Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Read recently: One-minute reviews

  • The Land Of Decoration by Grace McCleen: A very odd and touching novel about a young girl raised by a single father in a religious sect. When Judith begins to believe that God is speaking to her, and that events occurring in her miniature dioramas (the Land of Decoration) are mirrored in real life, things go a bit haywire for her and her father, especially when Judith is bullied at school and her father, whose factory is on strike, is being persecuted as a scab.
  • Gold by Chris Cleave: Oh my God, Chris, why do you do this to me every time? Although there was less weeping over this novel than over his previous two, I still managed to read this one in 24 hours. No joke. Caroline and I raced. The protagonists in this story are almost exactly my age (interesting? Weird? Sometimes I hate reading about people my age. They often annoy me ... in real life, too). They are also Olympic bike racers. Despite not being at all interested in competitive sport, I could not put this down. There are some absolute gems of phrasing and emotion in here. Read it.
  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers: Book 1 in a series (His Fair Assassin), this is a really fun teen title with a great heroine. Set in 14th century France, it sparked me to learn more about Anne of Brittany (ah, thank you Wikipedia). I can only take a few of these hardcore genre books a year, but this one was outstanding writing so it went down easy.
  • New Republic by Lionel Shriver: Is it just me, or is her tone starting to sound fake? Maybe grandiose is a better word. Anyway, not my favourite. Getting into Rushdie's pretentious territory.
  • South Riding by Winifred Holtby: a true 20th-century gem, this one was recommended by the inestimable David of Nicholas Hoare's Greene Ave. location. I am a total sucker for an interesting back story, so when I read more about Holtby, I was captivated. This was her sixth and final novel, published by Vera Brittain after Holtby's death at 37 from Bright's disease. South Riding is about the titular fictional district in Yorkshire, and the political and social machinations of local aldermen and community leaders. Interesting for me to read in one sense for the sense of local politics of yesteryear, and the dealings behind the scene (interesting subplot about a local slum). There is a "Preferatory letter" in the book addressed to Holtby's mother, Alice, the first woman alderman of the (real) East Riding. Alice tried to block publication of the book because (so saith the Guardian) "she feared that her daughter's depiction of local government, allied to the vein of satire and "puckish mischief" familiar from her earlier books, might expose her own job to criticism and ridicule." It's heartbreaking that Alice wasn't able to see her daughter's book as the loving tribute that it was. For those of you looking for plot here, the central thread of the novel follows the arrival of the new headmistress of a local school, and her altercations with a local landowner, Robert Carne (the new Elizabeth and Darcy? Bleh!)
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: Book 1 in a series (All Souls Trilogy): This was all fun and games until I remembered that I don't like my vampire stories to be patriarchal. Meh. In fact, "vampire stories" and "patriarchy" may be Venn diagrams that more or less sit on top of one another.

1 comment:

  1. Oh! Someone lent me A Discovery of Witches. Vampires and patriarchy? Greaaaaat. We'll shuffle that a little further down the To Read list, then.