Mark Watney is a botanist and engineer assigned to the Ares programme, one of the very few who gets to go to Mars. Unfortunately he is stranded there....moreMark Watney is a botanist and engineer assigned to the Ares programme, one of the very few who gets to go to Mars. Unfortunately he is stranded there. All alone. With no way to communicate with Earth. Death is almost inevitable. Is there anything he can do to improve on that non-existent chance of life?
Well, Mark certainly doesn’t give up. And he is smart, resourceful, capable, and well trained. NASA don’t send just about anyone into space you know.
The Martian got a fair amount of coverage a few months ago in the bookish blogosphere. I picked it up because of all the good press, but it sat on the tbr shelf for quite a while. So, did it live up to the hype?
Mostly. Certainly the opening few pages were more than enough to get me hooked. It is a remarkably quick read that seems to be detailing a lot of Mark going here and fixing that, then something else breaks, so Mark goes there and fixes that. Often described in great detail. Usually I don’t really enjoy those hard sci-fi aspects of sff. But here it works, probably because Mark is a very affable character. His psychological evaluation confirms it, he is the guy that holds a group together. He stay positive and upbeat even when things are all manner of fucked up. You know, like being stranded all alone on Mars. It is important that you like Mark, because he is our first person narrator. If he irritates you, don’t buy/read this book. His voice is the voice of the book.
We do get a couple of chapters from other points of view though. The men and women back in NASA trying to figure out how to save him, if they can. The members of the crew that went to Mars with him and left him behind. Not their fault, just one of those things, but still, you got to imagine how that’d feel. Leaving someone behind on a different planet.
As I said, for the most part I really enjoyed the book, but towards the end I did start to get a little fatigued by the whole problem – fix problem – new problem circle that was going on. Although, in fairness, all those problems are probably what would happen. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch of the imagination to say that being stranded on Mars would lead to a huge amount of difficulties.
All in all, I enjoyed the book, and I think that it might make a good film1 think MacGyver meets Robinson Crusoe meets Gravity, but it isn’t the best book I’ve ever read. Not nearly.(less)
n the first winter of the Great War Martha Lessen rode into Elwha County. Dolly, the mare she rode, was badly scarred but a sensible type. She also ha...moren the first winter of the Great War Martha Lessen rode into Elwha County. Dolly, the mare she rode, was badly scarred but a sensible type. She also had a couple of remounts following after. Martha was looking for work. She’d left her family to try and find a job breaking horses. But she didn’t want to do it the cowboy way, busting them through bronco work. She was more interested in teaching them what was expected of them, showing them there wasn’t anything to be scared of.
I’d never heard of Molly Gloss before Margo Lanagan mentioned this book1 in an interview. And if Margo Lanagan recommends a book and it features horses in the title then it is almost certain I’m going to take an interest.
And if you too are a horse story lover then you should pick this one up. Martha is a real horse lover. She understands them and wants the best for them. She tends to judge people by how they treat their animals. But she is also practical and grounded in her time and place. She knows that many people don’t think of horses the same way she does, who see nothing wrong in breaking a horse’s spirit to get it to obey. And she knows that some horses will never make it as a reliable and safe mount. But she’ll try her best keep the ones in her care from being abused.
Martha is a great character. She knows horses, but she isn’t too confident around people. Apart from wanting to break-in horses the reason she left home was to escape her abusive father and her mother, who has been worn out from childbearing. Six children in six years. Martha doesn’t want any part of that!
And for readers who don’t care about the horse-y aspect, well, don’t worry. There is still plenty to enjoy in this book. Because it is really the story of a small community on the cusp of huge change. Elwha County is a fictional place in Oregon, but the story told is a true one in many respects, World War One has just started and some men have already left to sign up. More will leave as the war worsens and America becomes more and more involved. It is also, in a way, the real end of the “Old West”. Martha may long for days when there were no fences and gates to stop and open, when wild horses streamed across the plains, but already the car has made its appearance, and many farmers are considering replacing at least some horses with tractors and automated ploughs. Soon the damage done by intensive wheat farming, to support the war effort, will strip away all the fertility from the soil and leave only dust and poverty.
