The Stress of Her Regard

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Ancient creatures who haunt the great Romantic writers, Byron and Shelley. A statue wearing a wedding ring, put on it for safekeeping–but its hand clenching around the ring to keep it from being taken back. A death at sea to sever an ancient curse.

“The Stress of Her Regard” is scary, powerful, and thrilling. The characters sink to dangerous lows, preform risky and fascinating deeds. And strange mythic creatures tread the paths of history.

It’s pretty awesome. I just wish Powers hadn’t totally sidelined the women characters.

The men are all preoccupied with their relatinoships with (for lack of a better term) succubi. Their relationships with actual women are just shadows of these earlier, jealous lovers. Thus, women are utterly robbed of agency at every turn. The men act to protect them, and the women never act for themselves. The jealous succubi are, it is established early in the novel, bent on killing any woman or child in their lovers’ lives. Yet those women are never made aware of the risk they are in, never understand why their children are in danger. They are objects to be protected, not partners in their own lives. The men are the writers–the women are just supporting characters.

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By the end of the novel, one character is literally dragging a woman away from the life she chose. It’s not a good life, but no one tried to drag him away when he had chosen it.

Can a novel be truly great if it has a bad depiction of half the human race?

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