This is a ridiculously well written revisitation of the gothic novel. I started it this weekend, and I read straight foGiven to me by mama on 1/27/09.
This is a ridiculously well written revisitation of the gothic novel. I started it this weekend, and I read straight for four hours last night to finish it, cat on my lap, hot tea at my side. I ignored a pressing need to go to the grocery store, and I only got up occasionally to let the dogs out every few hours.
The story has all the wonderful familiar elements of a gothic novel: eccentric aristocratic family that makes no real effort to interact with the locals, large house with seemingly endless rooms, endearing house staff trying to keep the place togehter, meddlesome townsfolk, endless gardens, deep dark secrets and ghosts. There are even moors!
Setterfield does a lovely job of weaving together the story of Vida Winter, a reclusive famous author who reinvents her life story with the publication of every new novel, and Margaret Lea, a reclusive book seller and amateur biographer who chooses to live within books instead of with people. Miss Winter, an elderly woman, is dying, and she's decided to leave her life's story to Margaret. Dictating her complicated story to Margaret, both Miss Winter and Margaret confront their own ghosts. Sutterfield goes out of her way to avoid giving any sense of historical time to the novel, and the events therein could have happened at any point, more or less, in the last century or so.
Plot and characters are well developed and unexpected. It's pretty a pretty damned good gothic novel. ...more
This the Edgar award winner in 2008 for best first novel, and is more of a straight up contemporary murder mystery, also set in Dublin. In some respecThis the Edgar award winner in 2008 for best first novel, and is more of a straight up contemporary murder mystery, also set in Dublin. In some respects, it is simply two murder mysteries in one. The body of a young girl is found in roughly the same woods that two kids disappeared in twenty five years ago. Investigating the murder is a young man who had been in the woods with his friends when they disappeared, but cannot remember what happened. But the book is much, much more complex and nuanced than straight up murder mystery. The relationships that the main character has with the police force, with his past and, especially, with his partner is really the main crux of the story. He is clearly the wrong person to be leading this sort of investigation, and yet he's unable to let it go or assume that his past is clouding his judgement. It was sort of a hard book to read and like, because as the book went on, I found myself actively disliking the main character more and more, and I realized that his point of view wasn't necessarily one that should be relied upon. The book occassionally flashes back to 1984 from 2008ish. I highly recommend this novel, and I'm looking forward for the next book by the same author, which is told from the partner's point of view. ...more
I picked this up last night, not really intending to finish it. We'd been watching the Inagural Balls when oGiven to me by mama on Christmas Day 2008.
I picked this up last night, not really intending to finish it. We'd been watching the Inagural Balls when our single tuner Tivo informed us that it'd be switching over to Fringe. I didn't really feel like watching Fringe, so I moved over to the couch and started reading. Set in a small hamlet in modern-day northern Ireland, this is a relatively quick read. While there's a plot about a hapless new bookmobile librarian from London who is charged with finding the 15,000 books that went missing after the town council announced it was closing the library, the novel is more of a character study. There are all sorts of interesting characters throwing up blocks in the investigation, and I got the impression that this was sort of a kick off novel to set the scene for a new series. The fish-out-of-water librarian isn't particularly likable, nor is his immediate administrator, but the rest of the cast that he encounters along his route are eccentric and interesting enough to keep the story moving. I got through this thing in a few hours last night, and I'm not quite sure yet if I'll pick up more along the way as the series progresses. Still, it was a fun read, and it gave me a little more perspective on northern Ireland, 15 years after the cease fire. ...more
A few nights ago, I finished a book called A History of the Wife, which was part historical documentation and partI'm about two or three chpaters in.
A few nights ago, I finished a book called A History of the Wife, which was part historical documentation and part sociological/anthropoligical review. It was a walk through the evolution of (Western) marriage over the last 4,000 or so years, and the last hundred have been particularly revolutionary.
Frankly, fuck traditional marriage. I don't want to be in a subservient relationship with my spouse. I don't want to have financial and social decisions in my and my family's life made by someone else. I don't want my primary responsiblity in life to be the household. I don't want to be bought and sold by my husband and my father. I don't want the basis of my relationship with my spouse to be procreation and whatever it is that he deems proper.
What's pretty amazing about the book, though, is how strongly it demonstrates the way that marriage has changed in this last half-century or so and how much we're on uncharted territory right now. It's hard to pinpoint any particular catalyst--education, westward expansion, evolving property and political rights, evolving family law--but I'd think that women beginning to demonstrate economical independence from their spouses really got the ball rolling. Women started working for pay en masse in the 1800s, but usually they'd stop working outside the home once they got married. WWII seems to have changed that. Wives were asked to pick up their husbands jobs, and they didn't really return to the kitchen after that.
What it means to be a wife in 2009 is very, very different than what it meant in 1909. A wife is likely to be an essential part of the economic well being of the family. She can vote. She can buy and sell her own property. She can leave her spouse. She can make determinations about her marriage based on love and sex rather than stability and the likelihood that her husband will provide for her.
An interesting subplot to the book that didn't get explored as much as I would have liked (though I asssume there are other sources I could go to if I wanted) is that traditional gender roles are looser in upper classes than they are in lower classes. Upper class males (at least according to the data cited in the book) aren't hung up as much on proving their masculenity by sticking to traditional gender roles as lower class males. I wonder, though, if that's changing too. ...more