Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bella’s Wedding, Bedding and Surprise: A Review of Breaking Dawn (Part II)

(For part I see here.)

Book one of Breaking Dawn deals Bella’s wedding, bedding and the discovery that she, against all possibility is pregnant with Edward’s child. This book is 138 pages. In essence Meyer took what should have been Breaking Dawn and lopped off the first three-hundred to four-hundred pages to get right to the chase. It skips the engagement and starts right before Bella’s and Edward’s wedding and goes through their honeymoon. I was looking forward to having Bella and Edward being engaged, planning their wedding and have Alice take everything over. We got a hint of that at the end of Eclipse, but I wanted more of that. Also the lead up to the wedding is precisely the sort of “dramatic” tension that Meyer thrives at: is it a wedding or a funeral? By skipping over the lead up to the wedding, Meyer missed out on what could have been her finest hour.

Unlike Eclipse, which used Alice quite a bit, Breaking Dawn lets Alice slink of to the side. It skips out on Alice planning the wedding. Books two and three also reduce her to bit parts. She gets sidelined with headaches and then, when things get tough, she runs off with Jasper leaving the Cullens in the lurch. Granted this is all about her pulling a very Alice stunt, but I wanted Alice to be Alice at the center of the action. I can only take a certain amount of Bella and Edward. Bella having to go up against Alice balances things out.

As to the bedding part; Meyer has until now been able to succeed, despite her religious beliefs, at writing a love story because she has not needed to write any actual sex into it. She kept things at a place she was comfortable with, which allowed her to write effectively. With Breaking Dawn she has written herself into a corner; she is out of her comfort zone and seems like a deer caught in the headlights.

Book two deals with Bella’s pregnancy and comes out to 215 pages. This book is interesting because it switches perspective away from Bella, which is how, with the exception of the last chapter of Eclipse, the entire series has been written. Meyer turns to Jacob Black, the werewolf. This tactic manages to inject some life into the book and goes a fair way toward saving it. Jacob gets into an interesting and quite Cardian situation with his fellow werewolves, which Meyer handles effectivly. The main issue of book two is Bella’s insistence on bringing her child to term, despite the fact that it is killing her. In this she finds an unexpected ally in Rosalie, the one Cullen who has been against her. Obviously there is a pretty strong pro-life message wrapped up in all of this. There was one thing that really upset me about this book. Edward, in an attempt to get Bella to give up the child, tells Jacob something that was just weird, really out of character and just plain wrong. I know that Edward is in panic mode, but still. This was just another example of Meyer not being able to handle sexuality past a certain point and getting herself stranded.

At 387 pages book three is by far the longest and comes close to matching the original Twilight novel in length. This book deals with the Volturi coming after Bella and Edward’s newborn child, claiming that it violates the rules and therefore must be eliminated. The Cullens, in a very Cardian maneuver, get help from the local werewolf population down at La Push, but also reach out to every vampire they can get to come, not to fight the Volturi but to “witness” to them, that the Cullens have broken no law. The struggle with the Volturi comes right out of the society building story. The Cullens are a counter society and the Volturi, as the establishment, seek any excuse to eliminate them. This notion of the Cullens and their society building story is neatly summed up in a little speech that Meyer gives to a vampire named Garrett:

I have witnessed the bonds within this family – I say family and not coven. These strange golden-eyed ones deny their very natures. But in return have they found something worth even more, perhaps, than mere gratification of desire? I’ve made a little study of them in my time here, and it seems to me that intrinsic to this intense family binding – which makes them possible at all – is the peaceful character of this life of sacrifice. There is no aggression here like we all saw in the large southern clans that grew and diminished so quickly in their wild feuds. There is no thought for domination. (Breaking Dawn pg. 717-18.)

Breaking Dawn has its moments and is definitely a worthwhile read, despite my criticisms. I did have high expectations for this book; I hoped that Meyer could accomplish what J. K Rowling did with Deathly Hallows. This was not to be. What we received were three abridged books in which much of what made the Twilight series so much fun had simply leaked out. I still enjoyed Breaking Dawn immensely. Even when she is not at her best, Meyer is still one of the most gifted people in the business and I eagerly await her future work. (Maybe she can do a spinoff about Alice.) This will probably, though, not go into my comfort pile, books, like Harry Potter and the rest of the Twilight series, that I go back to again and again whenever I need a smile.

Oh and by the way I am so naming my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster.

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