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review 2018-09-01 13:27
Nightmare and Paranoia Fuel
The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman,Elaine Hedges

*whines* It's still miserable, windy winter here!! How do I combat the chills this induced? *shudder*

 

Whenever I read stories like this, I remember that quote "novels win by points, short stories by knock outs". I know I was already whimpering one page in. I finished with a wiki-walk and... How come every interpretation is so... mild? compassionate? forgiving?... of the husband?

 

I get time and society marching on, and symbolism, but how come picking the barred, dreary, ex-nursery with mismatched furniture and a purposely for that visit nailed down bed makes any but malicious sense?

 

No monster, no gore, but hell, psychological mind-fucks will forever get me shivering

 

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review 2018-08-22 20:09
On Spousal Abuse
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë

Ok. Anne is my favourite Brontë now, hands down. Her social commentary was decades before the times opinions and all around relevant still (sadly for the most part).

 

There is nothing over the top or sensational here. There is a lot of spousal abuse and neglect going around, but the fact that it's not violently brutal is like the last cherry in a way. We have this mentality that abuse is really abuse only if it surpasses a certain level (good God, that sentence gives me the creeps), and this book spits in that (in a very lady like way) and calls it for what it is: unsustainable and inexcusable. There are several instances where different men try spout a variety of rationalizations, shifting of the blame or deferred promises of change. They are all classics and shudder inducing because... well, because they not only try to fool the women, but fool themselves. They actually believe they are not that bad.

 

"Not that bad" could actually be some kind of abusive anthem. One that this books seems to have taken arms to pulverize, and my kudos to it.

 

The other thing that is done marvelously is the depiction of how precarious the abused one's position is. Even beyond the context of the restrictions of the times. As the neglect started, and I could envision it getting worse, I had this terrible anxiety over how dependent these women are. It was nerve-wreaking, and it had a point: after accepting it is not right, that pride is not worth bearing it, that there are reasons to escape (oh, and there is another interesting bit: that she can not do it for herself, but raises the courage to protect her son), you need help. This is perfect. So well done, and again, so forward thinking. That one is something that still escapes many when judging an abused spouse.

 

Character wise, I had some issues with Helen's over-piety, but I get where that fits too: here is this paragon of virtue; she leaves her husband. In a time where that was terrible disgrace, maybe excused but not pardoned for the height of brutality, it threw in the face of everyone reading that a woman so estranged may very well be in the right. Besides, I imagine she might have the need to rely even more on religion and found solace there under her circumstances. I thought her judgmental and dismissive of others counsel too, but that works too, because not only brings her to her marriage, but carries her through it, with both proclivities magnified I imagine.

 

Gilbert sounded so painfully young to me the whole book. I don't quite feel the romance there, except to imagine that to her he is ultimately so harmless. Which... OK, I totally get.

 

Beyond the overarching theme, there a lot of things addressed to provoke thought, if all the bits I quoted as I progressed didn't make it obvious, so it's really a book to own, and savour, and take a pencil to (I'm such a savage).

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review 2018-01-26 15:43
Marriage bargains across the sea
The Shuttle - Frances Hodgson Burnett

Like it happened to me with the two previous novels by this author, this book happened to me also. As in, there I was reading, and the gorgeous writing caught me and carried me through the pages.

 

The starting issue is difficult to read and heartbreaking. Mixing of cultures, a despicable man and a sweet, naive girl. Reading Nigel's though process was forever icky, and, like I mentioned in some progress update, an abridged manual for abusers. It is startling and scary how accurate many of his observations on human behavior are, and how he uses normal expectations and disbelief as a refuge in audacity (at one point he observes how he's being over-the-top in his villainy, and how it's to his advantage, because who would believe such a discourse happened in real life).

 

Once Betty enters the stage to stay, it becomes more like the standard Hodgson Burnett fare. Much like Sarah Crewe, she's a plucky, resourceful angel. It's one of those unbelievable characters that one still can't help but love and be charmed by.

