Rosemary is a young movie scarlet on vacation in the French Rivera, with her mother. It is there that she meets the handsome psychologist Dick Diver aRosemary is a young movie scarlet on vacation in the French Rivera, with her mother. It is there that she meets the handsome psychologist Dick Diver and falls madly in love with him. The only problem is Dick is married and his wife, Nicole, a sophisticated socialite is just as lovable. While this magnetic couple draw in admirers and bask in the social spotlight, things are not as perfect as they seem. Tender is the Night is an exploration into a degenerating marriage and the differences between what people project publicly verses what is really happening under the surface.
In 1932 Zelda Fitzgerald was hospitalised for schizophrenia, although there have been huge debates since as to whether she should have been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder (if it was classified back then) instead. While Zelda was being treated at the Phipps Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, she had a burst of creativity. Over six weeks she wrote her only novel Save Me the Waltz which was published the same year. The novel was semi-autobiographical and when F. Scott Fitzgerald read it he was furious that she shared so much of their personal life within the book. Even though Scott shares a lot of their lives in his own novels, the anger may have to do with the fact he planned to use the material for his next novel Tender is the Night. It is hard to tell how much of Scott’s novel is based on real life and how much is just written in anger towards his wife, I will have to read Save Me the Waltz to make up my own mind.
While Nicole Diver is heavily based on Zelda Fitzgerald, it is up to the reader to make up their mind about Dick and if F. Scott Fitzgerald based this character on himself. I personally think there is a lot of Scott in this character and he wants to portray himself as the handsome, intelligent husband that is devoted to his wife, looking after her through her mental illness. However this is where it gets a bit passive aggressive; Tender is the Night chronicles the downward spiral of Dick Diver’s life. As the novel progresses you begin to see just how this lifestyle and his marriage effects Dick to the point where he is nothing but a shell of his former self.
There are some interesting themes worth exploring within this novel; for me I was mostly interested in the ideas of appearance and reading about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s thoughts about being married. There is such beauty within the writing, but then there is so much sadness to be found as well. I found this to be a heart-breaking novel and the fact that this is based so much on his own marriage just makes things worse. I’m planning to read Save Me the Waltz very soon, just so I can compare the two novels.
Mireille Duval Jameson thinks of life as a fairy tale, that was until a trip home to visit her parents sees her kidnapped in broad daylight. Her fatheMireille Duval Jameson thinks of life as a fairy tale, that was until a trip home to visit her parents sees her kidnapped in broad daylight. Her father is a wealthy man living in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and her captives are none too pleased with him. An Untamed State is a brutal, unflinching debut that deals with poverty, corruption and the damaging effects of being held captive.
“Once upon a time, my life was a fairy tale and then I was stolen from everything I’ve ever loved. There was no happily ever after. After days of dying, I was dead.”
Roxane Gay had a fantastic year in 2014, her collection of essays Bad Feminist received a lot of praise in the bookish community and her debut novel also released in the same year was a stunning success. An Untamed State was not released in Australia until recently and I was finally able to see why this book was hyped so much. While this was a fast paced thriller that flowed quickly, the brutal nature of this novel made it difficult to read. I felt myself picking up pace multiple times only to hit a brutal gang rape or abusive part that tripped me up and brought my reading to a slower speed. This is a very difficult book to read but I still think it is an important novel.
An Untamed State is hard hitting and deals with some very complex issue; the type of issues that need to be talked about. I was a little put off by the over-representation of violence but I wonder if we can talk about this issues without getting a feeling of just how devastating torture, rape and kidnapping can be on a person? Not only are we reading about the psychological damage done to Mireille’s life and family, An Untamed State deals with the issues facing a country like Haiti. The crippling poverty of the country, while a few live in luxury and the corruption of the government also play a major part in this novel.
The book is told in two parts; the first half deals with the kidnapping and the unspeakable things that happen to Mireille while held captive waiting for her father to pay the ransom. Then the second half deals with the aftermath. This allows the reader to look at the damage; from post-traumatic stress to the psychological impact on Mireille. An Untamed State was dedicated to women everywhere and it was interesting that such a brutal book would have that inscription. Although it is time we had a conversation about rape and its damage; I think this novel does this successfully.
