Review 1417: The Web of Days

I think it is interesting to reread a book I read long ago to see if or how my reaction to it has changed. This can work both ways—I can appreciate a book I disliked the first time or see the flaws in a book I loved. I remember reading the gothic romance The Web of Days when I was a teenager, borrowed from a neighbor’s house for whom I was babysitting. After the kids went to bed, I would pull it out for the next installment. I liked the book and had a crush on its romantic hero. So, what did I think this time? More about that later.

Hester Snow arrives from the North at Seven Chimneys, a ruined plantation on one of the sea islands of Georgia just after the Civil War. She is to be a governess for Rupert LeGrand, the son of the owner of the plantation, Saint Clair LeGrand. At the house she finds an indifferent master; his mother Madame, who cares only for her food; and his wife Lorelei, who drinks too much. The house is slovenly, the fields are ruined, and the servants are insolent.

Hester believes that with hard work and oversight, Seven Chimneys could be made profitable again, and she soon seeks permission from LeGrand to see to it. When she begins to find herself successful, she becomes obsessed with seeing the plantation thrive and making a home for herself. What she doesn’t see is the truth behind the relationships between the family members at Seven Chimneys.

She is attracted to Roi, Saint’s dashing bastard half brother, but he offers a life in a cabin in Missouri. Hester thinks that will be a harsh life of drudgery and wants nothing to do with it.

First of all, this novel is so racist it took my breath away. It’s hard to tell if Lee was trying to depict the time as it was or was racist herself. However, Hester herself is racist. Even though she comes to like a couple of the African-American characters, she treats more than one of them despicably, and they are all stereotypical.

Second, in other ways Hester is not at all likable, being so obsessed with succeeding on the plantation and feeling herself so superior to the southern characters. In many ways, except for not being evil, she reminds me of the main character in one of Philippa Gregory’s early series, Wideacre. She acts fairly reprehensibly up to the very end of the novel, when she has a change of heart. Frankly, she does not deserve her happy ending.

Did I like the book? It is well written and atmospheric. It has some suspenseful scenes, and Hester finds herself in a corner. But no, not only is the racism too much for me, but the regionalism is, too, because Lee depicts most southerners as loafing crackers (she even uses the word), greedy vulgar businessmen, or effete, elitist aristocrats. This is not at all the book I remembered reading.

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4 thoughts on “Review 1417: The Web of Days

  1. Liz Dexter November 13, 2019 / 1:49 am

    I love reading about re-reading as books can change so much between readings (when I re-read the Handmaid’s Tale this year, I realised I’d always conflated it with Angela Carter’s “The Passion of New Eve” which I read originally at the same time!). I’ve been re-reading Iris Murdoch’s novels recently and my thoughts on those have changed yet again, even on my fourth read. So thank you for sharing this even though you didn’t love the book this time around (my version of that was probably the Flowers in the Attic series but I have no desire to revisit those!).

    • whatmeread November 13, 2019 / 10:20 am

      Gosh, I read those so long ago! Yes, it’s so interesting. As we change, our view of the books changes, sometimes radically!

  2. Jane November 14, 2019 / 1:08 pm

    Do you still have a crush on the hero – I’m thinking not? I don’t do enough re-reading and it is so interesting isn’t it. I still love Jane Eyre but I can’t understand why as a young girl I had a crush on Mr. Rochester!

    • whatmeread November 14, 2019 / 2:55 pm

      Well, he was the nicest person in the book, but I’m a lot older and very seldom have crushes anymore. You are so right about Mr. Rochester! The first time I read Jane Eyre, I thought it was romantic, even though even then I didn’t really like him, but now I think he’s horrible! He doesn’t deserve Jane at all! Locking his poor wife in the attic, trying to become a bigamist, masquerading to “test” Jane? Not my idea of a hero.

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