Ay ay yiiii, this is the first book club selection of the year and I am obliged to read it.
What to say. I am completely unmoved by this book. It is whAy ay yiiii, this is the first book club selection of the year and I am obliged to read it.
What to say. I am completely unmoved by this book. It is what it is. Why it has been handpicked by the local librarian as a book club selection, I am yet to learn. This is the archetypal book club book as chosen by said librarian with certain particular tastes that don't line up with mine. Here's what I mean by the Archetypal Book Club Book, and I'm speaking specifically of our own little regional NSW library system:
1. A Book Club Book probably opens with an exciting action scene. Who says prologues are dead? Here we have a baby washed up to a remote lighthouse in Western Australia. Chapter two will be backstory. Chapter three may even include some backstory on the backstory. We’ll need to read for ages before we get back to the action scene.
2. There will be a romance. If there’s not a romantic main plot there will be a romantic subplot. The romance requires marriage.
3. The setting is highly likely to be either WW1, WW2, or the years between those two.
4. The author’s way of explaining things will touch on nostalgia for older readers and seem to explicitly lecture younger readers. Here we have mini lessons on terms that were used during the war, the sorts of injuries men came home with…
5. After a paragraph showing the reader how a character feels, the character’s feelings will be summed up in a sentence which tells us anyway, in case the reader is too slow on the uptake: [Three paragraphs of handwringing about finances with impending baby arrival] ‘The idea that he was going to be a father made him nervous and excited and worried.’
6. If the book is Australian, the dialogue will at times sound self-consciously so. “I reckon” the book will include a man with red hair who goes by the name of ‘Bluie’. (In case we forgot we were in Australia.)
7. An instance of bad weather will offer a chance for pathetic fallacy: Here, a storm accompanies a miscarriage. After the marriage, clouds foreshadow trouble to come.
8. Scenes can be imagined quite easily as stock photos: A girl smiling manically while throwing crusts of bread to seagulls (who does that except for the insane, or perhaps the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl?) We have a courting couple lying on a rock surrounded by crashing waves; newlyweds in the Kate and Leo Titanic pose…
9. Since the story will be set in a time when women were obliged to perform feminine roles, the heroine of this story (for modern audiences) will have ’tomboyish’ tendencies: “Cricket’s no good for a girl,” says the gran to young Izzy. Yet despite the odd small rebellion, our heroine will conform to every other feminine ideal, in this case the wish to become a loving mother. Our heroine is so good with children because she is childlike herself: ‘Isabel always looked like a child when she was angry.’ When the new baby drifts ashore, ‘Isabel’s belly quickened at the very sight of the baby — her arms knew instinctively how to hold the child and calm her, soothe her.’
10. Juxtaposition in dialogue is a foreign concept. People say exactly as you might expect them to say, if you’ve watched enough Made For TV dramas: “It’s my fault, Tom,” says Izzy after losing her baby. “That’s just not true, Izz.”
11. There will be supernatural shit happening even though it’s not a supernatural book: ‘Looking into those eyes was like looking at the face of God. … That this intricate creature, this exquisite crafting of blood and bones and skin, could have found its way to her, was humbling. … It was impossible to see it as mere chance.’ So no, coincidence in the plot is totally kosher as long as our heroine is surprised by it.
12. ‘…If a wife lost a husband, there was a whole new word to describe who she was: she was now a widow. A husband became a widower. But if a parent lost a child, there was no special label for their grief. They were still just a mother or a father, even if they no longer had a son or a daughter.’ Who came up with this first? It’s basically a line out of Six Feet Under.
This book has some heavy handed Christian messages and themes, which don't sit easily with this atheist reader. Let's face it; I was never going to enjoy this book, but at least I won't get kicked out of book club for failing to get through it. Amen....more
The narrator certainly has an interesting voice. The problem with interesting voices is that they usually annoy at least a few readers, and I found thThe narrator certainly has an interesting voice. The problem with interesting voices is that they usually annoy at least a few readers, and I found the quirky capitalisation sounded ironic, which after a while sounded relentlessly sarcastic and therefore didn't work for me overall.
I guess also I am not a big fan of this category/genre of YA stories with a romantic subplot in which war breaks out. I didn't have the faintest idea what this book was about before I opened it -- only that the author has also written a later book called There Is No Dog, which appeals to atheist me, and although I haven't got to that book yet I still might. Maybe I was ruined by having to teach Tomorrow When The War Began (and muster up fake enthusiasm for it) when I never really was a fan of YA even when I was a YA myself. ...more
Stripping comes across as just as unpleasant as I thought it was, only possibly worse. Who walks away from a night-shift possibly owning rather than eStripping comes across as just as unpleasant as I thought it was, only possibly worse. Who walks away from a night-shift possibly owning rather than earning?
There's a chapter you should skip if you're reclining on the couch with stomach flu.
The weird thing is, Cody's style reminded me of Bill Bryson travel memoirs, only that's where the comparison kind of ends....more
Six year old daughter loved this. I needed to explain quite a bit about summer camps, as the whole camp thing is not really an Australian institution.Six year old daughter loved this. I needed to explain quite a bit about summer camps, as the whole camp thing is not really an Australian institution.
