Kate and her younger and far more eligible sister Georgiana are debuting in London this season under the watchful eye of their Aunt Charlotte. While back in Essex Kate's best friend and cousin Cecelia is stuck rusticating with her father, her brother Oliver, and her Aunt Elizabeth. Cecelia would give anything to be in London with Kate, while after a few days in London Kate would give anything to be back in the country. The only thing keeping each other sane is their voluminous correspondence with each other. Luckily both their lives soon become far more interesting, as do their letters. Their neighbor in Essex, Sir Hilary Bedrick, is invested into the College of Wizards in London and at the ceremony Kate stumbles on something and someone very magical and dangerous, a wizard named Miranda. Miranda soon appears in Essex where her stepdaughter Dorothea is making a splash as well as fast friends with Cecelia. There appears to be a plot afoot to marry Dorothea off to Thomas Schofield, the Mysterious Marquess of Essex, who also happens to be a wizard. Soon their are missing brothers, fake fiances, undiscovered magical abilities, gambling, dancing, horses, borrowed books, and one very interesting chocolate pot. Working in two different locations can the two cousins save the day and perhaps get a little happily ever after?
Epistolary novels were once all the rage. There's something voyeuristic to reading a book of correspondences that just makes you not want to put the book down. There's the immediacy of wanting to know what happens next that sometimes isn't their in more traditional books. Plus, because you are reading diaries, letters, innermost thoughts, you have this feeling that it's not just voyeuristic but wrong and the owner of these letters could arrive at any moment and take them away, giving a frisson of excitement to your reading. Jane Austen was raised on these books and it's no wonder then that she experimented with this format. Sense and Sensibility, when it was still Elinor and Marianne, was an epistolary novel. But Jane abandoned this approach because she didn't like having to keep her characters apart for the whole narrative, which is an aspect to this style that must be adhered to. The fact that Sorcery and Cecelia is able to convincingly keep to this style when Jane Austen herself wasn't I think deserves a tip of the hat for being that little bit magical and all the more Regency.
Wrede and Stevermer created this epistolary book by playing the letter game. The game is played when two (or more) participates exchange letters back and forth that are telling a story. The first writer sets up the characters and the basic story and why the characters corresponding need to be apart and then the next writer builds on it. The letters fly back and forth, with the authors trying to one-up each other all while never discussing plot or character outside of the letters. It's a fun game that can be used as a writing exercise, a way to do collaborative writing, or a way to just have fun. I think of it as that drawing exercise I remember doing in first grade where a sheet of paper would be divided into three sections and someone would draw the first section of an animal and then it was hidden, then the next child would draw the middle of the animal, while the final child finished off the animal having no idea what came before. Personally I was always annoyed because I wanted to do the drawing all by myself. When I was younger I hated working collaboratively, so the letter game sounds a bit of a nightmare to me; like doing those improve stories where you just go all out back and forth, sometimes through the alphabet. The key I think is to do this with someone you trust, and the end result of Sorcery and Cecelia is that you can tell Wrede and Stevermer trusted each other and had fun in the process.
One of the by products of having coauthors on a book that goes back and forth between two narrators is that you have two very distinct voices. If you were writing any book with more then one narrator, if the voices of these characters don't come across as two different people it does nothing but annoy and alienate your readers and makes me really pissed. You either go all out or go home. But one of the problems that arises is that perhaps you start to favor one voice, or in this case, one author over the other. You can't help but compare and contrast and even re-reading this book all these years later I couldn't help but want to smack Cecelia. Of the two authors I feel as if Wrede is trying to not only one-up Stevermer but to wrest complete control of the story while making everything a little too much a pantomime. I couldn't help but think of Heads You Lose once or twice and how the combative natures of the writers amusingly fueled the plot. But Wrede isn't trying to be combative, but she is too forceful in her sections and it makes me long for the Kate sections. Stevermer writing Kate has the right level of collaboration while also having a better written heroine. As for the writers kind of mirroring these characters when I met them... let's just say that also reinforced my opinions.
