What Are We Reading, Page 17

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What Are We Reading, Page 17

Editado: Mar 1, 8:44 am

I was disappointed in Shrines of Gaiety. It seems as though Kate Atkinson tried to do too much. The novel is witty in its language and is cleverly referential to itself and to other books and films of the 1920s, but there were too many characters, most of which were not sufficiently fleshed out for me to care about. I plodded on to the ending, hoping that it would redeem itself there, but although most of the plot lines were tied up, it was summarily and clumsily done. One of the characters is an aspiring novelist, and the description of his planned novel, entitled "The Age of Glitter," sums up the unrealized aspirations of Shrines of Gaiety nicely: "The Age of Glitter had rapidly become unwieldy. Yes, it was a crime novel, "but it was also a razor sharp dissection of the various strata of society in the wake of the destruction of war."

I've moved on now to The Book of Joan which is a post-apocalyptic novel which, so far, is quite weird.

Mar 3, 1:19 pm

Mar 3, 1:47 pm

I finished and loved The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and will look for more books by her. I'm just about done with The Book Lovers' Miscellany by Claire Cock-Starkey, am continuing with The 1619 Project and have also started The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Mar 4, 7:12 am

>2 LynnB: That looks like something that I would like. Thanks!

Mar 5, 10:50 am

>1 vwinsloe: I have The book of Joan on a TBR pile. I'll look forward to seeing your thoughts.

Editado: Mar 6, 9:15 am

>5 Sakerfalcon: Is it you who has an interest in medieval women? If so, you will find The Book of Joan more intelligible than I did, I'm sure. The beginning section I found to be brutal and angry; the furious tone reminded me of The Female Man. But as it went on, I saw that there was a good deal of symbolism there, and I didn't find a way in until I did a little research. In the end, I understood it to be about exploitation of the earth and people, as well as about sex, love, and sexuality. I wish that I had read this review before I started. It doesn't really contain spoilers and it provides a clue about the references that the author subtly employs as symbols.

Editado: Mar 6, 2:47 pm

I'm reading The Forgotten Garden by one of my favourite authors, Kate Morton

Mar 6, 3:34 pm

>7 LynnB: I have only read four of hers, but this is my favorite one so far. I also really liked The Distant Hours.

Mar 6, 3:55 pm

>7 LynnB: My first by her was The House at Riverton which I LOVED; I have The Forgotten Garden on my TBR.

>8 Darth-Heather: I'll have to pick up The Distant Hours sometime.

Editado: Mar 9, 10:19 am

>8 Darth-Heather: >9 LisaMorr: My favourite is the Clockmaker's Daughter. It was the first one of hers I read, and I've since been reading all the others.

Mar 9, 6:51 am

I've finally started Know My Name which Citizenjoyce and LynnB spoke highly of on the previous page. Chanel Miller writes remarkably well.

Mar 15, 10:26 am

I finished Know My Name which I had to read in small chunks because the subject matter was so difficult. Then today I saw that Christine Blasey Ford, who was mentioned in Chanel Miller's book, has a memoir coming out in a few days entitled One Way Back: A Memoir. I'll read it, but not soon.

I really needed a diversion, so I started The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi. I wanted a fantasy read, and I hope that it isn't a cliffhanger because the next book in the series hasn't been published yet.

Mar 15, 3:05 pm

>12 vwinsloe: The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi does have a full story arc and ending, although I think the author left enough plot open for there to be another installment. I enjoyed it quite a bit, although near the end things get very hectic and I had a little difficulty envisioning exactly what was happening. I am looking forward to the next one though; I like this author's writing style.

Mar 15, 6:59 pm

I'm re-reading...after more than a decade....Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald, one of my top three fiction books of all time.

FYI, the other two are The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and the un-girly Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley, although I'd argue that the character of Mrs. Noyes (Noah's wife) makes the book a fine choice for this group.

Mar 16, 6:50 am

>13 Darth-Heather: Thank you. It is not a short book, and I'd hate to be left hanging.

