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review 2018-12-11 22:26
Book for Door 7 Mawlid An-Nabi - "On Turpentine Lane" by Elinor Lipman
On Turpentine Lane - Elinor Lipman

 

"On Turpentine Lane" sat on my TBR pile for eighteen months. I bought it in a fit of enthusiasm after reading "Isabel's Bed".  I've looked at it a few times since then and gone, "I want to read that but not today." I finally picked up because it qualified as my book for Mawlid An-Nabi in the 24 Festive Tasks challenge,

 

It wasn't the kind of book I'd expected. It was a light, mildly amusing comedy of manners kind of book but I found myself struggling with it because I found it hard to empathise with a privileged white middle-class, university educated woman in her thirties who was so hapless.

 

Her haplessness was fundamental to the humour of the book so letting it irritate me was self-defeating. Her haplessness is quite plausible. She's conflict-averse, trusting, committed to her job and looking for a quiet life. I'd probably like her if I met her. Yet I find myself irritated by her inability to use the advantage she has, which says more about me than about Elinor Lipman's writing.

 

About a third of the way through the book, the lights went on - flashing LED lights - spelling out IT'S A ROMANCE, DUMMY.

 

That explains why the heroine is intelligent, well-educated, slightly bland and completely hapless - so she can come into her own by getting together with the right guy.

Suddenly, it was all clear. 

 

The contract with the reader is that the woman should be nice, maybe too nice for her own good when it comes to dealing with her self-absorbed, hippy-boy-man-at-41 boyfriend, so that the reader can root for her and hope she'll smell the coffee and find someone worthy of her.

 

I got distracted by the bullying sexism or her employer, the apparently dark history of the house she's recently bought and my underlying lack of empathy for a woman so used to be being loved and protected by her family that she lacks basic survival skills.

 

I felt like someone reading the start of a werewolf novel and wondering why the characters, who seem prone to physical aggression when resolving status-related conflicts, are stressing about how close the next full moon is.

 

Once I settled back and let the romance roll with the appropriate level of readerly collusion. with what the author is doing, I started to enjoy myself more.

 

"On Turpentine Lane" is an odd mix of ingredients that never quite come together convincingly. Crises are triggered around apparent financial improprieties at work, mysterious deaths in the heroines house and a mid-life crisis separation between her parents. These crises stand side by side like plates spinning on poles rather than building to anything. There is no character development to speak of but there is a slow, sometimes enjoyable slide towards happy-ever-afterdom.

 

I never did get to feel any empathy for the heroine but my reflex-animosity for her lessened as I understood her family dynamic.

 

"On Turpentine Lane" was well-executed entertainment that I'm now certain I'm not the target demographic for.

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review 2018-12-10 19:37
Small Gods / Terry Pratchett
Small gods - Terry Pratchett

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was: 'Hey, you!' This is the Discworld, after all, and religion is a controversial business. Everyone has their own opinion, and indeed their own gods, of every shape and size, and all elbowing for space at the top. In such a competitive environment, shape and size can be pretty crucial to make one's presence felt. So it's certainly not helpful to be reduced to appearing in the form of a tortoise, a manifestation far below god-like status in anyone's book.

In such instances, you need an acolyte, and fast: for the Great God Om, Brutha the novice is the Chosen One – or at least the only One available. He wants peace and justice and brotherly love. He also wants the Inquisition to stop torturing him now, please...

 

The captain frowned. “It’s a funny thing,” he said, “but why is it that the heathens and barbarians seem to have the best places to go when they die?”
“A bit of a poser, that,” agreed the mate. “I s’pose it makes up for ‘em….enjoying theselves all the time they’re alive, too?” He looked puzzled. Now that he was dead, the whole thing sounded suspicious.


Dare I admit that this is my very first encounter with the writing of Terry Pratchett? I’ve seen the praise of his work from my friends and acquaintances and have been meaning to get to him sooner or later, so I’m glad that my reading project got me started.

Wow, Pratchett is an excellent writer, able to keep many balls in the air while still being humourous. This is very definitely a critique of organized religion of the modern sort, dressed up in the clothing of the Greco-Roman period. He makes good use of the early Christian idea that heathen gods ceased to exist as their worshippers drifted away. Also the notion that those best qualified to lead are the least likely to seek leadership positions. Plus, he plays with the tortoise/turtle mythology that is common to so many cultures. Very skillful.

Book number 303 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

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text 2018-12-07 21:10
Reading progress update: I've read 118 out of 288 pages.
Small gods - Terry Pratchett

Another pause, a tar-pit of silence ready to snare the mastodons of unthinking comment

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text 2018-12-04 18:54
Reading progress update: I've read 64 out of 288 pages.
Small gods - Terry Pratchett

 

Okay, I'm liking this better today.  Yesterday must just have been a bad mood day all around.

 

I will definitely finish this.

 

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text 2018-12-02 10:07
Reading progress update: I've read 31%.- slapping hand to forehead - NOW I notice it's a romance novel?
On Turpentine Lane - Elinor Lipman

I was almost a third of the way through this slightly droll but deeply puzzling book, struggling to work out where it was going, when the lights went on - flashing LED lights - spelling out IT'S A ROMANCE, DUMMY.

 

That explains why the heroine is intelligent, well-educated, slightly bland and completely hapless - so she can come into her own by getting together with the right guy.

 

Now it's all clear. 

 

The contract with the reader is that the woman should be nice, maybe too nice for her own good when it comes to dealing with her self-absorbed, hippy-boy-man-at-41 boyfriend, so that the reader can root for her and hope she'll smell the coffee and find someone worthy of her.

 

I got distracted by the bullying sexism or her employer, the apparently dark history of the house she's recently bought and my underlying lack of empathy for a woman so used to be being loved and protected by her family that she lacks basic survival skills.

 

I feel like someone reading the start of a werewolf novel and wondering why the characters, who seem prone to physical aggression when resolving status-related conflicts, are stressing about how close the next full moon is.

 

OK, now I can settle back and let the romance roll with the appropriate level of readerly collusion. with what the author is doing.

 

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