Two things attracted me to The Vegetarian. 1. The strangely simplistic premise of it (how much can one write about turning vegetarian) and 2. Seeing iTwo things attracted me to The Vegetarian. 1. The strangely simplistic premise of it (how much can one write about turning vegetarian) and 2. Seeing it in Lauren Groff's favorites list. As soon as the book arrived, I pretty much dived into it.
Yeong-Hye wasn't a particularly remarkable woman, according to her husband. He thought she was too plain and that she had a "passive personality". He had never particularly cared about whom he would marry. He had wanted a woman who will take care of his daily needs but not stimulate him intellectually. It suited him just fine that "she didn't get worked up if I happened to be late" or that he didn't have to worry about his paunch or his skinny frame on her behalf.
So when Yeong-Hye announced that she was going to give up meat, he was shocked. For someone who never imposed herself on anyone, this was unexpected. But he was miffed as well, because he felt that she was selfish to try to change her habits without thinking of its impact on other people, specifically him. He couldn't survive a day without meat. Soon, he gets her father and her sister involved as well, hoping that one of them could try change her mind. But, Yeong-Hye was firm. Nothing was going to sway her.
If there's one word I have seen in every review of The Vegetarian so far, it is "weird". And that is very true. Told in three parts from the perspectives of Yeong-Hye's husband, brother-in-law, and sister, it shows how her decision to go vegetarian is not welcomed by her family. Her husband thinks her selfish, her father calls her disobedient, while her sister alternates between chiding her and wanting to let her be. But at the same time, other elements are at play too - her sister's life, while appearing content to those watching them is anything but. Her husband's art career isn't quite working out until he fixates on Yeong-Hye's Mongolian spot as inspiration for his next project. While he ponders how to get her to model for him, he also entertains sexual thoughts about her.
The first part of the book, narrated by Yeong-Hye's husband was my favorite. It was also the most down-to-earth and realistic part of the story. In addition to turning vegetarian, she also slowly begins to lose touch with sanity. Or does she? We only really see her through others' eyes - the eyes who condemn anything to do with vegetarianism. Is she really going crazy or is the society making her crazy?
But, once the book stepped into Part 2, the rhythm of the book changed. Yeong-Hye's brother-in-law has had a strange fascination for her ever since he heard about her still present Mongolian spot. He has already started visualizing his next project but it requires Yeong-Hye to model naked for him. The third part is from her sister's perspective and it spans over a single day while she handles the repercussions of her sister's decision to go vegetarian. I wasn't as enamored by the book during the last two parts. Yeong-Hye's condition was degrading further - she was beginning to feel that she was a tree, but I craved for at least one chapter from her perspective. The book felt slightly unbalanced in that respect. Besides, I found myself not caring so much about Yeong-Hye's brother-in-law. The first and the last parts seem linked but the middle part was a digression.
However, this is a very quick read and I am glad that I read it. The problems I had with it are quite minor. The translation is beautiful and I found it hard to put the book down after each session with it. It is very graphic however - there is an animal torture scene that can turn your stomach. It's short but it's vivid. To me, it was more a reminder about the myriad ways that animals are tortured in this world - something that can be easy to forget. But once past that, the book focused more on the characters and their sufferings....more
Although I have had this book to review for a while, I was never in the mood to read it until recently when I craved something light, fast, and fun. SAlthough I have had this book to review for a while, I was never in the mood to read it until recently when I craved something light, fast, and fun. Sleeping Giants definitely delivered on all three fronts even if I had a few issues with it.
A little girl, Rose Franklin, was riding her bicycle one night when she fell down what appeared to be a deep ditch. Before she fell, however, she noticed a strange green light coming from the ditch. It wasn't until after she was rescued that she learned that the object she had fallen into was actually a large metallic hand. Seventeen years later, Rose is now a physicist who is tasked with understanding what happened that night and what that object is because yet another such site had recently revealed itself, this time with a metallic forearm.
Thus starts a search for more such metallic objects. A team has been quickly put together by our mysterious narrator - two pilots, a geneticist, and a linguist race to assemble the parts together and understand who buried them and why they are revealing themselves now.
Right from page one, Sleeping Giants hooked me. The idea that someone several millennia ago may have planted these devices was surprising but the team had no proofs - they were proceeding on guesswork. I initially figured this book was more alien fiction but it turned out to be more military science fiction halfway through.
This book is written in epistolary format - each chapter is either an interview with the narrator or a journal entry or a news item. It made for fun reading. But for all the intrigue it built initially, the book started falling flat halfway through. One of the main pilots, Kara, has a brash temperament and several failed past relationships. Both the male protagonists, however, felt very compelled to protect her or woo her. I guess I have a tough time with characters like that, who feel women need protecting. To me, the whole love triangle felt too distracting and I would have enjoyed the book more with less of that romance. I did like that there were several women in power but all of them had authority issues. I was tired of how often Rose Franklin was cited as being "motherly" and caring for her employees. Nothing wrong in being motherly but middle aged women surely would like to be known for their professional characteristics, especially among their own colleagues.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the book for its twists and turns but didn't care much for its characters or their relationships. Still, I am curious enough to follow the series (yeah, this is book 1 in the series) - the ending was dramatic enough to hold my attention....more
Girl Waits With Gun has one of the most fascinating premises that I have come across. A woman made a Sheriff (US's first) after she stands up to someGirl Waits With Gun has one of the most fascinating premises that I have come across. A woman made a Sheriff (US's first) after she stands up to some goons? Give me more! I'll happily drink up to that!
Constance Kopp and her sisters - Norma and Fleurette - were riding into town on their buggy (this is 1914) when an automobile driven by Henry Kauffman comes smashing into them. The rogue Kauffman denies any wrongdoing and gets his muscled henchmen to intimidate the women. Towering over most men in her town, Constance barely registered any fear and so sent letters to Kaufmann asking him to pay. Kauffman however knew where the women were staying and his threats reached their home as well. This drives Constance to complain to the Sheriff, who resourceful as he is, struggles with Kauffman quite a bit.
I don't know if that sounds like an enticing enough summary to you, but if it does not, please ignore most of it and go read the book anyway! Right from the beginning of this book, I was hooked. The three sisters - even pessimistic Norma - felt very realistic and I couldn't help but cheer them along the way.
Constance Kopp was quite a feminist especially by 1914 standards. She believed women can do anything they set their minds to. As spinsters, both Constance and Norma would have easily kicked up a scandal in any town but they didn't seem to care. Sheriff Heath was a wonderful character and a feminist too (almost but certainly exceeding 1914 standards), especially when he alone refuses to appear condescending or paternal to the sisters because they are women and don't have a man to protect them.
Much of this story is rooted in facts. The Kopp sisters were indeed involved in an accident while riding on their buggy and Henry Kauffman did indeed refuse to pay for the damages. Sheriff Heath did spend a considerable amount of time trying to establish grounds to arrest Kauffman. But there are sundry other minor characters who add plenty of flair to the novel but didn't exist in reality. Amy Stewart also includes several genuine letters and published news articles that add to the atmosphere of the book.
Honestly, my only complaint was I wish I knew Constance Kopp. To steadfastly refuse to ask a man to protect her and to stand up against dangerous men, in an age when women were considered second class citizens definitely required lots of guts. Although both Norma and Fleurette brought their own unique personalities to the book, it was Constance who won my heart - this from someone who doesn't easily identify with her bookish characters even when she appreciates them....more