We return to the scene of the crime. When last we saw our humble protagonists, they were wandering through an art gallery. I, meanwhile, was grumbling about the shortage of nuns.
1. (II.3): Gertrude has found the strength to resist spending any further time with her Illicit Beloved. And yet, this is only page 3.
2. (II.3): Never mind. "I have fallen" (*gasp*) "fallen, oh how grievously, in my own estimation!" OK, so slight false alarm there, but it would appear that Gertrude's moral fiber is none of the sturdiest.
3. (II.8-9): "I must do him the justice to believe that he has no idea of the state of my feelings, or he never could have pressed me as he did to become an inmate of his house." Well, this novel wasn't titled Diary of an Intelligent Heroine, so we can't claim false advertising on that score.
4. Strangely, Edith is not as happy about Gertrude's change of mind as she could have been, being Gertrude's BFF and all.
5. (II.11): Gertrude will now try to see what "rigorous self-command" can do for her, even though she wasn't able to maintain her previous resolution for more than about five sentences. She will, of course, regard Arthur as her "brother." Because that has been working out so well.
In the meantime, nuns do not show themselves on the horizon.
6. (II.18): We take time out from our Illicit Love to make fun of American taste in art, or lack thereof.
7. Edith's rejected suitor has put in a reappearance, and very kindly takes up enough of Edith's time that Arthur can hang out with Gertrude. In a purely fraternal sort of way, of course. Remember, rigorous self-command.
8. (II.25-26): Once again, the author has run out of material, so it's time to do some more sight-seeing--this time, Bernini's Apollo and Daphne in the Villa Borghese.
9. (II.27): And now, Gertrude feels foreshadowing stealing upon her with feet of lead.
What could possibly go wrong, after all?
Also, ongoing lack of nuns.
10. Gertrude takes time out from conducting an Illicit Love Affair platonically enjoying the company of her "brother" to mock the miracle of Saint Januarius. For a woman who supposedly has a deep-seated attachment to Roman Catholicism, she certainly acts like your average Victorian Protestant. Perhaps this is a sign of complex characterization at work.
Or perhaps the novelist doesn't know what s/he is doing.
11. (II.60): Oops! Edith has found it terribly convenient to let Gertrude do all these boring sight-seeing trips with Arthur. It's good to know that both of our heroines lack much in the way of common sense.
12. (II.61): Oops, take two! Edith has finally figured out that Something Is Not Right Here.
13. (II.62): Oops, yet again! She doesn't mention this to her husband, who would have been ever so "grateful" for the admonition (despite there being nothing in the current characterization to suggest that that would be true). It's not altogether clear that the novelist has much in the way of common sense.
Of course, since I'm still reading this novel, despite the predictable absence of nuns, my own common sense may be in question.
14. (II.64): Oops, take four! Edith continues to hang around with her rejected suitor, which cannot possibly be a good thing.
15. (II.77): Arthur and Gertrude get themselves locked in Pompeii. Alas, no volcanic eruptions follow, symbolic or otherwise. Strangely, Arthur doesn't seem to understand why his wife might be upset.
16. (II.78): Tsk, tsk. Arthur doesn't like Edith hanging about with her rejected suitor. It's almost as though he's some sort of hypocrite. But Edith's feelings for her rejected suitor are, it would seem, only of the purest, the most innocent, the most reeking of the odor of sanctity, the most...you get the picture. I detect another Mary Sue looming upon the horizon.
17. (II.80): Good thing that Edith is sticking to the "path of duty," unlike her husband and BFF, who clearly...are not.
Meanwhile, a third of the way through volume two, no nuns have manifested themselves. Do I continue to read out of duty? Sheer cussedness? My devotion to my eager blog readers, who are probably also wondering why on earth I'm still reading this thing?
18. We interrupt this all-around romantic incompetence for additional sightseeing and anectrivia. On a positive note, this book is so padded that it would probably bounce if you dropped it.
19. (II.127): Gertrude comes up with something nice to say about Catholicism. Stop the presses! Or the blog!
20. (II.143): Our sight-seeing tour stops at the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino. In other words, monks. Yes, monks. No nuns.
21. (II.147): One of the monks appears to be sending a mash note to a former fellow student at Oxford. This is not what one expects of monks, but Gertrude and Edith think it's adorbs. Gertrude moans again about the "gloom and monotony of a convent." By this time, the reader may detect some foreshadowing about Gertrude's Punishment for the Sin of Illicit Love.
22. (II.152): Gertrude succumbs to yet another attack of the foreshadowings.
23. (II.155): Gertrude has gone, and now Arthur is in a state of massive sulks, surely incompatible with pure brotherly love.
24. (II.160): Poor Edith--will she die of a broken heart? Will Arthur and Gertrude atone for their sin? Will the LP continue mocking this novel?
25. (II.163-64): Gertrude is thinking some pretty nasty thoughts about the inferiority of her BFF, who so obviously does not deserve the awesome hunk of manhood that is Arthur. But...but...pure brotherly love!