>14 LynnB: I looked for Fall On Your Knees when I took the last trip to my used bookstore, and they didn't have it. If it doesn't show up eventually, I will order it from an online used bookstore.

Mar 17, 1:32 pm

My book club has put off our discussion of Fall on Your Knees, so I'm going to put it aside for a week or so. I'm reading The First Day of the Rest of My Life by Cathy Lamb

Mar 18, 11:04 am

>6 vwinsloe: Thanks for this, and the link to the review. I've taken my copy off its shelf, which is one step closer to me reading it!

I've just started reading The stargazers, which seems to be a multi-generational novel about the fallout from a toxic childhood. I admit that I fell for this one entirely due to the gorgeous cover.

Mar 20, 8:16 am

>17 Sakerfalcon: I haven't heard of The Stargazers. Let us know what you think.

Mar 20, 6:57 pm

Not by a woman, but a biography of one: I'm reading Anastasia: The Life of Anna Anderson by Peter Kurth. I know that recent DNA evidence shows Anastasia is buried with her family, but I remain interested in the life and times of pretenders.

Mar 21, 8:47 am

I finished The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi which was an enjoyable romp as I had hoped.

Now I'm on to the enormously popular Lessons in Chemistry.

Editado: Mar 24, 8:48 am

I finished Lessons in Chemistry, and I have thoughts. First off, I loved it. It reminded me very much of the Barbie 2023 film, in that it was Feminism 101, and very funny and ironic. Interesting that this may be a trend now, and I don’t know whether it will be a good thing or not yet.

I texted a younger librarian friend and asked if the Dewey Decimal System had a category for “hysterical fiction.” She said no, but that she could get behind it, even though she didn’t like the book that much. She explained that she didn’t actually realize when the time period of the novel was when she was reading it, because not much has changed. Ooof. I get that. (Personally, I was insulted when the book said "historical fiction" on the cover, and then opened with the chapter entitled, "November 1961.")

But just like the Barbie 2023 film, many people would be understandably disappointed if they dislike such serious subjects being taken so lightly. I think that there may also be an age component involved in liking the book. Those of us who are of a certain age understand that Lessons in Chemistry is pure fantasy. Even if a woman were to be so enlightened in those times, there is no way that she could have been so publicly outspoken about it, let alone be that peculiar package of stunningly beautiful, incredibly intelligent, outspoken and athletic. Period. But many women may have been beginning to have glimpses of feminist thought in the late 1950s, and recognize it when the idealized character Elizabeth Zott speaks those thoughts. On a hunch, I looked up Bonnie Garmus’s age. Yup; she’s about 67 years old. (Wow, kudos to her on her first book.) She’s also of the age in which women turn invisible, and has some perspective now. She would have been about the same age as Zott's daughter is in the novel, and it is touching that Bonnie Garmus dedicated the book to her mother.

There is a lot of sexism depicted in this book that should be the subject of outrage and anger instead of humor. Even the plot of the book itself centers men, and the women simply revolve around them. Okay. For those who are still battling against sexism in their lives every day, I can see why they wouldn’t love this book. But for those women who still have not allowed themselves to see things the way that they really are because of their cultural backgrounds, this approach may be something that they can grasp. For those turned off by the emotions of anger and outrage, and those who need a pretty woman who is a mother and a cook, this book may be as enlightening as it is entertaining. The pink chicklit cover is stealthy, and if it leads more women to questioning whether things have to be the way that they are, then I’m all for it.

Mar 24, 8:57 am

>21 vwinsloe: Great review! I agree with you entirely.

Mar 24, 9:50 am

>22 LynnB: Thanks. I don't write reviews often; only when I find something particularly thought provoking.

Mar 29, 8:45 am

I finished The Ride of Her Life and found it to be quite touching in the end. I've read a few of Elizabeth Letts's books and found her writing style to be uneven, but this one was much better.

Now for something completely different, I've started reading Malka Older's first novel, Infomocracy. The world she has built seems a little complicated and it might take me a while to figure out.

