The Liberation of Alice Love and why I bought makeup and painted my nails

Cover image, The Liberation of Alice Love by Abby McDonald

I finished reading this book last week, and I really liked it (with a few reservations).  It’s about a woman whose identity is stolen–along with a whole heap of money–by someone she knows.  Once she discovers the theft and gets over the initial shock and grief, Alice goes on the hunt for clues to how she could have been so blind and who that person was, really.  Along the way, she discovers that expensive lingerie can actually make her feel better about herself, that clothes that fit and flatter are a worthy investment, and that no life is truly safe from calamity.  She also discovers that lying is destructive to relationships and that it’s ok to go on a journey of self-discovery as long as you eventually end up discovering something and calling it a day.

I promised at the beginning of this venture that I wouldn’t do a review blog–there are plenty already out there that do that job much better than I ever could, including my two favorite book blogs, and –but I might as well give in to the temptation to mention a few items that stuck out.

1.  It drives me wonky when folk use words that contain unnecessary syllables.  Hey, “preventative”: I’m talking about you.  “Preventive” isn’t good enough, is it?  No, you’ve got to add another silly syllable in there for shits and giggles.  Well, in this book, Alice doesn’t “orient” herself after stepping out of the Tube station; she “orientates” herself.  And after a rather confusing run-in with the Law (in Italy, no less), Alice is “disorientated” rather than “disoriented.”  Maybe it’s a Brit thing?  Anyway, it was distracting to me.

2.  The ending…  This book had a very Jane Austen a la Northanger Abbey type of ending.  It was as though McDonald just got tired of writing this story and figured she might as well just be done with it.  Maybe I just read too many romance novels, but I found the lack of closure very annoying.

OK, review over.

While I was reading the book, I didn’t completely identify with the main character.  I’m a bit of a control-freak, sure, but I don’t organize my life with the sole purpose of being safe, of being steady.  Alice Love is steady to an unusual degree, and the result is that most of her friends and family take advantage of her all the time.  That doesn’t exactly explain my situation (I’m usually the one taking advantage).  What did resonate with me about this book was Alice’s discovery of her own femininity and the power that is connected to it.  While tracking down the thief, Alice discovers that the woman used Alice’s money to purchase a whole lot of self-indulgent items: fancy lingerie, crazy jeweled dildos (Hi Mom!), beautiful clothes, etc.  Once Alice gets some money back from the bank, she starts buying these items for herself and is able to discover that her formerly stable, safe life was really missing something.

There’s a little teaser line, an attention grabber, on the cover of the book.  “Whose life are you living?”  Throughout the book, Alice slowly discovers that she life she led before the identity theft wasn’t actually sufficient, and she starts to lead new lives until she (maybe?) settles on one–the ending is a bit ambiguous, but I like to believe that she picked a good one.

I had two kids somewhat recently, and I sort of let myself go.  I lost all the preggo weight, but I was still wearing maternity shirts because I couldn’t be bothered to shop for clothes, and my hair had gotten grown-out and crazy, and I never wore makeup.  For a year now, I’ve looked really terrible, because I just haven’t put any effort or energy into looking good.  Hairy legs, caterpillar brows, bags under the eyes, awful toe-nails… it’s a whole package of yucky, and it’s just sad that I’ve been so content to wallow in it for so long.  Whose life was I living?  When I really lay it all out to look at it clearly, the answer’s not a great one.

While I was reading this book, I got to thinking: I used to wear bras that fit and underpants that weren’t falling apart; I used to shave my legs and pluck my eyebrows… why did I stop?  When I look in the mirror, do I ever actually feel pretty?  Don’t I want to feel pretty?  So I went out and bought new underpants (a lot of new underpants), a slew of new bras.  I painted my nails.  I bought makeup, and I even put it on occasionally.  I’ve been attempting to keep my hair under control.  I’ve been shaving my legs a tad more often (it’s such a pain…).  And do you know what?  I feel better.  I feel happier, more female in all the good ways, more relaxed, prettier.

The Liberation of Alice Love is not the only impetus to this random beauty revolution… I also got some great advice from a wonderful friend (and fellow blogger: that forced me to consider some of the motives behind my purposeful dumpiness (Thank you!).  But even though it wasn’t the only reason I’ve decided to kick them nasty thoughts, the book helped to solidify my objective and was entertaining to boot.  If we’ve a mind to pay attention, even silly chick-lit can change our lives for the better.

On a quasi-related note, does anyone else find it annoying that books written by women with female main characters are always considered chick-lit?  Does anyone else find it annoying that chick-lit is always considered silly and shallow?  If a man had written this book about a male character, even with the exact same story elements and character traits, it wouldn’t be called chick-lit.