The moral corruption on display is almost too much for my delicate sensibilities, but I shall be firm.
We're getting to the end of the novel. I still hold out a faint hope for nuns.
26. (II.168): Edith has to admit that she is not, perhaps, altogether enthusiastic about another reunion with Gertrude. This demonstrates common sense. She makes up for this unexpected attack of emotional realism by writing a letter of Tender Forgiveness to Gertrude, and in so doing, begins her slow, inexorable slide into the purest of angelically pure Mary Sues.
27. (II.181): The rejected suitor turns up and points out to Edith that she's being an idiot. Edith momentarily sinks under this onslaught of the blooming obvious, but soon rebounds.
28. (II.187-88): Oh, dear. Arthur has also been writing letters to Gertrude, and not of the Tenderly Forgiving variety.
29. (II.191): Poor Edith can't catch a break. After discovering Arthur's letter to Gertrude, she runs out into the woods (but it might be cold and damp!) and promptly overhears an Illicit Encounter between the two, in which Arthur says some Not Very Nice Things.
This being a Victorian novel, Edith swoons. It's an important weapon in the arsenal of every innocent Victorian female character, but is generally ill-advised when it's nighttime and cold.
In case you're wondering, no nuns rush to Edith's rescue.
30. (I.195): Gertrude finds the letter of Tender Forgiveness, and is distraught. Arthur throws a temper tantrum. Why, it's as though he isn't an awesome hunk of manhood, and everyone has been deceived.
Sort of like the author has been telling us from the second chapter or so.
31. Gertrude, who has been snarking her way through the book, is now reaching heights of Extreme Righteousness heretofore unimagined by man, or at least this novel. Arthur, however, is clearly Teh Evulz.
Edith is presumably still in a state of swoon.
32. (II.202): Finally, Gertrude sees "the path of duty." It's certainly taken her long enough.
33. (II.207): Gertrude flees to a convent, because, after all, "her heart had long leaned towards the religion of her mother." This despite the fact that she's been spouting off anti-Catholic cracks the entire novel.
Perhaps the novelist assumed that the reader would just skip to the end.
34. (II.208): As Gertrude has now relinquished the right to snark about Catholicism, the narrator will do it instead, making it clear that Gertrude falls prey to Catholicism's snare only because her own Protestant upbringing has been so poor. Apparently, this is what you get for letting under-Protestantized young ladies go to Italy. Well, that and the whole Illicit Love thing.
35. (II.215): Noooo! Edith is dying of consumption! And just when it looked like she might get her husband back, too.
Moral of the story: don't swoon when it's cold. Try to do so only in warm environments.
36. (II.224): Does Edith hate Gertrude? Does she heap her with reproaches? Does she point out that she's partly responsible for the deadly swoon?
That would be kind of entertaining, actually. Instead, Edith douses Gertrude in buckets-full of Purity, Love, and Forgiveness. Treacle slowly rolls off the pages and onto my laptop keyboard, gumming up the keys.
37. (II.234): Now it's Arthur's turn to drown in treacle.
And I had just cleaned off my laptop.
38. (II.238): Edith dies while "pointing upwards," which seems sort of...I don't know...obvious.
Then again, the Star Wars prequels had more subtlety than this novel.
39. (II.245): Edith's mother dies. On Edith's grave. I suppose there's a certain convenience to dying in a cemetery.
Let me revise my previous statement: the Stars Wars Holiday Special had more subtlety than this novel.
(I saw the Holiday Special when it aired, making me one of the privileged few.)
40. Gertrude is now on the verge of becoming a nun. Yes! Finally! My patience has been rewarded!
41. (II.254): Edith is dead; Edith's mother is dead; and Gertrude is about to become a Carmelite. So Arthur is now writhing in Pangs of Remorse, right?
Nope. He wants Gertrude to come and live with him. Dude, seriously?
Also, if she leaves the convent, I'll be deprived of nuns again.
Luckily for both me and the novel, Gertrude remains firm.
42. (II.257): Instead of Gertrude complaining about convent "gloom," it's now the narrator.
43. (II.269): My goodness, Arthur is still whining about Gertrude deserting him. This is the whiniest whine that ever whined.
44. (II.275-76): Gertrude (now Teresa) promises Arthur that the remainder of her life will be spent in "one long deep dream of thee," which I don't think is how nuns are supposed to conduct themselves.
45. The novel has just burst into poetry, celebrating Teresa's enduring love for a guy who has spent the entire novel demonstrating that he's really kind of a jerk. For some reason, the sublimity of this eludes me.
46. And so we conclude, with Teresa doing penance by meditating on Edith's grave in an extremely uncomfortable position. At least she's thinking about somebody other than Arthur, the King of Whines.
There was, after all, a nun, but the book might have been more accurately titled Diary of Somebody Who Will Be a Nun By the End of the Novel, But Don't Get Your Hopes Up Too Soon.