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**spoiler alert** Actually, it deserves 3.5 stars. I can't say I enjoyed this novel, but I was moved by it. It was a heart wrenching novel about physic**spoiler alert** Actually, it deserves 3.5 stars. I can't say I enjoyed this novel, but I was moved by it. It was a heart wrenching novel about physical and sexual abuse, addiction, redemption, and recovery. It gives the reader a very good excuse why one may start to drink and may have difficulty giving up their drug/drink of choice. Here the main character "uses" to forget a horrible event, and the tangle her pain over the situation and her drinking weaves. It was hard to like the main character but her behavior was understandable but not excusable. If you want to read a painful, powerful, moving, and emotional novel then read this. I almost had to have a drink, myself, to forget it....more
Set Up: This story is a version of the tale Rose Red and Snow White, which, according to the link, has no connection to the American version or any oth Set Up: This story is a version of the tale Rose Red and Snow White, which, according to the link, has no connection to the American version or any other version of Snow White. Wikipedia states the original story is about a poor widow and her two daughters, whom have a wild bear as a companion. It also involves an evil dwarf and treasure.
Unlike the actual tale, and with some artistic license given by Margo Lanagan to give it depth and interest, this retelling of the tale has an interesting bear connection. The author apparently viewed an actual bear festival on television prior to writing the story. This was consequentially added to her story.
An additional difference is that the setting is within two parallel worlds connected by magic, where the real world is a version of our past being lit only by fire. The second realm is called the false world or that of the “heart’s desire”. It is an idealized version created in desperation by the main character Liga (the mother), through personal trauma and her inability to deal with reality.
My Thoughts: There are many things I like about Tender Morsels. The writing is evocative and disturbing; the language used is set in period with an English/Australian bent, making it feel old and rural; the book cover renditions support some of the major themes within the story (I am highly visual); and the evil characters are given a perspective which helps the reader to sympathize with them – because that's what happens in real life.
It is a wonderfully complex rendition of the original story. It is multilayered where the author brings in some important themes, two of which are Women’s issues around social oppression and strength.
Here is a quote which shows the oppressiveness of the social structure of the real world compared to the “heart’s desire” world:
Annie peered and grinned. “Heh-heh. There is nothing like upbringing up in a heaven to give a girl a false confidence.” “False, you think?” said Liga anxiously, dropping the lace back across the windo. “The size o’ that mob, Liga? I say false. Get yourself dressed, girl, in your very best; we will need to summon all the menfolk and all the respectability we can, if she’s not to be whipped in the street.”
To be raised in an environment with no constraints one may have a false confidence about one’s ability to counter social mores of a present society, no matter how warranted they are.
Another quote regarding one woman’s strength:
…She, Urdda, must see that place someday, where women dressed so beautifully yet so plain, rode about alone. No one would dare spit upon this woman, or call out at her. She had a different kind of boldness, a strength that did not defy that of men so much as ignore it, or take its place without question beside it – Urdda wanted some of that boldness.
A wonderful role model for young women.
Be forewarned this is not a light story, and addresses some very very dark and difficult issues. Which I have not mentioned here. It is not a story which everyone is going to enjoy or even like.