Abr 1, 7:11 pm

I'm starting The Postcard by Anne Berest

Abr 2, 7:52 am

>18 vwinsloe: I enjoyed The stargazers a lot. It has strong gothic vibes, with a crumbling stately home, obsession, a disputed inheritance, and Jane Eyre-esque cruelty to children. It takes place in Hampstead in the late 1960s, and at Fane Hall after WWII. Sarah hasn't been in touch with her mother or sister for years; the trauma of her childhood has led her to cut all ties with them and the family home. Her mother was not entitled to inherit the house, yet she is obsessed with it being "hers". This is the driving passion of her life, at the expense of her daughters' wellbeing. Older sister Vic finds her own way to cope, leaving Sarah to rely on the kindness of strangers. These scars haunt her years later as an insecure young mother, married to a charming, flamboyant, careless husband. The books moves between the two times, revealing secrets and showing their effects. There was one plot thread that I didn't think was necessary (although it was quite plausible, if melodramatic), but most of the twists were very well done. There is cruelty to children and animals, but in spite of that I found the book extremely compelling.

>24 vwinsloe: I liked Infomocracy and its sequel, I need to read the third volume. It took me a while to get my head around the worldbuilding.

Editado: Abr 2, 10:03 am

>21 vwinsloe: I appreciate your thoughts on that one - it was a Christmas present and I haven't quite convinced myself to read it yet. I do need to get to it though.

I finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot a week or so ago, and I thought it was really well done.

I'm a few chapters into The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith - I've never seen any of the movie adaptations, and while I know Mr. Ripley is a con artist, I'm going into it without any other ideas, lol.

Editado: Abr 3, 8:20 am

>26 Sakerfalcon: I'm putting The Stargazers on my wishlist, and thanks for the encouragement on Infomocracy. Now that I've invested in this interesting world that she's built, I'll probably continue on with the sequels.

>27 LisaMorr: You're welcome. Do read Lessons in Chemistry - if you are anything like me, it's probably not what you expected. Oh, and there is a reason that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the #1 biography of notable women, which was the March List here on LT, even though it was not at all a traditional biography.


Abr 3, 12:40 pm

I'm about to start Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

Abr 3, 1:34 pm

>28 vwinsloe: Thanks for sharing that list!

Abr 7, 7:09 am

>30 LisaMorr: You're welcome. I tend to participate in such things.

Abr 7, 7:11 am

I've just started Lady Tan's Circle of Women which Citizenjoyce recommended. I've read several books by Lisa See, and I have always learned something from them. She primarily writes historical fiction that takes place in China.

Abr 7, 1:54 pm

Finished The Talented Mr. Ripley and it wasn't what I expected at all; a very good read, although being in Tom Ripley's mind was disturbing. I'm continuing with The 1619 Project - for me it's more like a book to dip into, a chapter at a time, rather than one to read through all at once - just finishing the chapter on how as part of the government's quest to civilize the native Americans, they were encouraged to enslave blacks. Have also started some lighter fare, with Nora Roberts' Jewels of the Sun.

Abr 10, 7:05 am

>34 LynnB: Ooooo, that one looks interesting, and I hadn't heard about it. On my list! Thanks.

Abr 12, 8:22 am

>36 LynnB: What a great title! If there are any paintings in that book that could be used as the primary photo for this group, let me know. It would have to be a digital image in the public domain, of course.

Editado: Abr 12, 12:34 pm

There are many wonderful images...you'd have to check for copyright.

Abr 12, 12:00 pm

I found The Great Stewardess Rebellion to be an inspiring read about women who decided to take charge of their working conditions. It is easy for us to take for granted what we now have as rights. So much so that some young women don't see the ongoing need for feminism. It is, therefore, so important to learn about and remember and honour those who fought so hard for our rights.

Labour unions, that bastion of egalitarianism, treated female members as second-class citizens for far too long. Stewardesses were seen as hostesses, there for the enjoyment of predominantly male passengers. They were not recognized as trained professionals there for passenger safety. On top of the unfairness and sexism, think of the implications for public safety if the person responsible for evacuating a crashed plane was starving, dressed in a miniskirt and high heeled go-go boots.