The hearts of horses is a wonderfully told book, with so many little stories in it, all combining to give a flavour of what life was like in Oregon back then. I really enjoyed it and will certainly read more by Gloss in the future.(less)
Adam Lang, ex-Prime Minister, is writing his memoirs. Or to be more honest, he needs a ghostwriter. Someone to do some research, to rewrite Lang’s mem...moreAdam Lang, ex-Prime Minister, is writing his memoirs. Or to be more honest, he needs a ghostwriter. Someone to do some research, to rewrite Lang’s memories into a story. Enter our unnamed-narrator1. More used to celebrity biographies our narrator is keen to enter the world of politics. It means a huge amount of money, although he only has four weeks to churn out the book.
It should be too hard, his agent assures him that the memoir is pretty much already written, it just needs a bit of polishing after the death of the original ghostwriter.
But such an east job wouldn’t make for a very entertaining novel, would it?
It turns out the Prime Minister has secrets. Secrets that are starting to come to the fore. The War on Terror is ongoing, what role did Land play in landing the British in the middle of it. And what about torture and rendition. Was he involved? Did McAra, the previous writer, uncover a secret he really shouldn’t have? and did it get him killed?
Reading this book it is fairly obvious that Land is a fictionalised Tony Blair. I never liked him, that evil smirk put me off, and I’m getting the impressions that Harris doesn’t like him much either. And he really doesn’t like Cherie Blair. But the questions the book raises are serious ones, and yet I don’t think that the book ever actually took them seriously, apart from how they ratcheted up the tension.
The whole idea of torture as being of use in this so-called “war on terror”, that’s a big issue. Here is just the secret to be hidden. It isn’t an issue at all.
So that aspect is a little disappointing.
Also, I don’t think much of his portrayal of women. Of course no one gets much development here, not even our unnamed narrator. Sure he changes, but only because of the fear of death. He never really looks at his life or how anything like that. He is a bit of a nobody, and yet he has all the women interested in him, of course!
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book by Harris before. This was well written in that I was entertained and kept interested all through it. I wouldn’t say no to another, but I wouldn’t be rushing out to pick up another by him.(less)
Lester Ferris has seen a lot and done a lot in his life. A sergeant in the British Army he has more than served his country, and now he has been sent...moreLester Ferris has seen a lot and done a lot in his life. A sergeant in the British Army he has more than served his country, and now he has been sent to the island of Mancreu in preparation for his retirement. It is a former British colony and he is to serve as the British representative there. A job that entails doing nothing much. He has actually been instructed to not do anything. Don’t interfere, just be a face there. After all, it is a former colony. Britain has no authority here anymore. And Mancreu is facing destruction, it is the source of a pollution so toxic that no one knows what might happen.
And the unknown is scary for politicians, so the world has decided to blow up the island. Never mind that scientists say that won’t actually have any impact on the problem apart from making it worse.
So Lester is to turn a blind eye to The Fleet that sit off shore with their dodgy dealings, he is to ignore the smuggling and the crime and just be a presence. So he does. But as Lester gets to know the island he gets to know the people too. And one in particular he takes an interest in, a young boy, caught up in comics and films, superheroes and computers. Lester wonders who looks after this boy, and what will happen when the evacuation begins. Could he be a father to the boy?
Okay, so I really enjoy Harkaway’s stye of writing. He blends together humour and pop-culture references and emotion so well. One minute you’re laughing over a superhero reference the next he grabs you right in the feels. Some people, I’m sure, will be irritated at the pop culture references and all those little nods to films and superheroes and books, but I really loved them. In a way they are a commentary on those action films and superhero wish-fulfilment fantasies. We all know they can’t really happen, and that if Batman, for example, did exist we’d probably be horrified by his actions. In fiction they are allowable, they are to be cheered on. Here, in Tigerman those ideas are teased at, not worried at. Poked and prodded to make the reader think but never to the detriment of those pop heroes, because they play an important role.
But while memes and social media and computers and all that play an important role in this book, they aren’t at the heart of the story. At the heart of the story is the relationship between Lester and the boy. And it is heartbreaking, and yet one-sided. Or at least, it is for the reader, because Lester is our POV character we can never know what Lester doesn’t, and Lester is filled with doubt about the boy. For him, to step into that role of father is just as big a leap as it is to step into the role of superhero. He wants it, but he fears it too. There are some wonderful descriptions of Lester’s childhood, showing us where some of these doubts come from, but also where that empathy comes from.