An Untamed State may be an unflinching and brutal novel but it is a powerful literary debut that deals with some important issues. I am hesitant to recommend this book or even praise it, however it does need to be discussed. You are in for an uncomfortable journey and Roxane Gay will not hold back. I think this will make for an interesting book club selection but I think that could either make for a fascinating discussion or kill the book club completely.
After tragically losing her sister, Mori has to learn to deal with this great loss. She fled to her estranged father who then put her into a well-respAfter tragically losing her sister, Mori has to learn to deal with this great loss. She fled to her estranged father who then put her into a well-respected all-girls boarding school. Mori is left alone trying to deal with grief, a new school and her own teenage angst. Among Others is written in a series of diary entries exploring Mori’s coming of age.
While I found it extremely difficult to give a plot overview of this book, it might be easier to just say this is a book about book with a fantasy element to it. The tragic loss of a twin sister would be a difficult subject to write about and Jo Walton has combined some auto-biographical elements within the novel. Mori feels lost and she turns to books to bring her comfort and escapism, she is a fan of science fiction novels and slowly she begins to find the therapeutic value to reading.
Being set in 1979 allows the book to explore the older science fiction novels that I love without going into some of the modern stuff. What I loved about sci-fi novels of the 60s and 70s is there were strong psychological and sociological themes throughout the narratives. I found great joy when books like The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, The Man in the High Castle and Slaughterhouse-Five were mentioned. There was something about reading a fantasy novel about reading science fiction that really tickled my fancy.
The fantasy elements were only a very small fragment of the book and I began to question if this really was a fantasy novel. I would call this book magical realism but the mention of fairies, elves, etc. probably does make it a fantasy novel. These fantastical elements played an interesting part in the book, and I began to question that this world actually existed. However for Mori, it existed and it was her way to hold onto her sister and deal with her death. She treated this world almost like a secret that was for her only and it allowed her to deal with her loss. When she held on to this world too tightly she feels whole again but she also can see how damaging it will become.
This was a fascinating look at grief and since it was a book about the joys of books and reading, I was hooked. It was a bit of a slow burn but I enjoyed the slow pacing and journey. About half way through, I felt myself losing a little interest but then Mori joined a book club and I was right back in. Among Others is a quiet and tender book about life, loss and most importantly books which makes it well worth reading.
When a body is found stabbed to death at the far end of Baker Street tube station, it seems like an ordinary murder. The victim is an exchange studentWhen a body is found stabbed to death at the far end of Baker Street tube station, it seems like an ordinary murder. The victim is an exchange student at Central St. Martins named James Gallagher and his father is an American senator. The Folly have been called in to assist with the investigation and it is quickly discovers that there is a supernatural component to this crime. This case leads Peter Grant into the secret underground that lies underneath the streets of London.
Peter Grant is back in the third book in the series, still a sorcerer’s apprentice to Inspector Nightingale. The Folly, which is the police department that specialises in the supernatural has grown to three, as Lesley May officially joins the team. Yet again this is a natural progression in the series, Peter doesn’t know many spells and still struggles with his form but he has grown as a police officer, a wizard and a person. What I enjoyed about Whispers Under Ground is the character Dr Abdul Haqq Walid is explored in greater detail. He is a world renowned gastroenterologist and cryptopathologist who works with the Folly and is investigating how magic effects the world. This allows Ben Aaronovitch to build his world a bit more and explores the effects of magic.
While this is an urban fantasy series, it follows the tropes found in a police procedural and Peter Grant never just relies on his magical abilities but rather sticks to his strengths, which he learned from his training. There is a lot of investigational work within the series and sometimes I worry that the police procedural elements will over power the urban fantasy or humour, however Aaronovitch gets the balance right.
If you have not read the series, I would highly recommend it mainly because of the character development, in particular Peter Grant and Nightingale. Peter Grant is a biracial character (his mother is from Sierra Leone and I am pretty sure his father is white) and his heritage and life play a big part in shaping him. This also allows Ben Aaronovitch to play a little with racism but I feel like he handles the whole subject well. Inspector Nightingale is a prim and proper Englishman and the last officially sanctioned English Wizard, having gone to a now defunct private school for wizardry allows for plenty of Harry Potter jokes.
This is a fun series that I am completely immersed in; when I finished Whispers Under Ground I didn’t want to leave the world. I started Broken Homes (which is book four) straight away, which is unusual for me but I needed to know what happened next. For fans of urban fantasy, police procedurals and British humour, I highly recommend the Peter Grant series, I do not think you will be disappointed.