Tender Morsels won the World Fantasy Award for 2009 covering the year 2008. Personally, I can see why. I love dark fantasy which touches on important social issues and is also well written. This is exceptional. I have given this story a rare 5 stars....more
Synopsis: This is a narration of a woman’s movement in and out of various stages of madness, linked to both choice and circumstance. The key factor in Synopsis: This is a narration of a woman’s movement in and out of various stages of madness, linked to both choice and circumstance. The key factor in her descent is her incestuous relationship with her older brother. There is also a history of familial mental illness, and instability. It is a complex and multilayered tale where the main character tells of the many convoluted and morally questionable reasons why she has “lost her grip with reality”. The story is told in the first person where the narrator never really names herself and is not sequential and moves back and forth through time. As the narrator clearly loses her contact with what is real, the writing becomes a free association of emotions, metaphors, and actions. Originally published in 1973, this issue is the 35th anniversary of its primary printing. The book was an international best seller at the time, and has a forward by the award winning American author Phillip Roth as well as a reader’s guide at the end of the book for groups and discussions. My Thoughts: Critically looking at Playing House, you can see why in the early 70s it was a best seller. On the “tail end” of the sexual revolution it was just addressing another sexually taboo subject, but beyond what was and still is considered socially unacceptable. Today with a swing to a more conservative view this subject becomes even more difficult for many modern readers to digest. In a purely intellectual and academic sense this novel includes many literary, metaphorical, and psychological elements which can be of interest to those who desire to discuss them. Some of these themes/issues include:
monogamy and the image and involvement of the swan marriage partners chosen for security rather than passion the nature of dominance and submission and their role in sexuality religious stereotypes and metaphors and a link with madness morality seen as grey vs. black and white the shadow of ill-made choices madness and memory apathy/depression as a indicator to the beginnings of madness women and madness – hysteria art and writing as catharsis mythology and fables i.e.. the golden archer and the turtle Stockholm Syndrome where the abused over time empathizes with/loves the abuser
All in all this novel is not one that most readers will “like” or even enjoy. It is a difficult, intense, and emotional read, dealing with subjects we would mostly likely choose to ignore, but one where the reader will be affected. There is no doubt that Ms. Wagman captures madness well, and within the main character’s ramblings little nuggets of insight are revealed.
The Turtle couldn’t stand lies, he didn’t understand them, not a bit. To him a lie was just that, something untrue, evil, or wrong. But lies aren’t always, you know. Sometimes lies are art too, sometimes lies are creating, sometimes lies are wonderful, they can lift and soar and take you all away.
Highly recommended for book group discussions whose interest are of an intense level. As stated above there is a lot to discuss. I did not “like” this book but give it 4 stars because of it’s metaphorical connections, its intense emotional content, and its ability to make the reader feel some very difficult emotions....more
This is a historical fiction novel with a theme revolving around faith and domestic violence.
About Thirsty: The setting is the late 1800’s. Klara is a young Croatian woman whom meets her would be husband on the front door step or her father’s home. At once the two are linked. A chemistry of sorts, which is much deeper than it seems.
Driven by their intense attraction, and as a way to leave her abusive father’s home and the care of her many sisters and brothers (her mother is dead), Klara returns to America with her new husband to a town called Thirsty.
Thirsty is your typical factory centered town of the period. It is a place rife with racism, extreme social class distinctions, as well as smoke and greasy ash from the local foundry. This factory is the city’s economic engine providing a glimpse into the era; a time when hungry workers were essentially treated as a commodity and where their lives were as expendable as animals and very often lost.
As the story progresses we see Klara’s perspective, feel her strength, and hear her voice through her complex emotions as her life continues. As she becomes settled into the community and her life stumbles on, she realizes more and more, that her husband is very much like her father.
My Thoughts: This historical fiction is at once heartbreaking yet lyrical. It looks at a person’s beliefs and patterns which are exchanged from generation to generation. In this case it is based on domestic violence and from my understanding is called “the cycle of abuse”. It is exemplified by the main character who watches as her mother is beaten by her father, and she in turn, by default chooses a man who is also of this nature. So this cycle continues - sadly passing onto her daughter as well.
I enjoyed this little book. It is descriptive of this time and has a touch of the magical; several spectacular natural events, one of which is pictured on the cover (butterflies being my favorite). The author also has a sweet and easy to read writing style almost like poetry.
However, being a mostly secular person, I did have a tough time dealing with a complete page detailing “God’s Will”, where every other phrase contains the words “God’s Will”. I see where this may appeal to those whom are passionate about their faith. My biggest problem with this, however, is that an abused women cannot wait on the “Will of God” to intervene. Those whom are being abused need to take the steps necessary to walk away from their abusers.
It is my hope that this is what the author intended, as a jumping place for a discussion around this scary and life threatening issue. To facilitate women into taking the life saving steps that are needed, beyond their religious beliefs. Other than my above concerns, I enjoyed this book.
*It is also important to note that the book contains graphic violence and that there is also strong sexual scenes running through its pages.*...more
This a page turning coming of age story with a dark Southern Gothic tone and an intriguing twist.
Mini Synopsis: A realistic tale cenActually 3.5 stars
This a page turning coming of age story with a dark Southern Gothic tone and an intriguing twist.