Tigerman is a wonderful book. I loved it. It isn’t action packed as Harkaway’s other novels, but it has more reality to it, more emotion. More shades of grey as well, because, lets face it, reality does.(less)
If you haven’t read any of the previous books in this series then this review will contain spoilers. If that doesn’t bother you continue on, but I wou...moreIf you haven’t read any of the previous books in this series then this review will contain spoilers. If that doesn’t bother you continue on, but I would really recommend reading the whole series, the more you get to know Toby and her world the better it becomes.
At the end of An Artificial Night Toby escaped the clutches of Blind Michael and in doing so killed him. That goes against Oberon’s decree. Killing a purebred is forbidden. Of course it was in self defence and she was saving the children of many others, purebred and changelings alike, so it was more than justified. But that won’t stop the Queen of Mists. She is ever so slightly insane and she already really doesn’t like October. Any excuse will work.
And not only that, but October keeps getting hints that Oleander de Merelands is back. No one else seems to have seen her though, is it all in Toby’s imagination? Is she going mad herself?
This is my favourite of the series so far. Although that may just be because the more you read in the series the more you can immerse yourself in the character and the world. And this book is all about Toby beginning to understand who she is. Part of being a changeling is trying to balance two identities, the mundane world versus the fairy. Toby straddled that divide for as long as she could. Before the series began she had loved and had a child with a mortal man, but she had always had to hide part of her life from that family. But she could never fully embrace her fae side either, too much snobbery in fae society for them all to accept a half human.
So she was constantly straddling that divide, as the series has progressed Toby has increasingly been pulled into the fae world. And now she is really beginning to reflect on what it is to be who she is. Not trying to be one or the other, but to be who she is.
And of course who she is is a hero.
She’s always had a bit of an issue with heroes. They don’t tend to live long. They get other people killed. She’s not that fond of either of those negatives. But they also do the right thing and save people. And that is what Toby is great at. Sure, she makes mistakes, but she learns from them. And she has learned a lot since the first book.
She did have a lot to work her way through, being a fish for so long isn’t something you just brush off, nor is losing your family in that way. But she has come to terms, to a certain degree, with the past. She’s learned she can still have friends, and that you can make a new family.
I’m looking forward to the next book, and the book after that (less)
October Daye, she’d much prefer you call her Toby, is a changeling, living in San Francisco. And if you’ve read that first sentence there you’ll see t...moreOctober Daye, she’d much prefer you call her Toby, is a changeling, living in San Francisco. And if you’ve read that first sentence there you’ll see that there is a whole heap of back story for you to get through before you start this book. So unless you’ve read books 1 & 2 don’t read this one. You simply ruin the story for yourself.
A very, very brief plot synopsis before the review begins properly: Children are missing. Fae children, changeling children, and human children. Children Toby knows have gone missing, so of course she is on the case. Only this isn’t a simply find the bad guy and save the kids story. Because in this case, the bad guy is Blind Michael, one of the Firstborn, he leads the Wild Hunt, or a version thereof, and he is not to be trifled with.
The artwork is by Richard Anderson and it just so beautiful and yet grim and dark at the same time. I love it.
But never judge a book by its cover, right?
The Mirror Empire has three main strands but I’m going to steal the blurb because I think my recap would make it sound so much more complicated on account of this detail and that detail and oh, you should know this : On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself. In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.
The only thing I’ll add to that is blood magic, oh, and walking trees. And the use of bears and dogs instead of horses. And before I add to many other details that are cool and awesome I’ll stop there and tell you what I thought rather than whats in the book. Because obviously you are going to go and read it yourself, and so I don’t need to reveal all the cool.
I will say that it took me a little while to get totally into this book, but I blame that on my reading style at the moment, for some reason I don’t seem to be reading in big chunks, it is much more likely to be ten minutes here and there, much harder to get immersed in a world when that is the case, but after a couple of chapters The Mirror Empire managed to suck me in. I was also a little confuddled at times trying to figure out who was who and where they were, but again, that’s more because of how I was reading than any problems with the writing.
