If you haven't heard the term "Magdalen Laundry", the first thing you should probably do is have a look at Wikipedia here. It's understandably a touchIf you haven't heard the term "Magdalen Laundry", the first thing you should probably do is have a look at Wikipedia here. It's understandably a touchy subject, involving morality, feminism, the Catholic Church and it's power, and this isn't the place to explain it.
The basic plot of the novel is that of three young ladies sent to live in the Magdalen Asylum in the early 60's, and their plotting to escape.
The strength of the novel is in the writing itself. Alexander spins the plot into a story that lives and breathes. You worry about these girls. You fear. You want to yell at them not to be stupid. You care. You feel the settings, the grim cold wet of a rainy December in England, the darkness of a dark, windowless room, the feel of rough wool.
Lovers of historical fiction should definitely pick this one up, and it should be short-listed for feminist-friendly reading groups. I'd happily see this added to High School reading lists as well, as a reminder of what women's equality movement is (and was) fighting against.
Like my last review, (and entirely unintentionally) The Radium Girls is another historical piece with a feminist angle, this time set in the last daysLike my last review, (and entirely unintentionally) The Radium Girls is another historical piece with a feminist angle, this time set in the last days of the industrial revolution.
Radium and its uses having been recently discovered, the excitement surrounding this new substance was matched only by our ignorance of it. It glows! In the dark! All by itself! This is amazing! What we didn't know, of course, is that it's poison, of the long, slow, torturous type.
In these pages are the story of the young women who found that out the hard way.
What I (for one) didn't know is how much we as a society owe the memory of these poor, crumbling women. Years of legal battles, first to ensure Radium was listed as causing an "industrial illness" gaining protection for those working near it, and then for a pittance of compensation from a indifferent ex-employer. They fought and won, cementing the responsibility of employers to keep their workers safe. Even the women.
Finally, in death, or decades of living in frail bodies, still they gave more, as medical science studied, tested, poked and tracked their symptoms.
Without these women, many more would have died in industrial poisoning, but that's not all. In later years science applied what we'd learned from studying them to all kinds of radiation, from the infamous Manhattan Project to the types of shielding used in nuclear reactors.
The Radium Girls is eminently readable, and is definitely going on my recommended reading list.
Possibly the biggest convention of western literature (if not worldwide) is that of the happy ending. For a writer to choose to not take the easy roadPossibly the biggest convention of western literature (if not worldwide) is that of the happy ending. For a writer to choose to not take the easy road and avoid "happily ever after" is an act of courage and reminder that despite all of our wishes, it just ain't so.
Verdelle lays out a world that's unfamiliar to a large portion of the population, that of the children of the Black Diaspora. The children left "down home" in the oppressive poverty that emphasizes contributing to the household over education, as their parents shift to the city to find stability rooted on a factory floor.
Sent to live with her Grandmother, Denise is taught the way of life her family has always lived. Small town farm country, tight communities, and unspoken barriers at every turn. When her mother decides the help of another pair of hands to help with a new baby outbalances the cost of keeping her, Denise is returned to the family she's been idolizing for years.
She's used to housekeeping, cooking, running a household. But with her introduction to formal education she has a glimpse of life beyond that drudgery. Dreams flourish, burn bright, but fade almost as quickly, as she comes to the understanding that at the end of the day, someone's still got to feed the baby and pick the greens... and that someone is not going to be anyone else.
A beautiful portrait of the realities of a lost generation, and what disadvantage looks like....more
Gilded Cage has some flaws, but the payoff is worth it. It's a tale of class warfare, of the "haves vs the Have-nots" that the British do so well, andGilded Cage has some flaws, but the payoff is worth it. It's a tale of class warfare, of the "haves vs the Have-nots" that the British do so well, and Vic James is no exception.
The book starts off a bit choppy, but smooths out beautifully into a gripping coming-of-age story that's difficult to put down. The lead characters are fleshed out well, and feel real... down to our teen Hero sulking.
Where it trips a bit is in the choice to deliver some necessary background information via a vignette at the start that feels out of place. It might have been better done to reveal that info slowly through the novel, building tension. As it stands, it's a clunky info dump that makes me wonder where the editor went. The secondary characters are sketched out very lightly. Too lightly. In my opinion the parents might have been better eliminated entirely, if there was no way to make them more real.
Overall though, i'll be adding this to my list of authors to watch, and you should too. ...more