Wendy's Reviews > Gone to Soldiers

Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy
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's review
Aug 05, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: good-riddance

I have to rewrite my review. I haven't read this book in 20 years, and started re-reading it early this month. My how things change.
While I like Piercy's writing and her characterizations and setting are very strong, I was totally blown away by the fact that just about every single character -- and there are many characters in this novel -- is involved with some kind of animal exploitation. This is probably not something a non-vegan would notice, and I recognize that animal exploitation has historically been the norm so some depictions of it, and much ignorance around it, is to be expected. Yet it is difficult to read and care about characters who laugh at chickens dying, where one woman works at a furrier, where another character has hunted, another has slaughtered animals without being squeamish -- and on and on. One or two of these things, sure, I understand -- that's how things were and realistically that cannot be helped-- but this is totally beyond anything I've read before. I mean, it is fiction. Stick someone in a bookshop instead of a furrier's. Make the family business something like tailoring. But for every character to exploit animals beyond eating them is just too distracting and upsetting for me to continue. Particularly when Piercy is trying to write about the horrors of war.

In the end I knew I would end up loathing just about every character in this 740+ -page work, so I stopped reading it. This book has gone from my favorite novel to seriously disappointing piece of shit.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
August 5, 2011 – Shelved
August 7, 2011 – Shelved as: good-riddance

Comments (showing 1-4)

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Thomas Sewell There's nothing wrong with having a soft heart toward animals, but this book has no incidents of any of its characters being deliberately cruel to animals, even the Nazis. You could hardly write a novel where more than half the main characters are Jewish without having at least one furrier, since it was historically one of the few trades Jews weren't banned from. I think you need to take off your vegan glasses for awhile and view the world as it is seen by other people.

As for this book, there are things I like, but at least as many I don't. The same-sex romances aren't believable at all, and the heterosexual romances are overblown. There are quite a few howling factual errors about the course of the war itself, not fatal in fiction, but annoying because they suggest Marge Piercy did not do nearly as much research as she should have to write about such a serious topic. And the introduction of a psychic link between twins just does not fit at all. If you introduce an element of magical reality, it has to dominate the work.

Wendy From what I remember, this book does indeed have deliberate acts of cruelty toward animals, although because they are incidents so embedded in society, they are not seen or intended that way. There is no need for me to remove my "vegan glasses" any more than I would remove my queer or feminist "glasses." That is how I read.

Not that it matters, but I am not alone in this, either. Increasingly, scholars are becoming interested in and vocal about this type of criticism.

Mandy I really don't think a book should be classed "a seriously disappointing piece of shit" simply because the ideas in it don't coincide with yours. That alone doesn't make it a bad book. The quality of the writing could do that. You may choose not to read a book because you find it distressing, but using your criterion would mean refusing to read, and judging as "bad" most of world literature! For example, I personally find slavery abhorrent. So is Uncle Tom's Cabin a piece of shit? I don't like war - does that make War & Peace a piece of shit? I don't like rape, murder, cruelty - but having those subjects in a book doesn't make the books bad literature. And I'm willing to read them to learn and perhaps understand more about our world. So I find your attitude remarkably short-sighted - and it's a shame that it's caused you to give this pretty good book a 1* rating.

message 1: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Wendy, have you ever thought about getting counseling?

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