There is so much great stuff in this book that there is no way I can mention it all, I mean this is already longer than most of my reviews and I haven’t said anything yet! First off, do you like complex characters? If so this is the book for you, because while they all believe in what they are doing, some of them would certainly be the villain in the black hat if this was by a different author. And there deeds are never just excused because the reader is in their story, they do bad bad things, and yes they are the bad guys, but then they also do good things too, does that make them the good guys as well? No, it just means that they are doing what they think needs to be done1.
Then we have matriarchal societies in various forms, and how that impacts on gender roles and expectations.
You know those books that change gender roles around but don’t actually do anything with it, its just like “look women as soldiers” or whatever, well this book isn’t that. Gender roles and expectations are not is the norm here in the real world, but they still aren’t perfect and it still leads to problems and prejudice and oppression. But switching things around in this way gets the reader to really see what is happening there.
I also loved the Dhai notion of not touching without consent. Not even putting your hand on someone’s knee without knowing that that was okay.
And the lack of issue they all have with whether you’re a woman having sex with another woman or a man, or vice vearsa, or married to two women and a man, or three men. Awesome.
And there is so many other things I probably should be writing about here, I’ll wait till the book comes out in August/September2 read loads of reviews and then reread the book and see if I can articulate more of what I loved about this book.(less)
Horace Appleby is a criminal, specialising in “inside jobs”, his modus operandi is to secure the position of butler in a respectably well-off establis...moreHorace Appleby is a criminal, specialising in “inside jobs”, his modus operandi is to secure the position of butler in a respectably well-off establishment and then arrange the details whereby his companions carry out the actual burglary. But he is not too happy with the American, Mr. Yost, and Yost’s blatant disregard for Appleby’s most important rule, never carry a gun. So he refuses to pay Yost his cut, as you can imagine, Yost is not too happy about this. Not wanting to overly provoke a man who carries a gun Appleby things that maybe a job down the country might be just the thing.
October Daye is a changeling. Her mother is Amandine of the Daoine Sidhe, and her father was a mortal man. She works as a private investigator but she...moreOctober Daye is a changeling. Her mother is Amandine of the Daoine Sidhe, and her father was a mortal man. She works as a private investigator but she also a knight for her liege lord. And he has asked her to go check up on his niece. She is the Lady of a small Country known as Tamed Lightning, which makes this a politically sensitive job. Small countries don’t tend to do too well in faerie, bigger and more powerful entities usually gobble them up, and Lord Sylvester doesn’t want to provoke a diplomatic incident with Dreamer’s Glass.
This is the second book in the series, and while it certainly does help to have read the first I think you probably could read this without getting too confused. Toby did learn lessons in the first book, and there is a background story that a reader might like to know, but it isn’t essential.
This is easily as good as the first, if not better, as I said after reading Rosemary and rue, Toby is just a great character.
Of course she makes mistakes, and I am sure there is at least one character who may as well be flashing giant warning “Stay Away” signals at the reader, a fact that Toby doesn’t seem to pick up on until too late, but usually her flaws and mistakes are understandable and human and fit the character. This is an important thing as she is the narrator as well as the protagonist, so if you don’t identify at least a little with her I would guess the story will fall a little flat.
The first book in the series dealt with Toby reacquainting herself with the world after being absent for 14 years. Now, while she still has some adjusting to do she seems to have found her niche again. This book is more of a straight-forward detective case, albeit one with faery and magic and the like.
I’m very tempted to dive straight into book 3 of the series, because I have it here on my bookshelf waiting for me. But I don’t want to overdose on Toby, I like the anticipation of knowing that I have a good read coming up, so I think I’ll leave it for a book or two :) (less)
http://www.susanhatedliterature.net/2... Roger Willgoose isn’t really a dog person. It is his wife really who decides to bring a dog into their home. B...morehttp://www.susanhatedliterature.net/2... Roger Willgoose isn’t really a dog person. It is his wife really who decides to bring a dog into their home. But gradually this little Yorkshire Terrier, renamed Fred, worms her way into Roger’s affections. She accompanies him in many walks to the local pub. Her dealings with invading cats are legend, and her puppies spread all over the village.
This is a very easy, nice read. It is a bit sexist and dated as it was written in the seventies, but has only now been published. The author wrote it in the 1970s but never managed to get it published back then. After his death his wife found a copy of the manuscript and so here it is.
