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review 2017-04-23 22:07
The Victorian Chaise-longue
The Victorian Chaise-Longue - Marghanita Laski,P.D. James

"Will you give me your word of honour," said Melanie, "that I am not going to die?"

I love it when a book starts with a first sentence that packs a punch. With this one, we immediately know that what follows will be a story of life and death.

 

The Victorian Chaise-longue is a very short (99 pages) novel about a woman in the late 1940s or early 1950s that is recovering from illness and suddenly finds herself in a most precarious situation - it appears she has woken up in 1864.

 

I will not reveal anything else about the plot (and the above is pretty much revealed on all general descriptions of the book), other than that the plot takes on a different shape depending on how you approach it.

 

Sounds mysterious? Well, it isn't. It's just that the plot is one thing if you read it with the expectation that everything in the book happens just as it is described. If, however, you begin to doubt the narrator, you may start to wonder what is really going on. 

 

Do I know the answer to this question. Nope. 

 

However, I really enjoyed the conjectures that this question of whether "here" is "here" or whether "here" is really "there" allows. In fact, by the end of the book I could not help but draw parallels to one of my all-time favourite novels A Tale for the Time Being, only of course that Marghanita Laski published The Victorian Chaise-longue in 1953, 60 years before Ozeki's book. Do I think that Ozeki borrowed from Laski? Absolutely not. 

The comparison merely came up because both authors seem to base their ideas on a similar question about what time really is, and how we live in time.

 

And both books look at people in their time, and really caught up in time and other circumstances. In Laski's novel, this leads to illustrate the state of women in society - Victorian society and that of the 1940s/50s. Is there much change? 

 

The Victorian Chaise-longue seems to be listed as gothic or horror in the same vein as Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper is but I have issues with this classification. In my mind, tagging works as "gothic" or "horror", seems to pass them off as works of the imagination when, in fact, they are quite real. Scary and horrible they may be, but the connotations of the "horror" genre seem to deny such works the sense of veiled realism that truly punches the gut.

 

While I loved the book for its content and delivery, there were a few quibbles I had with the writing, which seemed to jump about a bit (But then, this may have been a way to show the MC's state of mind.) and with one element that left me puzzled - had the treatment of TB in the late 1940s/early 1950s really not moved on from the 1920s?

 

I mean, Laski makes mention of penicillin, yet, no antibiotics seem to be part of the treatment and the MC herself still believes that fresh air, sunlight, and milk will provide a cure - much like prescribed in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain (1924). Again, this is not a real criticism of the book, just an additional question I derived from it.

 

I am very much looking forward to reading more by this author.

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review 2017-04-12 20:37
Magdalene, by Marie Howe [poetry]
Magdalene: Poems - Marie Howe

I began reading Marie Howe when I was an undergrad taking my first poetry workshops. At first, I wasn't sure I liked her style, which is deceptively simple or plain. This was a contrast to many other poets I was introduced to at the same time, such as Mark Doty and Yusef Komunyakaa. But somewhere along the line, I fell in love with her aesthetic, and that first book of hers I read, What the Living Do, remains a favorite and a touchstone.

 

I now recognize and admire the delicate straightforwardness of Howe's language, which packs as much power as any formal poem or one with more verbal jujitsu. Her lines can be long, with lots of room between them or stanzas. They feel quiet, contemplative, so when there's a turn or revelation coming, it heightens the impact. I'm trying to explain her appeal, but part of it is that I can't. Or I could if I analyzed it to death, and I prefer letting the magic linger.

 

The poems' subjects range from desire to mental health, self-perception, spirituality, and motherhood. Though I don't read the book like one overarching narrative, it does feel like there's an arc; there's a fullness to that arc that somehow replicates the sensation of completing a big, fat novel. You have an idea of a life.

 

Here's a favorite:

 

How the Story Started

 

I was driven toward desire by desire.

believing that the fulfillment of that desire was an end.

There was no end.

 

Others might have looked into the future and seen

a shape inside the coming years --

a house, a child, a man who might be a help.

 

I saw his back bent over what he was working on,

the back of his neck, how he stood in his sneakers,

and wanted to eat him.

