Reese's Book Club x Hello Sunshine discussion

Sept 2019 > What did you think?

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message 1: by Hello (new)

Hello Sunshine | 58 comments Mod
What did you think?

Tell us what you loved about this book.

Books, Tea, Healthy Me (books_tea_healthyme) I love this book!! So good!

Here's a link to my full review:

message 3: by Wren (new)

Wren Fair | 1 comments Overall, I thought this was a well written novel with a strong feminist point of view. Though the novel was set in the 50s, I felt like the challenges the various female characters faced are very relevant to the present day. Lack of career advancement, work going unacknowledged or without due credit, female queer sexuality, sexual harassment and assault, etc. were all portrayed in this novel and I felt those themes were the main strength of this story.

I particularly liked Olga's character and story arch. She was flawed, and she had every reason to resent Boris by then end of the novel, but she was also independent enough to not care what others thought about her being the long term mistress. She was loyal to the end, despite the negative impacts that loyalty had on her life and her children's lives. I think its important to have flawed female characters, and portray the messed up things we will endure when we love someone.

Now for some things I didn't like. The Typing Pool chapters served no purpose other than to further the plot lines of the main characters from a third person point of view. I feel like this "group character" narrated by no one in particular was unnecessary and undermined the feminist message of the book. If anything the typing pool reinforced sexist stereotypes about women by constantly gossiping, intentionally ignoring Irina on her first day, and generally just seeming to lack any substance or purpose.

Additionally, I think the book tried a little too hard to portray this
"noir spy" theme and didn't quite pull it off. I did appreciate how the author used Sally's character to demonstrate that the good old boys club would close ranks no matter how good your work was or how valuable an asset you might be. However, all of their spy scenes were pretty vanilla with anti-climactic hand offs and a lot of cloak and dagger with seemingly no real danger. Add to the fact that the real work of getting the novel out of Russia and translated was done by the Italians, and it felt like the American characters were playing spy as opposed to doing anything substantive to help the cause. Sadly, the only spy scene that did result in a surprise twist was Sally's presumed assault in the coat closet on New Year's Eve when she was trying to suss out Henry as a potential mole. I think in terms of suspense and thrill factor, this book pretty much failed.

What connected the various characters and the book overall was the theme of women being crucial to getting the job done but not receiving any recognition for what they did. Rather they were all punished in some form or another. Olga bore the punishment for Boris' heretical work, and didn't even get the honor of being his wife or main companion. She also got no credit for meeting with multiple publishers to get the book published, or pleading to the government on her lover's behalf. I thought the scene with her standing outside his house as he was dying and not being allowed in was heartbreaking. Sally was beautiful and great at what she did, but ultimately got assaulted, fired, labeled as a traitor, and was unable to live openly as a gay woman. Irina was essentially used by the agency for her Russian heritage, narrowly escaped an unwanted marriage and getting fired herself, and lost the love of her life in the process.

Overall I thought this was a good read and it kept me interested for the most part. It fell down in some areas but the feminist narrative was strong enough to hold it all together.

message 4: by Laura (new)

Laura Nasoulinh | 113 comments I did love the book. I couldn't stand Olga how she would risk her and her kids lives for a man. I was glad at the ending though

message 5: by Bethany (new)

Bethany | 3 comments Wren, I agree! I enjoyed the book.

message 6: by Alyssa (new)

Alyssa (alyssascard) | 57 comments i just started this book yesterday and I am already on chapter 10. so good!

message 7: by Bada (new)

Bada | 34 comments What do I think? Umm a lot of things!!

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