It isn’t really the story of Fred, the yorkie, it is instead the tale of the Willgoose family and a, probably, rose-tinted, glimpse of England from forty years ago. If you are looking for a cosy book to pass a couple of hours with, that won’t tax you too much, then this is perfect reading material.(less)
Ever since I read Sunshine I’ve been a fan of McKinley. I loved that book, and I got a lot of echoes of that in this one. The alternate, not-quite-our...moreEver since I read Sunshine I’ve been a fan of McKinley. I loved that book, and I got a lot of echoes of that in this one. The alternate, not-quite-our world. The magic mixed with the mundane. Shadows is set in an alternate world, one where the Newworld has eradicated all magic, and the risks they feel it brings. Magical families have been gene-spliced and teenagers are regularly tested to ensure that no magic user might slip through. This is a world where the word magician is a bad word. Not like Oldworld, where Maggie’s stepfather is from, there magic and magicians are everywhere.
And from the outset Maggie does not like her stepfather. On their first meeting he creeped her out with the shadows that seemed to loom around him. Has he brought something with him? And if so how did he manage to cross the border?
The female first person central character. The importance of family.
But at the same time it is a very different book, and it probably isn’t fair to compare the two at all. But if you did enjoy Sunshine then you might want to give this a go.
Back to Shadows.
I’d have to say that it took me a while to get into it and its world. I think that it is a book that rewards the time you spend with it. I was reading in quick snatches at first, and I think my experience of the book then suffered, but once I got a bit of time and really got stuck into it I adored it. I love Maggie as a character. She is a teenage girl, one who has lost her father, and who doesn’t like the new man in her mother’s life. All very real and easy to understand. And even before the magic begins to make its presence felt her story was an engrossing one for me.
Also there are dogs and dog care, and origami and paper folding. And boys who may be a romantic interest, or may not. And don’t worry, it never turns into a “love will save the world” sort of story. It is a thread in the plot, not the whole shebang.
But it isn’t as good as Sunshine1 It almost spends too long getting to know Maggie and her dog. And when the magic element does kick off it seems a little rushed. So not a perfect book, but one that I’m glad I read.(less)
In 1995 October Daye made a mistake. Trailing a “bad guy” she was found out. She spent the next fourteen years as a fish. That is one way to ruin your...moreIn 1995 October Daye made a mistake. Trailing a “bad guy” she was found out. She spent the next fourteen years as a fish. That is one way to ruin your relationship with your child, never mind your significant other, and it left a bad taste in her mouth. Less than a year after escaping from that curse and Toby isn’t doing too well. She is scraping by, working the night shift manning the cash desk at a supermarket. And busily avoiding any and all trace of faerie. But the fae world isn’t ignoring her, and when she gets a message from an old friend in trouble she em has to respond. There is no other option.
Ever since I read Feed and Deadline I’ve wanted to read more by the author. And Mira Grant is a pseudonym of Seanan McGuire so I bought a couple of books in this, the October Daye, series. But, as with so many new books, they ended up sitting on the shelf for a few month as my attention was with other books. But when Carl announced the start of this year’s Once Upon a Time challenge I hoped that these would be perfect for it.
And they are, or at least, Rosemary and Rue was perfect for it, as I am just about to start the second in the series A local habitation.
October, or more commonly, Toby Daye is such a great hero. She is flawed and weak and fighting to survive. She makes mistakes, she gets other people wrong, and she doesn’t always save the day. Maybe that doesn’t sound very hero-esque, but she is a hero because she keeps trying. She knows what the right thing is and she’ll do her best to make sure it happens. Sure, sometimes she gets it wrong, who doesn’t make a mistake? But that makes her all the more a hero. When it is easy to be a hero, well, then playing the role of hero is the easy thing to do, but actually being a hero… well, that means it has to be hard. And Toby certainly has it hard.
I also really liked the world that McGuire has built here. Urban fantasy as it should be. The fae may have magic and power, but they also have to stay hidden in the human world. For the purebloods this is relatively easy. But for changelings like Toby, whose power and enchantments are stripped by the dawn it is harder. Life for a changeling may be full of magic, but it is also a life that is more full of weeping.
And also while there was sex (no porn, this isn’t a Laurel K Hamilton book) this is one of those rare books, it has a female protagonist who doesn’t spend half, or even quarter, of her time sighing over some fella. Romance and all that certainly has its place, but that place shouldn’t be everywhere you read.