But going back to talking about the aspect of an epistolary novel adding an immediacy to the story I think that the letter game ups this. Because the two authors aren't collaborating outside the letters they are sending back and forth there is no plotting in advance. It's all cause and effect, with breathtaking fluidity. Wrede and Stevermer might each have an idea or where they want the story to go and how they want it to end, but they can easily throw a wrench in each others ideas knowingly or unknowingly. This makes you, as the reader, want to just keep reading in a headlong rush because you and the authors don't know what will happen next! The suspense is palpable. The suspense is real. It's like watching a game, you don't know how it's going to turn out so you can't look away. Usually it's only tightly plotted books that have the ah ha moments perfectly placed for revelations that make suspense last, but here it's just the letters of two girls living in a magical England, and that makes me smile. Anyone who thought Regency England was all staid conversation and glacial plots should be handed this book to knock their prejudices aside.
Though for me the most important aspect of this book is that it kick-started a whole new generation of writers. It's amazing how many authors works who I love that list Sorcery and Cecelia as one of, if not the most favorite book of theirs. I kind of wish that I had found this book when it came out back in the eighties. At that age reading such a fun, madcap romp, with a little magic and romance, I can see why Gail Carriger and Stephanie Burgis point to this book and go yes, this book is inspirational. Who knows what might have happened with my reading habits if I had stumbled on this book earlier? Perhaps I would have found Jane Austen prior to senior year in high school. Maybe my book nerdiness would have onset earlier. But overall, I am grateful for the publishers that saw two writers having fun and realized that that joy was infectious and should be put out into the world, because it's magical. ...more
After her brother was revealed to be the Purple Gentian, that most elusive of spies thwarting those Frenchies, Henrietta Selwick thought her life woulAfter her brother was revealed to be the Purple Gentian, that most elusive of spies thwarting those Frenchies, Henrietta Selwick thought her life would return to normal. Almack's, balls, being seen at all the right parties, and having her brother's faithful best friend, Miles Dorrington, at her elbow, preferably with a glass of lemonade. But when everyone else gets to do espionage and she's been forced onto the sidelines once too often she leaps at the chance to correspond in code with the Pink Carnation, Jane Wooliston, her cousin by marriage. Because, while her brother Richard and his new wife Amy are "technically" out of the spying game, opening a spy school in your house kind of defeats the purpose, and having something little, even if it's these letters and her contact in the ribbon shop, it makes Henrietta feel special. But she fails to realize how special she is, and not just to Miles, but to a deadly French spy with the name The Black Tulip. Hen is that most coveted of clues, the little sister to the Purple Gentian, and perhaps a link to the Pink Carnation. But who could the Black Tulip be? That spy has been out of action for so long that when a murder is committed behind Lord Vaughn's house the War Office goes into a tizzy at the calling card left by the Black Tulip. Could this spy actually be Lord Vaughn, that slippery and seductive fellow with silver snakes on his waistcoat who has just returned from a long sojourn on the continent? If he isn't said spy, then why is he fascinated with Hen? But spies are only one thing Henrietta has to deal with. Miles seems not as Miles like lately. It all started with that mysterious Marquise de Montval, she of the blue black hair and flawless beauty, despite her age. Miles has been seen once too often with her, even if he was seen through the shrubberies by a not very well concealed Hen and entourage... they thought the green clothing would help to camouflage themselves. But could Hen's irritation with Miles be more of a romantic nature? Does she stand a chance against this Marquise or should she just resign herself to being killed by the Black Tulip? Meanwhile, back in the present, Eloise is is put off and turned on by a certain descendant of the Purple Gentian named Colin. Boys, no matter what time period, are such a annoying mystery, it's so much easier dealing with deadly Napoleonic Spies with flower names.
