I have to admit, I don’t usually read Middle Grade fiction (is this Middle Grade? I think so. That is what I’ve been led to believe). I’m well out ofI have to admit, I don’t usually read Middle Grade fiction (is this Middle Grade? I think so. That is what I’ve been led to believe). I’m well out of the target-audience (though that alone does not often stop me), and seem to be too far past the age of having the sense of wonder that a lot of MG fiction requires for enjoyment. However, I’m taking a Writing Children’s Lit class this semester, and this book ended up in my hands.
“It’s an excellent example of craft,” my professor said. “There’s also a terrific shark character whose name sounds like the gnashing of teeth.”
I was pretty much sold. Also, I really wanted to do well in the class, and hopefully learn a thing or two about writing children’s fiction in the process. (Although I do wish he had told me that this was the second book in a series - because I was pretty lost until Nita’s recap of what happened in Manhattan. If I had known I would have started with the first one).
After reading it, my thoughts about this book boil down into basically two points:
The first, that I wish I had come across this book when I was younger. Ten- to twelve-year-old me would have loved this. She would have devoured this whole series gleefully. I have no idea why I had never heard of these books until now.
Second, that nineteen-year-old me also kind of loved this. Yes, I loved the whales less than I probably would have a few years ago, but the book itself is definitely still enjoyable for adults.
Things I Liked
- Nita, for being relatable, and always trying to do the right thing (even when keeping her word comes at risk to her life).
- Kit, for being both loyal and flawed.
- Dairine, for being my favorite. I, too, am a younger sister who always wanted to know everything that my older sister knew, and more. I love Dairine.
- The Master Shark. Just, everything about him. (Especially the mythology surrounding him, and whether or not he was immortal, and the “sharks don’t die from natural causes” bit).
- How the author handled Nita’s parents, and whether or not they should know about wizardry.
- The whole mythology of the Song of the Twelve.
Things I Didn’t Like
- S’reee. Least competent wizard by far. I feel like I was supposed to like her more than I did, or at least forgive her for not telling Nita the whole story…but I had a hard time not being angry with her.
- Nit-pick: The fact that the chapter titled “Ed’s Song” comes before Nita starts calling the Master Shark “Ed.”
All in all, this was fantastic. It is a lot of fun, and immensely enjoyable, and really smartly written. ...more
While I appreciate that this is an important feminist work of its time, and that Charlotte Perkins Gilman was pretty groundbreaking herself, I don't fWhile I appreciate that this is an important feminist work of its time, and that Charlotte Perkins Gilman was pretty groundbreaking herself, I don't feel like this one has held up well against time. While The Yellow Wallpaper is still claustrophobic and disorienting, Herland feels out of date. It feels like it was very much a product of its time.
(view spoiler)[For example, at the end, the protagonist doesn't think Terry has done much of anything wrong because Marital Rape was still legal at the time this was published. (hide spoiler)]
So, instead of feeling like Herland was some kind of grand adventure into a female utopia, I really just have a lot of questions.
Like, why is motherhood the pinnacle of existance for the women of Herland? What happens to women who don't want children? Are there women in Herland who don't want to raise children?
If the women in Herland can asexually reproduce, do they still have the ability to sexually reproduce? Can the protagonist and his Herland love-interst have kids? Or will the kids have only the mother's genes?
Why did nobody suggest killing Terry as a way to keep him from revealing their secret? (Not to mention for the attempted rape). It seems like something humans would suggest, be they male or female. It would have been a practical way to keep him from telling people about Herland.
Why does the absence of men appear to mean nobody ever has sex? Are there no lesbians in Herland? (This seems unlikely).
Why are all three of the women the explorers marry uninterested in sex? Is this true of all women in Herland? Is this supposed to mean something thematically (in which case, it really bothers me). The issue of sex, in general, is really clumsily handled.
Overall, I have no idea how to rate this book. I appreciate what it meant at the time it was written, but I can't say that I actively enjoyed it. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more