there have been many instances where Bella has rebelled against him, so she's not a meekling all the time. In fact, her chase to save Edward at the end of New Moon is a perfect example of how strong Bella is. She went to save him, he was the damsel-in-distress.

I think Bella would be a fine role-model, though not as good as Hermione Granger...

Tabitha said...

Bella is definitely strong. She's proven that time and time again. I think that she forgets how strong she is whenever she's around Edward.

You're absolutely right that Edward is controlling. And that's why I think Bella isn't a good role model. It sends a message that it's okay to be controlled by your significant other, that you should just let them run your life. Maybe some people feel this way, but I'm not one of them. :)

And you're also right that Bella rebels against Edward. The problem I see is that she rebels in a way that a teenager would rebel against a parent - i.e. sneaking off to visit Jacob instead of doing it openly.

Edward and Bella are supposed to be equals. Someone of equal stature would say "I'm going to visit Jacob," and then go. But the fact that she sneaks around behind Edward's back makes her look childish, immature, and cowardly.

If Bella had openly declared her friendship with Jacob (ie, had she done this *before* all her sneaking around) and Edward accepted this, that means he trusts her, respects her as an individual, accepts her for who she is, and the relationship is healthy. If he doesn't accept it, then he's controlling and has inadequacy issues. Not healthy.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I just don't see a healthy relationship between the two.

Tabitha said...

Ack! Hit "send" too soon.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Vivien!

Angela Ackerman said...

I only read the first book, because I found Bella too weak of a character which pulled away my enjoyent of the rest of the story. I found her neediness and reliance on Edward too OTT as well as the clumsy factor. To me, the whole clumsy thing was overdone to the point of feeling like a plot device to help explain why she needed to be protected so much.

I think what worked (and saved the novel) was the sparks between Bella and Edward, which was really well done. There was so much tension leading up to them finally having physical contact it kept me engaged despite everything else.

Angela Ackerman said...

Oh and congrats on the birthdays! My boys are about 2 weeks apart--I can't imagine how it must be having them days apart!

Tabitha said...

Thanks! It's a little overwhelming having their birthdays so close, but they're still young enough that they can share a birthday party. I'm not looking forward to the day when they want their own parties, and I've got TWO to plan within a matter of days. Gads!

The sparks between Bella and Edward were truly amazing. It's what kept me reading through the first book, and made me pick up the second. I think that's why I had so much difficulty with subsequent books, because the sparks aren't new anymore.

Mary Witzl said...

Oh, I agree!

Meyer's writing is fine and compelling, but Bella comes off weirdly wimpy, allowing Edward to sway her all too easily, and I could not agree with you more. Women who behave this way drive me wild and Bella is not a role model I want for my daughters. Thank God I had those fiery women around me when I grew up!

If you want to read a good review of Meyer's books, check out A Paperback Writer's posts. She puts her finger right on all the points, and I could not say it better.

What I'd love to see is a book that deals with a girl learning to break away from this sort of unhealthy relationship. That would really come in handy for a lot of women and girls.

Tabitha said...

I'll definitely check out A Paperback Writer's post, thanks!!

I would love to see a book like that too. That could give girls a headstart in this dizzying thing we call dating. I sure could have used it. :)

A Paperback Writer said...

Thanks for the plug, Mary!
And thanks for visiting my blog, Tabitha. I'm glad to see someone else is thinking about Bella.
A book where someone breaks out of this? How about Kate Chopin, The Awakening? Of course the whole suicide thing at the end kinda puts a downer on it. Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House (okay, it's a play) also deals with this.
Anything more recent, anyone?

Tabitha said...

I haven't read those, so I am going to hunt them down. Thanks!! If you think of anything else, drop me a line. And thanks for stopping by! :)