What a shame it's coloured in pink -- don't let this turn the little boys in your life away from reading it, given that children these days are conditioned pink solely with girls....more
This is the second in this series that my daughter has read and she enjoyed this just as much as the first. I'm not sure whether it's a good thing orThis is the second in this series that my daughter has read and she enjoyed this just as much as the first. I'm not sure whether it's a good thing or bad that these can be read in a single session... It would be nice to get more 'value' out of it by stretching it out over three nights, but on the other hand, this makes for one compact episode.
I really enjoyed this too. My only eye-roll is directed at the character of Dee; it's clear now that Dee conforms to what I call the 'Hermione Trope'. We see it in Monster House and, well, all over the place: A gang of three kids, two boys and one girl fall into adventure. The girl in this situation is always the same -- imperative, annoying and the one in charge of looking up books and doing research.
This is a minor annoyance though, and I appreciate that the superheroes in this book are two lunch ladies....more
The first time I tried reading this book was about 5 years ago. I accidentally left it at my mother's house in New Zealand. I must have been enjoyingThe first time I tried reading this book was about 5 years ago. I accidentally left it at my mother's house in New Zealand. I must have been enjoying it because I asked her to give it back to me next time I saw her. But not this time round. Not sure why. I know Annie Proulx doesn't always write her prose in this particular fragmented style, so she must have had a reason for doing so. I guess she's emulating the truncated grammar of newspaper headlines. She uses some very odd figurative language too, and I wonder if she's parodying the bad writing of Quoyle.
However, I don't think it was the unusual style that put me off -- I found myself zoning out when listening to the eccentric stories from the people of Newfoundland....more
Messud's interview with PW 2013 made me want to read her books. In short, saying it like it is is great publicity, because I don't normally read PubliMessud's interview with PW 2013 made me want to read her books. In short, saying it like it is is great publicity, because I don't normally read Publisher's Weekly and wouldn't have known her name even though I've read one of her husband's books. Lesson being, speak up as a feminist -- it isn't *always* bad for you personally even if working to the greater good.
I actually have no idea if Messud calls herself a feminist but increasingly I meet feminists who are not and I also meet the opposite, so I'm just going to say that Claire Messud's feminist, clear-eyed outlook on life is really appreciated by moi. Don't get me wrong -- this isn't an overtly feminist book. It's about a group of 30 year old English Lit graduates living in New York, September 11 2001. I would recommend the book to fans of Lena Dunham's *Girls* though obviously, the stories are not quite the same. Imagine if *Girls* were a very, very well-written novel. That's the general vibe, though set 10 years earlier.
And don't even dare to expect any of these characters to be likable. Interesting? Eminently. Likeable, well, if you want to know what Clair Messud has to say about that, read the aforementioned PW interview....more
Most who read this will probably be slightly more interested in some areas of politics than others, and these essays are sufficiently wide in scope toMost who read this will probably be slightly more interested in some areas of politics than others, and these essays are sufficiently wide in scope to ensure that most readers will probably find something that really resonates and another that they disagree with.
My favourite essay is the last one by Jacinda Woodhead, which eloquently describes my own exact issues with the SlutWalk activism of a few years ago: 'You can't jump start a movement,' basically.
Not all of the essays focus on exactly what's wrong with the world; some also offer suggestions for an alternative way of being. The idea to make it mandatory to advertise full-time jobs as two part-time jobs would help parents (especially mothers) as well as work-life balance and seems like a superb idea to me. Let's do that.
The essay on the state of some of the poorest Aboriginal communities in Australia is sobering, and should probably be read by anyone who thinks that Australia is 'the Lucky Country', leaving it at that. Sure enough, 'Australia is the lucky country... for those who are lucky.' After reading this book I'll mentally add that every time I hear the increasingly annoying phrase....more
In case I come back to this, I got up to page 50. A poor choice as a relaxing holiday read, admittedly. What was I thinking?
Part of the problem is thIn case I come back to this, I got up to page 50. A poor choice as a relaxing holiday read, admittedly. What was I thinking?
Part of the problem is that this book isn't what I'd expected -- at least, not by page 50. This is more human history than exciting theories a la Marcus Chown's The Never-ending Days Of Being Dead. Who knows, Adam Frank may get to that, but I'm not finding his writing style engaging. Actually, that's an understatement. Every time I pick up the book I fall asleep. My mother-in-law apologised for walking in on my nap. I said, 'No that's okay, I was meant to be reading and fell asleep by accident.'
A sure sign I should move onto something a little more riveting....more
At page 83 I decided I really don't enjoy Adrian Mole. I now recollect abandoning the first in the series some years ago. These books have such a stroAt page 83 I decided I really don't enjoy Adrian Mole. I now recollect abandoning the first in the series some years ago. These books have such a strong sense of setting that if you weren't living (or an adult) in 1980s England then quite a few of the jokes may well escape you, and although I got the joke about the Falklands War in the very first entry (due to having watched that movie about Margaret Thatcher) I'm sure I'm missing most of the others.
The main problem though is that this family is just so... grotty. In an Eastenders kind of way. The humour derives from the silly actions of the adults and Adrian's unreliable narration as he tries to make sense of the adult world, but it all feels just sad to me....more