 

How could I see another person, I mean who he was--apart from me--

apart from that?

 

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review 2017-04-12 19:10
The Suffragette Scandal - Courtney Milan  
The Suffragette Scandal - Courtney Milan

Lots of people avoid Romance as a genre because
1) they don't care about women in ballgowns
2) everything they know about Romance novels is 40 years out of date
3) they assume Romance is a genre for lonely women with too many cats
4) they buy into the idea that a genre by and about women must be inferior
5) they have no idea where to start.

Let me address those concerns.
1) The ballgown on the cover is just to let you know that this is an Historical Romance, an it is available; no actual ball gowns are worn during the story
2) Although there are still stories being written about nurses falling for doctors and innocent young girls being married off to blackguards, those are by no means the most popular themes these days. This book, for instance, is first wave feminism in all its activist glory
3) And I suppose you believe that the average gamer these days is a teenage boy in his parent's basement* killing something in a first person shooter
4) Honestly I can't imagine that anyone professes this belief, even if they have it
5) Courtney Milan, but also Jezebel.com has been covering the topic with lots of good suggestions

This book is pure enjoyment, but it's the end of the series, so if this really is your first Romance in a while (or ever), go check out The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister short 0.5)at Amazon for 99 cents. Selling shorter interstitial works in the series between novels is a genius move, by the way. You don't have to read the series strictly in order, they aren't that closely tied, but they do share some characters.

Personal copy

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review 2017-04-12 17:03
Coffee at Luke's: An Unauthorized Gilmore Girls Gabfest - Jennifer Crusie 
Coffee at Luke's: An Unauthorized Gilmore Girls Gabfest - Jennifer Crusie

work library has it. Trying to get it downloaded onto a device I can read it on. So much aggravation.

I have it on my phone, now. W00t! If I can get it on my Kindle I will be a very happy person for about 5 minutes, until something else comes along to annoy me. Fingers crossed. I wanted the Fire specifically to be able to take advantage of the extensive work elibrary.

Now I've run into problems getting the sundry devices onto the Wifi network. Sigh. It's not a big problem, just a little niggling one that's going to drag this whole thing out for the entire day.

Not to name names, but the app for reading this on my phone was not convenient.

But the essays, they are intriguing. But also, collectively a little clueless. So many contrast New England culture against [place where the author is now] which is utterly unlike Star's Hollow, for good and ill. Seriously? I realize that Connecticut is the Land of WASPs, the place where Pilgrims get all the attention, but seriously, the lack of history re the entire rest of the nation was off-puttingly White-minded and just wrong. No one should ever again get a book chapter out of ignoring 1) millennia of First Nations, 2) five hundred years of Norse, and English, and Irish exploration and settlement, mostly for the cod 3) French settlement in Acadia 3) more than two hundred years of Spanish exploration and colonization. Seriously, Plymouth wasn't even the first permanent English colony in what is now the USA during the 17th century: there were already three in Virginia.

Generally I love a pop culture essay. I enjoy someone taking a tv show seriously, seeing what it says about society, family, religion, adulthood. Of course, there are problems: backstory is incomplete, sometimes contradictory, often open to interpretation, and that's when these essays get really good. Because there is no objective reality, everyone ends up writing not about the show, but about themselves. It's a Rorschach test. Humans are social animals, and it desire to examine the related between us is just as strong when we're talking about imaginary people. In real life a person rarely has to choose between two romantic prospects, but as a mental exercise it makes us consider what is most important: do we prefer similar backgrounds, or shared passions? Charm or loving actions? What do we need to be content?

So, here I am, nothing like Lorelei, except I do live in a charming old small town, and I like junk food and old movies and coffee, and books examining what this all means.

Library copy 

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review 2017-04-09 20:54
Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty 
Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty

Broke my reading block, I hope. Liane is sister to Jaclyn, whose books I've adored. How cool is this family?

 


April 10, 2017
Told Erin how much I enjoyed her recommendation, and about my delight in discovering that Liane was sister to Jaclyn. Now I'm going to read all of Liane's books and Erin said she'll give Jaclyn a go, since she's read all of Liane's.

 

Library copy

Recommended by Erin

 

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