Big Girl by Danielle Steel
In this heartfelt and incisive new novel, Danielle Steel celebrates the virtues of unconventional beauty while exploring deeply resonant issues of weight, self-image, sisterhood, and family.
A chubby little girl with blond hair, blue eyes, and ordinary looks, Victoria Dawson has always felt out of place in her family, especially in body-conscious L.A. Her father, Jim, is tall and slender, and her mother, Christina, is a fine-boned, dark-haired beauty. Both are self-centered, outspoken, and disappointed by their daughter’s looks. When Victoria is six, she sees a photograph of Queen Victoria, and her father has always said she looks just like her. After the birth of Victoria’s perfect younger sister, Gracie, her father liked to refer to his firstborn as “our tester cake.” With Gracie, everyone agreed that Jim and Christina got it right.
While her parents and sister can eat anything and not gain an ounce, Victoria must watch everything she eats, as well as endure her father’s belittling comments about her body and see her academic achievements go unacknowledged. Ice cream and oversized helpings of all the wrong foods give her comfort, but only briefly. The one thing she knows is that she has to get away from home, and after college in Chicago, she moves to New York City.
Landing her dream job as a high school teacher, Victoria loves working with her students and wages war on her weight at the gym. Despite tension with her parents, Victoria remains close to her sister. And though they couldn’t be more different in looks, they love each other unconditionally. But regardless of her accomplishments, Victoria’s parents know just what to say to bring her down. She will always be her father’s “big girl,” and her mother’s constant disapproval is equally unkind.
When Grace announces her engagement to a man who is an exact replica of their narcissistic father, Victoria worries about her sister’s future happiness, and with no man of her own, she feels like a failure once again. As the wedding draws near, a chance encounter, an act of stunning betrayal, and a family confrontation lead to a turning point.
Behind Victoria is a lifetime of hurt and neglect she has tried to forget, and even ice cream can no longer dull the pain. Ahead is a challenge and a risk: to accept herself as she is, celebrate it, and claim the victories she has fought so hard for and deserves. Big girl or not, she is terrific and discovers that herself.
This book was my first Danielle Steel novel and I was very excited to read something she wrote. My mom has read most of her books and by the time she was my age, she had probably read about 30 of Danielle’s books. I’m fairly certain this isn’t your typical novel by the best selling author.
It reminded me of Jennifer Weiner books where typically the main character is overweight and has some self image issues. However, I think the story held its own throughout the book.
Victoria Dawson was a character easy to like and sympathize with. Her father was easy to hate. He never had anything positive to say to her and it was so frustrating that her mother was his puppet who went along with everything he said. Surprisingly, Victoria and her sister had an incredible bond despite the fact they had very different experiences with their parents. It’s pretty amazing Victoria didn’t grow bitter and hateful toward Gracie, who received nothing but praises from both of her parents.
At first I felt the story was written in a sort of rushed way because there were parts where the story skipped 4 or 5 years ahead. But later I found it worked really well for this novel so you could absorb the highlights and get to know the history of the characters.
I enjoyed reading about Victoria’s journey to finding who she is and learning how to love herself despite the fact that she had been told her whole life anything but. From leaving the family for college to life in New York where she makes new friends that support her and care for her, it’s easy to root for Victoria in this book.
Danielle Steel does a wonderful job at creating characters you could love, hate, want to slap, root for, laugh with, and roll your eyes at. I had all of those moments in reading this novel. An easy, laid back read, I am sure this is not the typical Danielle Steel book. And I would definitely be interested in reading more of her books.