The second book in Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series sees us leaving the shores of France and venturing into that most dangerous of territories, the London ton at the height of the season. Dealing less with espionage and more with friendships, when I first read this book it was not my favorite, despite being more like a Jane Austen story than the previous installment. I felt the ending and the reveal of the Black Tulip lacked something and was on the verge of French farce. Of course, with reading further books I have gained further knowledge, and have returned to this book and, reading it with a knowing eye, I enjoyed it immensely, French farcishness and all. Miles and Henrietta are usually everyones favorite couple, even if she anachronistically calls him a dinosaur (seeing as that word is 40 years too early), but to me, the joy in this book lies within all the subtle characterizations of their friends on the periphery, friends who have been slowly stepping forward and getting their own stories. But besides Hen's two best friends, Penelope and Charlotte, who make their first appear, there are three characters without whom this book would mean nothing to me. Those three characters are Turnip, Lord Vaughn, and the Dowager Duchess of Dovedale. Turnip is a true fop with his over the top embroidered waistcoats. A man who is not afraid to show his allegiance to the Pink Carnation and whose attire leads him into a spot of bother. Lord Vaughn, ah, you seductive, enigmatic man. You are only looking out for yourself and I love you for it and for the images of James Purefoy in Regency garb you bring to mind. Finally, last but not least, because I don't want to be harmed, The Dowager Duchess of Dovedale. Scourge of the ballrooms and impudent young men. She is a force to be reckoned with. My favorite scene? While at a fancy dress ball she confiscates her granddaughter's friend's spear from her Boadicea costume and uses it to poke people with. Pure, priceless and wonderful. ...more
Not as fun as the first, seems a little more contrived, especially the linking of the main characters, and the ending, while it could have had a goodNot as fun as the first, seems a little more contrived, especially the linking of the main characters, and the ending, while it could have had a good twist was a little drawn out and predictable....more
Really liked this installment. The interior art seemed a lot better, still not as striking as the covers sadly. Didn't care much for Bigby's WWII storReally liked this installment. The interior art seemed a lot better, still not as striking as the covers sadly. Didn't care much for Bigby's WWII story, also, the hand written font was annoying to read....more
Samantha Sweeting is on track to be the newest and youngest partner at the law firm of Carter Spink. She's given everything since she was twelve to keep on track with this path for her life and she's about to succeed. On the day of the big partnership announcement in the clutter of her desk she finds something that could ruin everything. Instead of doing the right thing she just walks away. She ends up on a train and gets off in the middle of the country not even knowing where she is. Drunk, tired, and delusional, she stumbles into the house of Trish and Eddie Geiger where they are holding interviews for a new domestic. At first Samantha doesn't realize what is going on and just goes alone with their assumption, but when she realizes that this is a job interview, one that isn't going well, well her need to succeed rears it's ugly head and she ends up getting the job as the Geiger's housekeeper.
Samantha, a girl who doesn't clean, doesn't know how to cook, can't even find out how to turn on her own oven, has just taken a job where she knows nothing and where in a week she is not even making her hourly rate at Carter Spink. If it wasn't for the gorgeous gardener Nathaniel and his mother helping Samantaha out she doesn't know what she would do. But Samantha is smart, some might say a genius, and it doesn't take her long to conquer this new world she's run away to. When her old world comes knocking will she want to stay in this new happy and peaceful life she's stumbled into or go back to the career track that has been her lifelong goal. She knows which one her mother and colleagues want her to choose.
While being a fan of the chick lit genre there was a part of me that never really bothered to seek out new authors. I preferred to have new books and authors to come to me as if by osmosis. Some sort of magical power whereby they caught my eye and bam, instant attraction... now that I think of this, there's some disturbing parallels to my love life... so now's the perfect time to mention Hugh Dancy. I have been in love with Hugh Dancy for over a decade now ever since Daniel Deronda. Because of this love I have seen a plethora of bad movies, the top three being Ella Enchanted, Arthur, and Elizabeth I, with Elizabeth I taking the crown for horridness. My love for him meant that I was intrigued by this movie he was going to be in called Confessions of a Shopaholic. Upon seeing that it was based on a book, away to Barnes and Noble I went, picking up the tie-in edition, which sadly didn't have Hugh on the cover... seriously, know your audience publishers!
I enjoyed Confessions of a Shopaholic enough to pick up the next few books in the series and a few of Kinsella's other books published under her real name, Madeleine Wickham, as well as her Kinsella pen name. I was never really blown away by her writing and as the Shopaholic series continued I became more and more angry with Becky Bloomwood and her never changing consumption habits. You'd think after six books she'd mature a little, but no. Every big revelation at the end of one of the books is followed by a quick slid into old habits by the start of the next. This lead to me not picking up any of the other Kinsella books I had lying around the house. One of the reasons I decided to do a Chick Lit themed month on my blog was so that I would finally pick up books I had bought that were creating a large backlog to my "to be read" pile. So I finally pick up The Undomestic Goddess. I should have never judged Kinsella on Becky Bloomwood! She created such a wonderful, relateable, fresh, and funny heroine in Samantha Sweeting, that I forgive that other alliterative heroine of hers for her flaws. Kinsella has been wrongly judged by me and I admit that perhaps Kinsella just doesn't excel in series and that stand-alones is where she shines. This book shone and made a bleak weekend fun.
