If it's Heavy, Can it Be Fluff 'n Trash™?

I am having the best time reading Penny Vincenzi's Lytton family trilogy. However, it begs the question: can something so substantial really be Fluff 'n Trash™?

Carole and I were discussing that very topic just last night. Earlier this week, I called her and declared, "Pandora!" She knew exactly what I meant.

Carole has read all three books (No Angel, Something Dangerous, Into Temptation), while I'm only about halfway through the trilogy. (I read the first book in 2003, but just re-read it to make sure I didn't miss a thing before moving on to the last two books.) Carole is spectacular about not letting on a thing about what actually happens next, a trait I very much adore about her and her family. (Remind me to tell you about two very respectful children not spilling the beans during my Harry Potter catch-up one spring.)

Lately, I have needed light reading. I've plowed through a few months' worth of People magazine, The Onion and two Janet Evanovich novels so far during my convalescence. I've enjoyed it, relaxing on the couch with Rob's iPod playing softly in the background as I thumbed through some light reading. (I also read a couple of Rolling Stones, but those border Serious Material with the in-depth stories and interviews for Campaign '08.)

So, in that vein, I lined up all three Lytton books to round out my Fluff 'n Trash™ selection.

However, the so-called "Spoils of Time" series are an interesting hybrid: light reading that is much more substantial in storyline and character development than traditional light fare. Years after having read them, Carole can still recite storyline and characters from the Lytton family saga.

So I ask: can it be Fluff 'n Trash™ if it's that substantial?

Some light reading is just that: a nice read, good elements all around, but instantly forgettable — or at least not enough substance or detail to stick with this reader for very long afterward. These can be very good books, but not the kind about which you could speak at length, or write a term paper.

However, the Lytton trilogy is so much more.

It's complex character development, sweeping sagas, war and sacrifice, drama and tension. I can't put it down until I know certain things about the characters.

I speculate with Carole about what I think will happen next. (I have to admit that the author has thrown some great curve balls at the readers, and I'm thrilled. Usually I can anticipate a storyline — but with Vincenzi, not always so much, or even so completely.)

I worry about the characters: poor Izzy (and what a terrible nickname!), poor Barty, poor Giles (though after a while I worry that I will abandon my sad tone when saying "poor Giles"). I cringe when reading about Celia's foray into politics, or Sebastian's temper regarding one child in particular, or Helena's observations about her husband's career.

Granted, there's all the stuff of Fluff 'n Trash ™ — romance and affairs, unplanned pregnancies galore, abandonment, death, society gossip, use of the word "Mummy" that sounds alien to my American ears. There's also common sense from the least likely characters, vast country estates and quite a bit of tea. There's unimaginable amounts of wealth that provide a certain amount of independence — or does it?

So, does something with substance count as light reading? Does the fact that something is a quick read make it a light read as well? What do you think?

And if you've read the Lytton trilogy, chime in. But no spoilers, please — not even with warnings!


Carole said...

I think this masquerades as Fluff-n-Trash but, as you say, it offers so much more. Generally, light reading has a plot line that is agreeably intriguing but quickly forgotten.

I'm amazed at how much of the Lytton Family Saga has stayed with me. So does the fact that a book/series leaves such a lasting impression mean that it is not Fluff-n-Trash or is it just the very best kind of it?

Chris said...

I vote for "the best kind."

I would hate to designate it as "Literature" and have an entire generation pooh-pooh it as stuffy like Dickens or Austen. (We know they're not, but some people might think all Literature is!)