So yay! a new series of books for me to get stuck into, and I’d recommend that you do to, especially if you like well written fantasy crossed with some detective work. It isn’t quite the same style as the Eddie LaCrosse books, but I would guess that if you read and enjoyed those then these might be right up your alley too.(less)
When the aliens came it was nothing like the way science fiction and popular culture had predicted it. There was no invasion, instead they were refuge...moreWhen the aliens came it was nothing like the way science fiction and popular culture had predicted it. There was no invasion, instead they were refugees. Their own planet had collapsed, killing the majority, only a few escaped. Earth took them in and began to integrate them into human culture.
Of course there were plenty of differences.
And then the rumours of a conspiracy started. And the possibility that the aliens were actually invaders, invaders by stealth.
Gwen and Basil were part of the Institute’s team of specialists, responsible for trying to learn about the aliens. Their culture, their technology, their language. They even take one of the aliens into their house. Into their lives. Is it possible that Kalp is acting against them?
As far as I can remember I picked this book up because I’d seen the author quoted somewhere, something to do with gender and female authors in science fiction, and being advised to publish under J. M. rather than something more identifiably female. And the plot of the book itself seemed interesting. I’m so glad I did read it because this book is wonderful.
It starts off with the death of Kalp. That’s his body falling to the floor in the opening line, and basil reacting to it. And then suddenly we are in the past, with Gwen’s parents and Gwen as a baby. The story then moves to Kalp’s point of view as he tries to integrate himself into human society. He calls himself “he” even though they are much more gender neutral in his culture. Gender only really matters when you intend to procreate. And finally back to after Kalp’s death, the causes, the reasons for it, and the fall out from it.
It is so well written, every character voice is different and distinct. I really connected with them as they told their stories. Poor Kalp who has lost everything when his home world was destroyed and who is trying so hard to fit in, to be part of Basil and Gwen’s life. All he wants is to find a home of his own.
And Basil and Gwen, who go through so much together.
It’s just a great read. So gripping, I found it so hard to put down.
But it isn’t just an entertaining story. It is all about gender, and sex roles and dynamics. About how prejudiced some people are, and how that can have such huge impacts on other people. Kalp, as I mentioned, decides to take on the male descriptive pronoun, but his lack of understanding of what makes something culturally male or female serves to point out ridiculous we are for thinking that cooking if for women, for example. It isn’t a huge hammer in the book. Kalp decides to be known as male and never makes a big deal about it again, but it comes up in subtle ways throughout the story that his gender isn’t so important to him as it might be to a human.
It isn’t a perfect book. But I thoroughly enjoyed it, and really recommend it to anyone interested in a first-contact story of a different kind.(less)
Alison and Roger have come to Wales on a holiday with their parent and respective step-parent. Roger’s father and Alison’s mother have recently marrie...moreAlison and Roger have come to Wales on a holiday with their parent and respective step-parent. Roger’s father and Alison’s mother have recently married and in a way this is a sort of bonding session. The house is technically Alison’s, she inherited from an uncle. Gwynn is the housekeeper’s son, the same age as Alison and Roger but very much not of the same class.
Have I mentioned that this book was written and set in the 60s? Because they really needs to be in your mind when reading it.
Alison has been hearing strange scratchings from the attic and when Gwynn goes up to investigate he discovers a dinner service, he takes a plate down and almost immediately Alison becomes somewhat obsessed with the pattern. It appears to be flowers, but Alison can also see an owl in the flowers.
Those of you who are familiar with Welsh legends might be thinking, hmmm, flowers. Could this have anything to do with the myth of Blodeuwedd? Well, if you’re thinking that you’re perfectly correct.
Oh I have many thoughts about this book. Many many thoughts.
First off, I’m sure I read this as a child and had absolutely no idea what was going on. I’m pretty sure I also caught bits of the television adaptation, but I don’t remember any of that, apart from a general sense of weirdness. A description that definitely fits the book.
I really enjoyed it1 , it is just so strange. Garner describes it as a ghost story, and it almost feels like you are living through these crazy unexplained events because so much is just described. There are some reasons provided, and we get the myth of Blodeuwedd and that tragedy to underpin it all, but there is so much more than just the supernatural aspect to the book.