I connected to Samantha on so many levels, but what really got me was her work ethic. Samantha's work ethic is 100% 24/7. There is no give, there is no outside life, there is the job, and only the job. Samantha is lucky in that until the events that unfold in the book she has never had a crash or come down. We live in a culture where to succeed means that you work too hard, you are literally willing to kill yourself to make it to the top. There is quite literally no off switch, no balance, no break. This is so me it's kind of scary. I'm the person who believes that doing anything less then the best you can do is unacceptable. There is nothing below first place, which will preferably leave those in second and third in the dust. In downtime between classes while in school I'd compare anti anxiety meds and stress induced ticks with fellow sufferers. If I was working on a job I'd work 24/7 until it was done. What is 9-5, that is absurd, there are so many hours in the day that are being unutilised with this way of thinking. But as Samantha comes to learn, this isn't a life.
I've had a harder time teaching myself this as well. It wasn't a mistake that flipped my switch off but my own body betrayed me. First there were some rashes, hive like bug bites, then I had a "lovely" nervous tick in my eye, seriously, don't discount how annoying these are till you have one. If I pushed myself too far on a project my body took to giving me a lovely cold after I was done because my body was so wrung out, and in one memorable case pneumonia. I have forced myself to change. I refuse to work on the weekends, where previously I didn't believe they even existed, just call me the Dowager Countess of Grantham. I try to spend more time with friends and have a book club. I have changed. Yes, I do backslide a little, but I have not backslide in Becky Bloomwood style. And from now on, Samanatha Sweeting is my role model for finding that balance in my life. As much as I hate the phrase, she found her bliss.
One of the things I kept thinking about as I was reading this book was how would this look from a women's lib standpoint. A high profile career woman basically goes back to the kitchen. Even if at first she doesn't know what to do in that kitchen, the fact that she's basically going from breadwinner to homemaker is a big change and could be construed as a step backwards. I like that when Samantha's secret comes out that the newspaper reporters who are hounding her bring up this exact argument, making me glad Sophie Kinsella was obviously aware of this statement she was making or, as I like to think, subverting. Yes, you could say this is all retro thinking, but think of the genre we are in. Chick Lit is a genre that is a touchstone for today's women. This genre gives us a mirror to our lives while also incorporating an element of wish fulfillment. Who wouldn't want to leave the stress behind and find themselves a nice gardener? But there's an empowering message in Chick Lit as well, it shows women working out the problems of their lives, it shows women, flaws and all. So I look at Samantha and don't see a women stepping into the role her female ancestors would have accepted as their lot in life, I see Samantha choosing the life that's right for her. Women can be whatever they want to be, a partner in a law firm, a housekeeper, a mother, the possibilities are endless, and Samantha has made her choice and I hope I've chosen as wisely as her....more
None of the villagers go to Hill House. No one will hear you scream, in the dark, in the night. Dr. Montague views the house as the ideal location for his research of supernatural phenomena. The house's history coupled with the right participants should yield him the results he's looking for. Yet he only heard back from a few people selected as the perfect candidates for his summer long program, for sensitivity combined with previous supernatural encounters. In the end he gets the shy and awkward Eleanor who has spent much of her life caring for her recently deceased mother. She doesn't even remember the incident for which Dr. Montague recruited her she just views Hill House as her first real adventure and a way to get out from under the stifling life she's living on a cot at her sister's. Theo was chosen because of her apparent psychic abilities. Then there's Luke. Luke is the heir to Hill House. He doesn't have abilities or haunting experiences, he just needs to get out of his troubling patterns and his grandmother thinks locking him away at Hill House as a guarantee against Dr. Montague's lease is a lovely idea.
After each of the participants successfully battle their way past the suspicious caretaker, Mr. Dudley, and get explained the rigorous rules as regards the meals and cleaning up by his wife the group settles in. It does not take long for weird knocks to happen at doors in the night as well as severe temperature drops. The doors don't like to remain open, if this is Mrs. Dudley, or the house, they can't figure it out even with the aid of large doorstops. Very shortly they instigate a rule that no one is to wander alone, especially at night. Yet what is actually happening, if they where to write it down as per Dr. Montague's research guidelines, they wouldn't or couldn't be able to put it into words. Strange writings, noises, voices, drafts, and above all four very different personalities clashing, not counting the possible personalities of the house's former occupants. Is any of this real? Or are they hallucinating? Or should they all leave the house as fast as they can and never look back?
