Pregnant heroines and Gail Carriger’s Heartless
At the same time as many of my friends are having babies, a lot of my favorite series’ heroines are getting pregnant as well. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this: I don’t want my heroines to have children. I can’t say this about my friends, but I can say it about fiction. I worry about what that will do to the adventurous, over-the-top lifestyles of the women I like to read about. Babies are nice, if you like that sort of thing. But obviously, once there’s a baby, everything changes. If her life revolves around the baby, the story is no less interesting (to me). And if her life doesn’t revolve around baby, well she’s not a very good (or realistic) parent, is she?
I have to say I was happy with Gail Carriger’s take on pregnancy in Heartless, and her creation of Alexia Tarabotti, a heroine who, even while about to give birth, is absolutely fearless. I’m curious how readers who have children viewed this book. Alexia hauls herself all over England, putting herself in dangerous situations, at one point even with a sprained ankle. She fights the bad guys, protects the pack, helps the vampires and solves all mysteries. Everyone in this book tells her to slow down and she never does.
I’m not saying that’s a good thing for someone who’s really 9 months pregnant. But I appreciated it here. Instead of a lot of cooing and picking out baby furniture, we get a heroine who basically views the appendage growing out of her belly as a gigantic burden. Carriger reminds us frequently that Alexia is not sentimental because she’s a preternatural and has no soul (which I guess is the reason for the name of the book, Heartless.) Still, Alexia loves her husband, cares for her friends, and worries about the pack’s latest werewolf, who isn’t adjusting well to pack life. So you can’t tell me she doesn’t have emotions. She just isn’t all fluttery about having a baby.
That was a relief for me – I feel like I live in such a baby-crazy world. And I haven’t heard a negative thing about this book from any other readers. I was surprised when (this is early in the book so not a spoiler) Alexia and Maccon consider giving their baby to a friend to adopt – a vampire friend, no less – in order to protect Alexia’s life. The surprise was how little angst goes into their decision.
Now, it’s not like Carriger tries to be realistic. Reality plays very little role in this series, and that’s one of the reasons we enjoy it. But I will say the description of Alexia trying to haul her very pregnant self into the basket of a dirigible seemed pretty darn realistic to me. I flew in a hot air balloon once and could hardly get in and out of that thing.
As this isn’t really a review, I’m not trying to give you a plot summary. Alexia’s pregnancy is a side story, as the story really revolves around investigating a threatened assassination attempt on Queen Victoria. I will say that I really enjoyed the book, much more than the last one. There was a little less of Carriger’s usual fluffiness about hats and fashion, and more character development, especially of Professor Lyall. Less international travel and intrigue, more background on Maccon and Alexia’s father. With this fourth entry in the series, Carriger gives us a good mystery, lots of action, and new insight into the wolf pack. She just does it all while Alexia’s carrying around a few extra pounds.