I've been thinking about Regency romances by all two authors of whom I have read more than one book fitting the description: Austen and Heyer. Great sI've been thinking about Regency romances by all two authors of whom I have read more than one book fitting the description: Austen and Heyer. Great sample set, I know.
Analogy time! An Austen novel is a savory, subtly flavored, warming cassoulet, rich, diverse in texture and content, filling, based on the most elemental of nutrients. As enjoyable the first time ever eaten as every meal made of it afterward, and consumable as often as one pleases - although time between, to make each new supper that much lovelier in the anticipation and consumption, may be wise.
A Heyer novel is a bag of just-microwaved popcorn mixed, by the expedient of dumping and shaking, with a king-size portion of Reese's Pieces, both purchased at a corner store around 2AM when one is cold and kinda bummed and the world seems kinda grey so might as well ignore it and scarf popcorn-butter-crunchy-chocolate-peanut-salt-sugar-air for a few hours.
Both have their appropriate times and places. Both are, definitively, experiences. Both are unarguably wonderful.
And my god do I love me some Reese's popcorn....more
The story is as harrowing as a realistic WWII novel could/should be, and I haven't read very many at all set in occupied France, so I was glad to knowThe story is as harrowing as a realistic WWII novel could/should be, and I haven't read very many at all set in occupied France, so I was glad to know more about the resistance and the civilian-led operations against the Germans - smuggling downed Allied airmen across borders, forging identity papers for Jewish children, guerrilla sabotaging of roadways and supply routes, efforts funded and backed by M19 and other international organizations in Allied countries. The sheer mass of the plot... my god.
Otherwise, I wasn't terribly impressed by the writing - it was distractingly overwrought when it wasn't hackneyed, the divisions between sections were inconsistent, shifts in narrating characters were sloppy, and the end decision to keep [spoiler] secret seemed to contradict the spirit of the book.
Edit 8/11/16 Also, having read Death of a Nightingale and being a little aware of some of the Soviet Union's media related to nightingales and so on and so forth, I'm at a loss to mentally justify the author's choice of code names. The password is always "swordfish" and the female secret agent is always "nightingale."...more
Clever, clever short story that distills all the best parts of Flavia and puts her in interaction with BOYS which has NOT HAPPENED in the series, andClever, clever short story that distills all the best parts of Flavia and puts her in interaction with BOYS which has NOT HAPPENED in the series, and it is perfect....more
I mentioned American Gods in a status update. While I loved the novel for a long time and still think it has some great scenes, it's not satisfying anI mentioned American Gods in a status update. While I loved the novel for a long time and still think it has some great scenes, it's not satisfying anymore. It's obsolete. The America it's set in is rarefied and extreme and so very Midwestern, and so focused on post-Columbian immigrants, and all the Old Gods are immigrants with a single exception, and all the New Gods are trite, pat, dull little jabs at modern technology and connectivity.
This thing has none of those problems.
The novel focuses intensely and intently on either native mythology or the kind of contemporary myth/urban legend/conspiracy theory messes that crop up in the 20th- and 21st-century USA. I mean, cults, media frenzies, Burners in all but name. The "practices" of the cults are appropriative, but Kunzru's treatment of them is almost indulgent. Pat the white yuppie spiritualist on the head and let them have their Kabbalah/Tao/acid-trip oneness with the universe; meanwhile, the people who live in America are not necessarily primarily Americans, and they're in trouble.
The blurb for the plot is about, oh, a third of the novel, which is as time-hopping as Holes, with a variety of narrative styles that reminds me of Cloud Atlas. And oh boy, is it fun.
I mentioned the indulgent/patronizing view of the synthetic cults - to clarify, Kunzru never writes as a detached and fully informed (and therefore fully cynical) narrator. The characters chosen as narration points sure as hell believe in their man-less gods, whether Abrahamic or galactic or pop culture figures or, in Jaz's case, numbers. I think that's one of the strongest points of Kunzru's writing: it explores so many facets of faith, belief, superstition, gullibility, from so many perspectives, and while in any one narrator's head it feels entirely natural that they believe what they do and that they have the opinions of other beliefs that they have.
(view spoiler)[Also, I think this is the first non-neuroscience fictional portrayal of the Capgras delusion that I've read. Although it's still up in the air whether it's truly a delusion or Raj is actually changed. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Oh this was lovely. Graves's form of meta-classics fanfic feels a bit more rigorous than, say, Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin, and I feel even more of aOh this was lovely. Graves's form of meta-classics fanfic feels a bit more rigorous than, say, Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin, and I feel even more of a compulsion to go through Homer than I did with Virgil after finishing Lavinia.
Nausicaa is a wonderful narrator, and the anthropological details about life in the Greek empire were excellent....more
I'm not certain how to feel about this, other than sort of sad and sort of deflated.
The background mythology of the setting is a mashup of every MatteI'm not certain how to feel about this, other than sort of sad and sort of deflated.
The background mythology of the setting is a mashup of every Matter of Britain piece prior to Bede, which makes it both self-contradictory and aware of its contrariness. The timing is unspecific - prior to the main settlement of Britain by Saxons, but only by a generation or so, which conflicts wildly with the main characters' Christianity and, more so, their assumption that all other Britons are Christian and that all Saxons are pagan. All of these could be retconned by the book's driving mechanism of institutional forgetfulness, but that's sloppy, and of all the things Ishiguro's writing can be, sloppy has never been one.