The Haunting of Hill House is the standard to which modern ghost stories are held. Even Stephen King has been known on more than one occasion to extol the virtues of this book. When I first read this book I couldn't help wondering why. But as more time passed I realized The Haunting of Hill House had left an impression on me and that I had perhaps judged it based on what I thought it should be versus what it was. Going back to the book I was once again drawn into Jackson's writing. She is able to depict places and characters so well that you feel you are inhabiting them. I also was able to pinpoint my dissatisfaction from my first reading. It's the ending. While I'm fine with open ended ambiguity it's that it was rushed. The book has a very languorous pace from Eleanor's daydreaming drive to Hill House through the daily routine the four occupants adapt, living like they are on holiday. And then Doctor Montague's wife arrives. This is when the story falls apart and just rushes headlong like Nell through the halls of the house until she goes straight into a tree. While this could have been Jackson's plan, having Mrs. Montague be the final push to Nell's death, instead it just feels like Jackson used Mrs. Montague to end the story in an abrupt if timely fashion.
Another reason I was initially dissatisfied was that there really isn't a plot per se. The book goes for impressions over tangibility. Any time anything vaguely spooky happens it's just glossed over or made light of when day breaks. The big scene where Theo and Nell are running from something, that's it, they ran, cut to the next morning where it will never be mentioned again. Yet over time this lack of substance works it's way into you building suspense and paranoia. This book is a slow burn, you might not feel the effects for a long time. Jackson is literally playing with our minds and the more you're willing to go back to the text the more the story works. A cumulative horror that becomes a compulsion that gripes you every fall. Because of all the things that Jackson doesn't say and doesn't spell out this allows The Haunting of Hill House to be interpreted a thousand different ways. Even the ending can be debated. As Nell slams her car into the tree so that she can forever stay at Hill House we aren't even certain of her death. All that we know is she longed for death, either because she was already suicidal or because she was driven there by supernatural means. Nell is the key here, because it's through her we are told the story and this might just be the biggest corker of an unreliable narrator ever.
Nell is interesting, but you can't really get a read on her. You know what it's like to be inside her mind, but it quickly becomes clear that this won't help you figure out what's happening, you just have to give in and let go. Her mind jumps and contradicts and doesn't make any kind of sense. Yet she is a sympathetic character. You're not sure if she's crazy but you become complicit in Nell's actions during the drive to Hill House. As she travels to her destination she sees glimpses of houses in different towns and wonders, what would her life be like there? What would happen if she decided this town was her final destination and it was her new home? Who hasn't while out walking or driving looked at a house or through an illuminated window at night and wondered what would their life be like if that was their house. Who would they be in a different setting? And that's how we become one with Nell. Whatever happens from that moment forward, whatever fantasy she spins about her and Theodora, whatever she see or hears, we are fully invested. We give in and let go with her and love the ride aboard the crazy train.
In fact, this analysis of Nell leads into the idea that Nell is in fact the haunting... but as I've said before you can interpret this book so many different ways that I find saying Nell is the haunting is wrong. I don't think the encounters the four occupants of Hill House come up against are manifestations of Nell. I think the house is it's own entity. It isn't just a building, it's a home, with personality, and once you have personality it is one quick step to being a person, a character in your own right. Therefore I fully believe that the house is haunted and it's not Nell. Well, it's not Nell at first. Because I think Nell is sensitive and is tuned into the house and as time goes on they are becoming one, which would be why she'd kill herself to never leave it. This is very obvious once Mrs. Montague arrives. Before this time the banging on the doors and the noises were unnatural phenomena that the house was creating, but once the good doctor's wife arrives Nell is the one banging on the doors. I think this is because the house is now using her for what it had to do by itself before. Nell has become an extension of the house and therefore helps with the haunting. It's no wonder she doesn't want to leave when this is the only place she's ever felt welcome.