 

It is a lovely book that tackles a thorny issue in a somewhat rosy but insightful way, and I liked it very much.

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review 2017-09-07 22:55
Intense ride
In the Woods - Tana French

I have to say, this one really swept me on the undertow. My brain is a bit fuzzy after all those hours of intense reading. Classic book hangover.

 

The next thing I have to say, is that the prot is a huge egotistical dick. Funny, charming, engaging, likely quite intelligent, given his job. And in this cluster-F of a case for all around, the most fucked up person of all.

 

Which is a bit funny, given that his issues are the only ones that are not relevant to the case in the end.

(spoiler show)

 

I also though a lot about what I remember from my childhood, and how much gets lost in the years. I get this anxiety to start keeping a diary.

 

And kept sounding that King's quote in my head

 

I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12 - Jesus, did you?

 

There is a lot I'd like to comment on, but it'll be spoilers all around, so really, really, REALLY don't click if you have not read the book.

 

Going on what I was marking as I was reading:

 

- That first transition from third person to first was a wowzer. It's jarring because it's detached, and it implies a certain level of fucked up. And it aligns with the dancing around that he does throughout the case.

 

- Ryan about his college-mates, on his diary. Not a people person, huh?

 

“a herd of mouth-breathing fucktard yokels who wade around in a miasma of cliché so thick you can practically smell the bacon and cabbage and cow shite and altar candles.” Even assuming I was having a bad day, I think this shows a certain lack of respect for cultural differences."

 

- On regulation having excavations reporting human remains over the nine feet line, just because it still cracks me up:

 

"I suppose they figure that anyone who has the enterprise to dig down more than nine feet without getting spotted deserves a little leeway for sheer dedication."

 

- Fast tracking through the archaeological site:

 

“Fair enough,” he said, and started pointing. “Neolithic settlement, Bronze Age ceremonial stone, Iron Age roundhouse, Viking dwellings, fourteenth-century keep, sixteenth-century castle, eighteenth-century cottage.”

 

*snort* Your run of the mill little town, then? And of course, the shitty politic-economical reality

 

"the fucking government is going to bulldoze this whole site and build a fucking motorway over it."

 

- Sam's toast. I was snickering over the part he didn't know. It's magnitudes grimmer humor after all is done.

 

- Ryan has this moment (over Rosalind, of course)

 

"I wanted this girl who was like no girl I had ever known,"

 

I'm really starting to HATE that line. WHAT are all the girls like? How is any girl DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER GIRLS? WHY should being different make you BETTER. It implies that a woman, a common woman, a normal woman (whatever that means) is NOT good enough. AND FUCK THAT!!

 

At any rate, by this point, I didn't know whether to tear my hair out, shout, or thump him with his own book. Cassie warned him. He was so concentrated on his own, he did not realize she was not showing him her soul scars just for a lark.

 

- As we wrap up:

 

"I am intensely aware, by the way, that this story does not show me in a particularly flattering light."

 

Ya think?

 

But before you decide to despise me too thoroughly, consider this: she fooled you, too. You had as good a chance as I did. I told you everything I saw, as I saw it at the time.

 

Nice try Ryan. No dice. Maybe I'm too jaded. I pray I'm never played by psychopath (I confess over the years I've had some serious doubts about one woman I was casual friends with, the memories still make me fidget sometimes) graduated to the homicide leagues, and his pile of reasons are neat, weighty and high. And still. Man, you blew up you life yourself. Systematically.

 

This was, in the end, the most hideous realization of all: Rosalind had not, after all, implanted a microchip behind my ear or drugged me into submission. I had broken every vow myself and steered every boat to shipwreck with my own hand. She had simply, like any good craftswoman, used what came her way.

 

- The two trio parallels, of course.

