For such a short story, this manages to pack quite a punch. Gilman puts into it all the frustration and feelings of helpless rage that she herself fel...moreFor such a short story, this manages to pack quite a punch. Gilman puts into it all the frustration and feelings of helpless rage that she herself felt, according to the introduction, when she was subjected to a similar treatment. The slow descent into madness of the unnamed narrator when she is denied all mental and physical activity and deprived of outside stimulation, while her husband, family and doctor (and since her husband and her brother are physicians, sometimes they're the same person) keeps telling her that she's not actually ill, just in need of absolute rest and nothing to stress or disturb her. The creepiest part of the story for me, though, was the hints that something like this had happened before in this room. The torn-down wallpaper, the scratched bed and the mark on the wall at where someone had scuffed against it at shoulder-height -- all this was repeated at the end by the narrator, and it made me wonder if women had lived and gone mad there before, and why. Was it the room, and the wallpaper, that drove them mad, or their situation?(less)
Vera Brittain set out to tell the story of the "lost generation", as people had taken to call the people who had gone straight from school to the tren...moreVera Brittain set out to tell the story of the "lost generation", as people had taken to call the people who had gone straight from school to the trenches of WWI, fifteen years after the end of the war. To do this she tells the story of her involvement in it, from her typical small-town middle-class upbringing as a young woman before the war, desperate to get out and get an education, to her joining up as a VAD nurse after her brother and his friends, one of whom she became engaged to, all volunteered and were shipped to France, and her life after the war, when she was the only one of them that came back.
I enjoyed the book and thought that she told it from an interesting perspective, and it gave me a good idea of how the war changed things for both the younger generation and the ones that stayed behind. It was also interesting, if depressing, to see her work for pacifism and the League of Nations (the proto-UN), and her travels through post-war Germany and Austria, when you know WWII is just around the corner. Her biases are very clear in her writing, and she idealized her brother, her fiancé and their friends as "the best and brightest", and wrote how everything would be much harder now that they and people like them were lost, when actually, as it says in the introduction, plenty of young men survived and came back, just not as many public school boys. It's also a bit dismissive of her husband, who was one of the people who came back. The story of how they met and decided to get married is a bit strange, because apparently (again according to the introduction) he didn't approve of how she first wrote about it and she had to rewrite those parts; she never really names him, just calls him G.(less)
This book is just what the title tells you: a long letter, written by a middle-aged, middle-class Senegalese woman to an old friend in anticipation of...moreThis book is just what the title tells you: a long letter, written by a middle-aged, middle-class Senegalese woman to an old friend in anticipation of the friend's return to Senegal and their reunion. In the letter she talks about their school years together, their marriages and children, and the difficulties in being one of a "new" generation of women, the ones who are supposed to have it all. A lot of it is still familiar today, thirty years later, with the conflict between old traditions and cultural expectations and the new ideas and ways of life that are being imported, and with women trying to balance family, marriage and work while a lot of people around can't understand why they want to. Marriage is also complicated by the fact that they're muslims and both their husbands at different points want to take a second wife, and the two women have to decide how and if to accept this.
That is what I liked about the book, the descriptions of the culture, their religion, the family bonds, and how the narrator tried to find a way to live for herself in the middle of all these outside pressures. In the later part of the book, however, my enjoyment lessened because the narrator goes from talking about her life to telling me how everyone should live theirs, and her view of life is very family-centric and heteronormative, as in all women are and should behave in one way and all men are and should behave in another, which is fine for her but may not be the best for everyone else. All in all, though, I enjoyed the book and found it fascinating to read about a part of the world that I don't know much about.(less)
Some years ago I was raiding my mother's bookshelf looking for something to read when I came across her Murdoch collection and I proceeded to read thr...moreSome years ago I was raiding my mother's bookshelf looking for something to read when I came across her Murdoch collection and I proceeded to read through five or six of her books, enjoying them in the sort of way you enjoy watching soap operas or reality shows. They were full of selfish and not very nice people coping with affairs, blackmail, middle-age infatuations, sudden deaths and other unexpected happenings. They were all of them built up around a group of people existing in a status quo and started with something disturbing that state - it could be someone getting married or dying, a new person entering their group or an old friend returning - and then Murdoch showed how this change affected the characters in good and bad ways until everything had settled down and a new routine had begun. Some of the characters were better off, some worse and some were back where they had started, but the journey was always interesting if melodramatic and there were some characters that I could cheer on.
Then I came to this book, The black prince, and I got stuck about fifty pages in. I simply could not force myself to keep reading, and the same thing happened this time around. I had decided to give it another go, since I had enjoyed every other Murdoch I've tried, and I got past the first stumbling block and this time I made it about 200 pages into the book. The book has been lying on my nightstand for two weeks and I just can't keep reading, so I'm giving up, at least for now, and returning it to my mother.
The difference between this and most of her other books is the first-person narrator. You see everything in this book from one perspective, the middle-aged, recently retired Bradley Pearson who finally wants to become a full-time writer, and how a series of almost slapstick events stops him from finally settling down in a cottage and concentrate on his work. The problem is that Bradley makes such an absolute fool of himself and doesn't even see it, and I was reading the book the way I watch movies like Bridesmaids - I kept wanting to cover my eyes and wait till the characters had finished embarrassing themselves, only he never did. In her other books there are characters that are just as foolish and pleased with themselves, but since you weren't so focused on them I could handle it. In The black prince Bradley Pearson is the narrator and the main character, so there was no getting away from him.(less)
This is my favorite Atwood book so far, and one of those books where I had to keep reading to see what was going to happen next. I like stories where...moreThis is my favorite Atwood book so far, and one of those books where I had to keep reading to see what was going to happen next. I like stories where you see what happens from several angles, and where it isn't always clear what actually happened because the people involved can only see what happens from their own limited point of view. Since a large part of this book depicts Grace telling her story to Simon Jordan, and you get to see both her and Simon's versions of what happens, it isn't easy to be sure what's true and what's fiction. When it comes to the ultimate question, how involved Grace actually was in the murders she was convicted for, there is an extra twist since Grace claims to have forgotten what happened, and only reveals her secret while under hypnosis (or is she really hypnotized? What role does Jeremiah the peddler play in this?) In the end, you can't be sure what actually happened, and what, if anything, Grace is actually guilty of. A fascinating read.(less)