In fact going back to this book I've realized that there's only one real problem with the different interpretations, and that's the lesbianism. I'm not against this at all and think that Nell and Theodora would make a lovely couple and they balance each other so well, what I see as problematic is Jackson's vehement denials that The Haunting of Hill House has anything to do with sex and in particular lesbianism. She didn't see sex as entering into her story at all. But so much of her story goes against what she later stated. Theodora is obviously a woman of the world while Nell is the virginal character who just doesn't understand, an innocent nature that the house can corrupt. Yet there's a connection between them long before there's a connection between Nell and the house. Also the fact that Jackson never comes out and says that Theodora's partner whom she left behind is male or female, though female is strongly implied, then why write this? Why have this omission if you didn't want the book to be read this way? If she was so against this interpretation just a few clarifications could have solved it. But then she wanted to leave her readers mystified and perhaps, despite her denials, this was just another mystery she enjoyed dangling in front of her audience. She was a master manipulator after all. ...more
On New Year's Eve 1974 Archie Jones sets out to kill himself but ends up being unsuccessful, yet like a butterfly leaving the cocoon, he leaves that gOn New Year's Eve 1974 Archie Jones sets out to kill himself but ends up being unsuccessful, yet like a butterfly leaving the cocoon, he leaves that gas filled car a new man. A new life and a new wife await him! His old army buddy Samad Iqbal has been saying to him for awhile that what he needs is a new young wife, like his own Alsana. That night Archie meets Clara Bowden and by Valentine's Day they are man and wife. Archie is escaping the life left in that car and Clara is escaping her mother, Hortense, whose religious beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness have stifled Clara's life. It isn't long before the middle aged men are fathers. Archie has a lovely daughter, Irie, and Samad has twins boys, Magid and Millat, who couldn't be more different.
It is 1984 and now Samad's life is about to change forever. He falls hard for his son's music teacher, Poppy Burt-Jones. The lust stirred in Samad has him questioning everything. But the attraction is mutual, and soon he has a new outlet for his lust. Yet his religious beliefs and the sin he is committing because, as he claims, the lure of the Western world has seduced him, leads him to do something that his wife will never forgive him for. He feels that if he could be degraded in this way, his sons are in even worse danger. He wants to send them back to Bangladesh, but only has the financial resources to send one of them. Magid and Millat are separated and Alsana can never forgive him until Magid is returned to her.
The 90s have come and Irie is grown up and in love with Millat. Millat has indeed fallen prey to the lure of the West as his father feared. He sleeps around, does drugs, gets into fights, and is still somehow the object of Irie's affection, which he doesn't return. One day at school Irie is confronting Millat near resident nerd Josh Chalfen when there is a drugs bust. The three of them get brought before the principal for Millat's marijuana. In the hope that Josh and his illustrious family, his mother Joyce is an author, his father Marcus is a genetic engineer, will be a good influence on Irie and Millat, they are to go to the Chalfens once a week and have Josh tutor them. Soon it's everyday. Joyce takes an extreme interest in Millat while Irie starts to work for Marcus as an assistant. Even Magid, back in Bangladesh, befriends Marcus and decides to return to England. But the life of Chalfenism is divisive, and soon Josh has joined an animals rights group, FATE, to protest his father's genetic engineering of FutureMouse, while Millat has joined a fundamentalist Islamic group, KEVIN, to turn his back on his old life and the fact that Marcus prefers Magid. On the eve of the new millennium, everyone gathers to herald the arrival of FutureMouse... most with differing ideas as to how the evening will go.
From the little blurb I have assembled above you might be drawn to the false conclusion that this book actually has a plot. It doesn't. Well... it kind of does at the very end where Zadie Smith apparently realized she needed one and just threw in a handful of new characters and a whole bunch of organizations with stupid acronyms and built to an unsatisfying conclusion with guns and Nazis and genetically engineered mice. That is right, she brought in Nazis. And I think that's the problem, she brought in whatever she wanted randomly and then just threw it aside when she got bored. Though she never seemed to get bored of slightly tweaking the reader with little asides in some random post modern moments of incomprehensibility. So the book actually feels like a bunch of interconnected short stories, some of which might have been good if they hadn't been thrown in with the morass of crap and depravity that makes up the majority of this book.
Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend and she asked me if I had read Zadie Smith's On Beauty. I replied that I had, mainly because it was a loosely, if failed, reimagining of Howards End, and was mentioned on The Vicar of Dibley. She was wondering if I was put off by the very detailed descriptions of one of the character's nipples. I honestly said that I had no recollection of this, most likely I had blocked it from my memory. I can honestly say though, after reading White Teeth, I will never forget Zadie Smith's obsession with nipples ever again. In fact, this book can be summed up as very boring with a veneer of eww. If I wasn't bored senseless I was quite literally wanting to throw up. Thirty pages of a 57 year old man masturbating (another friend claims it might have been more, perhaps I'm preemptively blocking this out). Domestic abuse, where the children are placing bets on their parents. Teenagers marrying men in their 40s (proving Smith has daddy issues). A father of Irie's classmate calling her a big black goddess and ruminating about her breasts, when she's only what, fourteen! The aforementioned nipples, except for multiple characters, not just one. I wanted to wash my brain after reading this book.