Most of the book, as I said, is descriptions of what is happening right now. There is very little internal monologue or expressions of what different characters are feeling. Not that there are none, but they are almost like dialogue that just isn’t spoken aloud. I’m not doing a good job of explaining this, am I.
The setting is very much in the here and now2 yet also about how the present is shaped by the past and the mistakes people make, and seem to make over and over again.
It is full of classism and prejudice. Alison comes from the land-owning classes. Roger’s father is wealthy but a business man. Gwynn is the working class boy, the servant. He is also Welsh and there are numerous snide remarks about that. Of course the reverse is also true, the Welsh resent the English for the very fact that they are English.
It is one I think you have to read to get any grasp of what it’s all about.(less)
In seventeenth century Holland Griet is about to become a maid. She is sixteen years of age. Her father was blinded in an accident so the family are s...moreIn seventeenth century Holland Griet is about to become a maid. She is sixteen years of age. Her father was blinded in an accident so the family are suffering financially. She will not make much money, but what little she does will help feed her parents, she will also be living where she works, so that will be one less mouth to feed.
She has been hired by the Vermeer family. Her father was a tiler and Johannes Vermeer is a member of the same guild, that is possibly why she was recommended to them. But he is also a Catholic and so lives in an area of Delft that Griet, as a Protestant, is not too familiar with.
Ever since first meeting the Vermeer’s she realised that the lady of the house might not be so easy to get along with. A suspicion that is proven correct.
Supposedly this is a classic. The blurb says so. I didn’t find it so. It is well told and well written. Easy to read. But nothing really happens apart from Griet working and getting in low level trouble. Okay at some points she could have been in serious trouble, but her manner of telling her story made it feel all a bit meh to me.
I didn’t dislike it. Don’t get me wrong. And I did feel for Griet at times. The constant sexual harassment every time Vermeer’s patron showed up was awful, and her persecution by Vermeeer’s daughter. But she was so very passive. Things happened to her, she very rarely tried to do or change anything.
It was fine. And I would be interested in reading more by Chevalier, simply because it was such an easy read despite me not loving anything about it.(less)
It is 1976 and Dana and her husband have just moved into a new home. They’ve only been married four years, but both now seem to be making it in their...moreIt is 1976 and Dana and her husband have just moved into a new home. They’ve only been married four years, but both now seem to be making it in their chosen profession, writing. But one day, while unpacking, Dana begins to feel dizzy and faint. She suddenly finds herself by the side of river looking at a drowning boy.
She saves the boy’s life, and is soon home again. But this is not an isolated incident. Somehow whenever the boy’s life is in danger Dana is called back in time, back to Rufus’s side. And 1815 antebellum South is not a good place to be for anyone modern, let alone a young black woman.
I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while. I’d heard of Butler as being one of the classic authors of sff, and she got mentioned a whole heap when Aarti’s More Diverse Universe blog tour was started. And then earlier this month I finished Jo Walton’s What makes this book so great, and Kindred got another nod there. I figured enough was enough and I’d give it a go as soon as I could. The final push was seeing it listed as available on the BookBridgr site. And I’m so glad that I requested it, because it is a fantastic book.
Historical fiction, if done well, should always be somewhat difficult for the modern reader to totally get. People from other times grew up with different attitudes and beliefs. You can just have a modern mindset and yet live in the 1600s, that’s bad writing. But there is also the really awful writing which romanticises certain cultures and ignores the reality of what those cultures were built upon. It’s a problem that people are writing about, when authors ignore huge issues such as racism and slavery and how one set of people lived off the misery of others.
Kindred shows us the reality of what it was to be a slave, and from the point of view of an outsider. Dana is a modern woman, she is horrified by the notion of slavery, just as the reader should be. She hasn’t grown up knowing “her place” and learning to hate and yet accept the situation as a contemporary might. She is an educated woman, and yet in that time and place she is reduced to property.
It is a horrendous story. More so because the horrors she experiences are those that really happened, and worse. And yet people had to live their lives with that, in as much as they could.
And as well as getting that message across it is also a good read. The story is well told, Dana is a credible narrator, I never felt that she was acting stupidly just because the author wanted the plot to go in a particular way. The choices she makes and doesn’t make are ones that are incredibly difficult and yet understandable. If you haven’t read this one I would highly recommend it.(less)