The fourth-wall painting in the first section of the book was the most irritating thing I'd ever run into in a novel, and I'm still uncertain of its purpose. It came across almost like a dig at the early Narnia books, where C.S. Lewis is trying to tell his child-age readers that the same things could happen to them, that these children are just like you, that you, too, could hide in a closet and come to rule a kingdom, but it was more mannered and less promising and just served to distance me further from the characters.
And the characters - their lack of being, aside from two Saxons introduced in the middle of the novel, could be retconned by the historical memory lapse, but I'm not certain it should be. Axl and Beatrice love each other; that's about all that defines them. Beatrice is careful; Axl is observant; they are getting old; they love each other. Perhaps that's enough, when the author is taking on the mess that is British history and mythology and legend all at once.
It almost, almost works as a fantasy novel. It almost works as a piece of historical fiction. It does work as a commentary on the vagaries of history and records and legends-as-history and storytelling as cultural preservation. But it frames itself as a story, very carefully and very self-consciously, and distances itself from the very things that would make it a satisfying one as a consequence. Intentionally? I'm not sure.
I'm not sorry I read it. I think it's worth reading, especially if you like pre-Hastings Britain and the Round Table legends....more
Cuuuuuuuute and I thought I'd called the endgame at around 50% but then Heyer did some TRULY SHOCKING things (I mean, Austen would never BREATHE theseCuuuuuuuute and I thought I'd called the endgame at around 50% but then Heyer did some TRULY SHOCKING things (I mean, Austen would never BREATHE these ideas) and I was delightfully wrong....more
I used to feel like fiction books addressing Nazi war crimes and concentration camps in particular were frivolous, with the number of memoirs by surviI used to feel like fiction books addressing Nazi war crimes and concentration camps in particular were frivolous, with the number of memoirs by survivors and the records from the trials right freaking there. This book isn't the only turning point in my opinion of fiction as a tool to address the subject, and Wein is definitely not the only author who has accomplished a great deal with fiction, but it's the one I've (obviously) most recently read so I'm going to babble a little about what I (as gentile atheist white blond blue-eyed disabled person from family that emigrated long before the wars started) see as the strong points of fiction about the camps: (view spoiler)[ Rose is not a heroic prisoner. She's at Ravensbrück for a little less than six months, and while the facts of her escape sound exciting in summary, Wein never lets the reader forget how absolutely terrified Rose is throughout her time at the camp, and she's merciless - and simultaneously extraordinarily sensitive - in describing Rose's post-escape traumatic response. Wein refers back to Rose's childhood and adolescence of Girl Scouts and summer camp and summer jobs and flying over Pennsylvania to highlight, VERY effectively, the difference between Rose and the average - if any could be described as average - inmate. With those focuses, despite the first-person journal format, Wein essentially makes Rose an accessory to her own narrative. The story belongs to the Rabbits and to Ravensbrück survivors. Rose is an observer and an assistant, but the Rabbits - especially Roza - are the main characters.
The section set in Nuremberg is... god. I think this is the first time I've seen it portrayed in fiction, and it's every bit as nervewracking (and stomach-turning) as the tension of the camp and the panic of post-traumatic stress. Rose is, again, an observer, not a main player - she refuses to serve as a witness, and while that is valid for the medical trials, she is convinced by Roza to step it up for the administrative ones later. Roza turns her own argument on her. Rose is not the heroine of this story, and Wein's afterword makes it clear that that was her objective: showing reality, what a prisoner would have seen, through the filter of a fallible and fairly well-off American (like most of her readers).
I think she accomplished every bit of her objective. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
God I so dearly wanted to love this but the entire last third was just stonewall after stonewall surrounding a pile of loose ends. The final mission -God I so dearly wanted to love this but the entire last third was just stonewall after stonewall surrounding a pile of loose ends. The final mission - I cried, but there was no resolution to Rory and I'm going to be wondering for the rest of my life how the London ghost police force's least likely recruit is doing and who she's making out with. (She better strike an arrangement between J and S. She better. She deserves them both. Plus maybe Jazza.)
edit I just saw the untitled #4 to be released in 2018 and I am somewhere stuck between relief that there will be closure and TENSION
edit 2 The fact that this IS NOT the last book in the series completely obviates the first paragraph, so let me say some actual things:
I cannot overstate how much I love Rory as a character and a narrator. The series in general has been spectacular in showing how different people respond to trauma of different types, and Rory's episodes of fogginess interspersed with sudden oddball observations or commentary are very close to how I've reacted to several big bad events in life. This book goes further than #1 and #2, because Rory is past her own stage of BSoD and able to notice how her friends and colleagues (how do you categorize a Thorpe?) are behaving - and they're not copies of her or stereotypes but fully realized people with complex reactions to events beyond what anyone could be expected to face, let alone people still in high school and their early 20s.
The pacing is sort of all over the place, but that reflects fairly honestly how things go in emergency/high-stakes/covert situations, from what I've experienced: there's a lot of hurrying and a lot of dead time and a lot of desperation in either mode, because "relaxing" is just not physically possible.
I also kind of adore the villains introduced in here. From the previous book, J seemed like kind of an odd Big Bad, but the S Twins - oh, their style....more
I enjoyed this, mostly. It's Ursula K. Le Guin's Lavinia, but using a different text, with somewhat less outright magic. Dinah is a great character anI enjoyed this, mostly. It's Ursula K. Le Guin's Lavinia, but using a different text, with somewhat less outright magic. Dinah is a great character and a faithful representation of a woman recovering from trauma and coping with her own choice of alienation from her family....more