Mini Synopsis: A realistic tale centered in a pre Katrina New Orleans, the main character Haley is a 16 years old girl whose family is having financial difficulties among other sad things. Mom has had a recent miscarriage and is bedbound. Pop is out of work, is spending his time and what little money they do have at the local bar/pool hall, and is involved with a local stripper/waitress.
With all these elements we can see the main character is caught in a situation which is less than ideal. It is a slippery slope as she tries to emotionally balance the events occurring around her and manage her own maturation and the realizations which adolescence provokes.
The story includes a variety of motley characters, and when Haley gets sucked into some gang like activities, the events conspiring against her culminate into an original, intriguing, slightly paranormal, and heart wrenching ending which is connected to the title – Dirty Little Angels.
My Thoughts: I devoured this short novel, it was a definite page turner! Chris Tusa captures the confusion of a teenager spiraling out of control, writing of her confusion, contemplations, and angst. In doing so he uses a simple language appropriate for the background of the characters. Here is an example which is in part both funny and dark. Haley and her brother Cyrus are being questioned by a local detective:
When we got there, the officer brought Cyrus and me into a white room with glass walls. A few minutes later, another man came in and sat down. He was an older fat man with a stubbly chin and a bald, liver spotted skull. He had tiny baby teeth that looked like someone had plugged little white Chiclets into his gums, and you could smell Old Spice seeping from his pores. His hips where someone else’s hips welded onto his skeleton, and his chest looked like Brandon Piggert’s chest the summer he’d grown little midget boobs after shooting up a batch of steroids.
This novel asks the questions: How does one become involved in situations we know are not quite right? Where does one fit in within a world that values unreal perfection? And although not a religious book, it examines the concept of whether saving ourselves is right even if it conflicts with our religious beliefs (or lack thereof) or those of others.
The ending, which is connected to the concept of the title, is the clincher, where the title is not at all what it seems. The connection is dark, a bit other worldly, has a touch of insanity, and is something I keep thinking about. I give this great little book 3.5 stars. I am really looking forward to more of this author’s work....more
When two young friends, both orphans, arrive in Salem MA in 1692, the litigious and imbOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Actually 4.5 stars.
When two young friends, both orphans, arrive in Salem MA in 1692, the litigious and imbalanced nature of a community sets in motion a horrific series of events. The author uses a unique perspective around why she thinks this may have occurred.
About: This is set around actual events where the warped moral boundaries and a desire for revenge inflame the emotions of a local pastor and a selfish young woman. Situations are manipulated for personal gain, culminating in the hanging deaths of a number of its core community members - for witchcraft. Bloody scary!
It’s a historical novel about this infamous North American witch hunt, with a slightly different take on the original. The author’s slant is very plausible and extremely intriguing. While not giving this key piece away, let’s say that through some research and a bit of insightful luck or brilliance, Suzy Witten has added a theory around this 200 year old story which has created a page turning twist of a tale - a very good one at that.
Thoughts: One of my favorite genres is horror, so I devoured this story. At the same time, because it is based on a true story it is all the more terrifying, especially since it is entirely possible that something of this nature could happen again. As well as its plausible and intriguing twist, it has complex and well developed characters - many are easy to relate to and likable while others are naturally despicable. With its insight, it feels like a study in human nature with extreme examples of human failings. I was left on the “edge of my seat” (or the bed since I usually read at night). At one point I had to set the book aside with the downward spiraling events.
Another element which I liked is that there is “lustiness” as a large thread throughout the story, giving it darkness and juiciness which in my opinion did not become unrealistic and standardized (one of my peeves). So if you’re looking for a “clean” read this is not a good book for you. Witten also uses language that is accessible yet with a slightly “old English style” so that you feel like it is set within the period which it occurred. These elements give depth to the story and make it perfect for a historical fiction novel.
This is an impressive independently published debut novel, even though the author has extensive writing experience - she is a Walt Disney Studios Fellowship Finalist, which you can definitely tell by reading this book. The Afflicted Girls is also the winner of The 2010 IPPY Silver Medal for Historical Fiction (Independent Publisher Book Awards). I would say that this book deserves 4.5 stars. I will be waiting for Suzy Witten’s next book since I think she is a talented writer and am curious why this book has not been snapped up by a bigger publisher. Highly recommended!...more