"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Big Girl by Danielle Steel

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Summary: An overweight adult was neglected and ignored by her family. 

It's been ages since I've read a Danielle Steel novel. I'm glad I picked this one up. She tells a good story, even if dialogue is her weakness.

Victoria is born to Jim and Christine and looks nothing like them. Their disappointment that Victoria was not a boy and not immediately adorable causes these two shallow people to neglect their child for years. Baby Victoria is wrinkly and stout and so looks like Queen Victoria that her father names her after Victoria, as kind of a cruel joke. Victoria only realizes what an insult it was at age six when she finally sees a pictures of the aging Queen Victoria and doubts her parents' love for her ever since. When her sister Grace is born when Victoria is seven, Victoria showers Grace with all the love that she wanted and never got. Jim jokes that Victoria was the "tester cake" kid, the cake (or kid) they should have thrown away.

Their mother, Christine, is a biddable wife, who adores her husband and sees a child-free moment as an opportunity to play bridge.  But Grace and Victoria remains loving sisters despite their age gap and their looks. Of course, Grace is adorable, petite, and skinny, and looks just like her parents. Jim says that Victoria is lucky that she has brains since Grace has the beauty, while her mother tells her not to be too smart, because men don't like smart women.

Victoria also has depth and character, something sorely lacking in her parents. Victoria goes to college at Northwestern, far away from her family in California. Her father thinks she should major in advertising or marketing, his field, and scorns her teaching degree. Without their support, Victoria lands a job in New York City, teaching at an exclusive private school. But without a husband, and still a size 12 (C'mon, Danielle, really?), she has little value to her parents.
"He didn't notice a single pound she lost; nor did her mother, who was always distressed about her daughter's size, no matter what it was. The label they had put on her as a child was stuck there forever, like a tattoo. She was a "big girl," which was their way of calling her a fat girl. She knew that if she weighed a hundred pounds and were disappearing, they would still see her as a "big girl." They were the mirror of her inadequacies and her failings, and never of her victories. The only victories they saw were Grace's. That was just the way they were."
Knowing that every negative moment in her life is tied to her rejection by her parents, Victoria goes to see a therapist.
"It was why she was here. To change the image her parents had given her of herself. And she said she was willing to do whatever it took, even if the process was painful for her. Living with her own sense of defeat was worse. It had been her parents' legacy to her, to make her feel unlovable, because they didn't love her."
It's the best thing she does for herself. Danielle Steel seems to blame emotional eating and ice cream on Victoria's weight, and that likely would be it. I personally would have liked a book with a little more body acceptance, but the book ends with you beliving that Victoria would always want to be skinnier. She has given up on trying to work for her parents' love, and accepts the love she has built with a successful lawyer who adores her.

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