 

- Sophie's verdict (I cackled)

 

After a few dates, though, and before the relationship had really progressed enough to merit the name, she dumped me. She informed me, matter-of-factly, that she was old enough to know the difference between intriguing and fucked up. “You should go for younger women,” she advised me. “They can’t always tell.”

(spoiler show)

 

The thing is, for all the personal vs character stuff (which sounds ranty but actually enriched the experience for me, lol), I had a grand time. I could not put it down. It is strong in voice. It has hilarious passages, and lovely ones (specially on friendship, as adults and as children), and of course, disturbing ones. And it is absolutely gripping.

 

Whew! Done. Sleep now.

 

 

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review 2017-05-05 09:18
The more I though, the more I raged
Casino Royale - Ian Fleming

I have so many issues with this. The rampant misogyny, of course. The fact that, personally, I find the whole espionage reason d'etre detestable. And generally, the part where this was not the story I was expecting.

Let's say I waive away the misogyny with a bit of dark amusement (passing the middle-point, I just wanted Vesper to stick it to Bond; and then there is the line "sweet tang of rape" that should be killed with fire, you can get some great examples under the spoiler tag), and take the spy tale on the hope that it'll be some fast action cheap-thrill. I did not get even that. I got a lot of card-playing, torture, and then a mess... I don't even know of what category, certainly not romantic, maybe melodrama. Hell,  I though it was already cheap that a woman couldn't be competent unless she was evil, but it was something (see, even lowering my standards to not be an angry female, what a waste), and then Vesper couldn't even rate to Femme-fatal. So no, there is no way to waive the misogyny. It's entrenched into the plot.

Someone could argue it's truer to the real world and the era, either the unexciting grimness or Bond's stance. I say fuck all that. Let us please have no more Vespers in real life, no more Bonds being glorified in fiction. Let us find other icons.

 

You can find some the shout-inducing bits here

Women were for recreation. On a job, they got in the way and fogged things up with sex and hurt feelings and all the emotional baggage they carried around. One had to look out for them and take care of them.

 

Charming, huh? Another beauty:

 

And luck in all its moods had to be loved and not feared. Bond saw luck as a woman, to be softly wooed or brutally ravaged, never pandered to or pursued. But he was honest enough to admit that he had never yet been made to suffer by cards or by women.  One day, and he accepted the fact he would be brought to his knees by love or by luck. When that happened he knew that he too would be branded with the deadly question-mark he recognized so often in others, the promise to pay before you have lost: the acceptance of fallibility.

 

Women, if they defeat you, take away you self-assurance.

 

This was just what he had been afraid of. These blithering women who thought they could do a man's work. Why the hell couldn't they stay at home and mind their pots and pans and stick to their frocks and gossip and leave men's work to the men. And now for this to happen to him, just when the job had come off so beautifully. For Vesper to fall for an old trick like that and get herself snatched and probably held to ransom like some bloody heroine in a strip cartoon. The silly bitch.

 

He really likes that word.

 

'Torture is a terrible thing,' he was saying as he puffed at a fresh cigarette, 'but it is a simple matter for the torturer, particularly when the patient,' he smiled at the word, 'is a man. You see, my dear Bond, with a man it is quite unnecessary to indulge in refinements. With this simple instrument, or with almost any other object, one can cause a man as much pain as is possible or necessary. Do not believe what you read in novels or books about the war. There is nothing worse. It is not only the immediate agony, but also the thought that your manhood is being gradually destroyed and that at the end, if you will not yield, you will no longer be a man.

 

The bad guy has more respect for a woman that the "hero". Women are more difficult, not because of some chivalrous bullshit, but because men are so attached to their organ *eye-roll*. And for the WTF crown:

 

And now he knew that she was profoundly, excitingly sensual, but that the conquest of her body, because of the central privacy in her, would each time have the sweet tang of rape.

 

It's supposed to be romantic. But then, this is just the inner character commentary, you have to still contend with the plot if you can go past that. Fuck this, I'm done.

(spoiler show)

 

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