Now, you're thinking that I missed the point, that the book wasn't about these accumulated repugnant and repulsive moments. I totally get that the book is about heritage and ancestry and genetics and what limitations we are burdened with, nature, nurture, fate. The second generation versus the first generation. You would have to be blind to miss this, especially once we get to FutureMouse. But the truth is, I can't, I couldn't, give a tinker's damn. It doesn't matter if you set out to write the most amazing, most profound story, if your characters are not only unlikeable, but reprehensible, then there is no way I will care. With all this ick as I will pejoratively call everything in this book, there wasn't a redeemable character or any reason to even finish reading this book except for the fact that I am incapable of leaving a book unfinished. So I finished. I read ever last work she wrote and I hated it. Mine is an educated hate, you can't say fairer then that!
Bridget Jones might finally have the man of her dreams, but Bridget is still Bridget and a happily ever after ending is hard to achieve when you are very good at self sabotage. Quickly loosing Mark Darcy and one again becoming a love pariah is exactly what you'd expect Bridget to do, and she does it with style. But luckily while her love life might be taking a hit... was that the evil Rebecca with Mark? Bridget's job prospects might be on the rise with a potential interview with none other then the "real" Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth! In Italy of all places! Well... he does live in Italy, but still, it seems so romantic and surely once he's met Bridget he will see that he has found his soul mate... now if Bridget could just get his shirt moistened. Though a vacation that turns into an international scandal might be just what's needed to get Bridget and Mark back together again.
Back to that fateful weekend when I started to devour the Bridget Jones oeuvre (read previous review for the background). I remember driving to Borders to pick up the book and having a run in with the manager. I had had the shit kicked out of me by Samuel Beckett and the manager there, well, he was a pompus jackass if ever their was one and I wasn't going to take his shit. The only joy I get out of Borders going out of business is seeing him sometimes around town in menial positions far below his "highness" at Borders and smiling... yes, sometimes right at him. The fight was a fight I had been having with him for awhile. It's corporate policy and city policy that non-service dogs can't be in stores that sell food, like Borders does with it's cafe. I should note that I have nothing against dogs, aside from severe allergies, but when you're in a bookstore and want to get that copy of Edge of Reason and there's a guy with his dog with a bag of dog poop in one hand and a book in the other... well, you complain. And then you storm out without getting the book... and yeah, things escalate quickly. So besides having the shit repeatedly kicked out of me, getting a copy of this book was an adventure in itself. There were tears.
Bridget herself had an ill advised adventure in Edge of Reason too. That first time I read this book the whole Bridget being arrested for drug possession in Thailand and then becoming queen of the prison overshadowed everything. Well, that and the fact that in the book it says that MI-5 helped Mark... well, MI-5 is for domestic not international disputes, so, this error really really annoyed me. In fact, this scene, which upon re-reading is so short and brief, I can't come to terms as to why it bothered me so much. Maybe it's just the quintessential Britishness of Bridget and her being in Thailand seemed out of place. Or over the years the mildly related second movie has so eclipsed the book in it's badness that upon picking up the book again I realized how fresh and funny it was, unlike the movie which just might be the worst film ever made. It also helps if you are trying to avoid reading the worst Doctor Who book ever written, just saying...
Taking it's plot from Jane Austen's Persuasion, the misunderstandings and the reconciliations hang off this basic spine, but it's the little things I love. The battle with the construction worker, and who hasn't had a worker show up and destroy your house and then disappear into the aether? That Colin Firth interview, seriously, that would be me interviewing Colin Firth! Also, the movie he's promoting isn't actually that bad, a little weird and it was renamed My Life So Far if you want to check it out, you'll learn a lot about curling and sphagnum moss. But it's Bridget's just, well, not obtuseness, but, she's a romantic, so she lives in hope but it is in fact her hopelessness that makes this book such a fun read. Also the whole taking self help books as spiritualism... it really is quite clever and it is a new religion. Long live Bridget Jones, the girl able to turn her problems into a system of belief. ...more