The book looks at history and legal cases. And it focuses on a few women in depth so we can follow their stories. This book is well written, easy to read and so informative.

Abr 12, 3:19 pm

Abr 14, 2:14 pm

Editado: Abr 17, 4:51 pm

>33 LisaMorr: I think it was a recommendation on Ann Patchett's Facebook page that lead me to Mouth To Mouth by Antoine Wilson. It starts off kind of slow, well someone does save a life so I guess not really slow action, but lots of internal dialogue. I wasn't sure I was going to kick in, but then it grabbed me and became very Patricia Highsmith. People have such clever, rationalistic, devious minds.
In preparation for the Bob Marley move One Love I read How to Say Babylon: A Memoir by Safiya Sinclair about a woman who was raised in the Rastafarian religion. The religion worked for Marley and helped him write some powerful, hopeful songs beloved world-wide. Of course it also lead to his death since he refused to have his cancerous toe amputated. It seems to have done nothing good for Sinclair. The way she describes the religion, every man is the king of his castle and all the other people in it - wife, children - are his serfs. He can make whatever law he wants to govern his home. Some men make liberal laws, some men devise laws so restrictive that women have to confine themselves to a room away from the family for the duration of their menstruation. Sinclair's father was a singer 10 years after Marley's death. He wanted fame and respect but got disrespected by his band, his employers, and the white government. She does a good job of showing why her father was abusive but also shows just how abusive he was to his family, or rather to the females in his family. Like Tara Westover, Sinclair is saved by education, but she's had to fight for her freedom.
So, after singing Bob Marley songs for a month, I read Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be by Marissa R. Moss. I don't follow music but I had heard of the Dixie Chicks and how they were treated. It seems, for some bizarre reason, country music stations didn't want to play female artists. Their explanation was that country music is like a salad - they need lots of lettuce, which is the male artists, and just a sprinkling of tomatoes - the female artists. They especially wanted their female artists to be compliant and feminine, which did not exactly cover the Dixie Chicks. Aside from their political comments about Bush, country radio found them over all to be too rebellious. You can imagine how the straight, white men reacted to "Good Bye Earl." I'd never heard this happy song about killing an abusive husband, so I'm glad the book directed me to it. It also directed me to country women who won Grammys, and even then radio didn't want to play them because they were queer or of color or just outspoken. So I've been able to listen to people I'd never heard of before that the rest of the work has - Brandy, Mickey Guyton, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires, Natalie Hemby. I don't know if those in charge of country radio have wised up by now, but I think all the kerfuffle about Beyonce going country reflects the same old attitude.

Editado: Abr 18, 9:57 am

Abr 17, 10:50 am

>44 LynnB: The touchstone is going to a cozy cat mystery, which I don't think is the book you intended!

Abr 18, 9:14 am

>42 Citizenjoyce: How to Say Babylon sounds very interesting. I know virtually nothing about the Rastafarian religion, and I probably should. Thanks.

Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They were Never Supposed to Be seems timely. I've never had an interest in "country" music, but I like the stuff that they are putting under the label "Americana" which is sort of country, singer-songwriter and bluegrass. Now it seems that that genre may be blowing country up, not just with Beyonce, but with the woman named Rhiannon Giddens who plays the banjo on her album. Did the book mentioned her?

Abr 18, 9:58 am

>45 Sakerfalcon: Fixed it, thank you!

Abr 18, 12:48 pm

Abr 18, 6:07 pm

>46 vwinsloe: It could have mentioned her, there were so many women I can't remember most of their names. I see she's a person of color. One way to deal with these "unacceptable" women was to call their music Americana because they didn't represent "true" country meaning WASP, ladylike country.

Abr 19, 10:47 am

>49 Citizenjoyce: Huh. I can't help but think that since music radio is mostly going the way of the buggy whip, the power of county radio stations as arbiters of taste will be diminished. It seems now that Spotify and Pandora and other streaming services are winning the day, and I suppose if there is a demand for white male country western music, there will be a channel exclusively for it.

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