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review 2018-04-19 05:23
New beginnings
Four Ways to Forgiveness - Ursula K. Le Guin

These are four loosely connected but independent short stories set at the start of Yeowe's independence from Werel, after 30 years of revolutionary war. They are the stories of people as different as they can possibly come, coming to terms. With loss, with cultural differences, with a place in society, with the past. They are all also big on starting anew. And, of course, feminism. The right to freedom, to a voice, to vote, to an education, to not be raped. These are all discussed and are an important part of the book, given the planet's recent upheaval and it's heavy history of slavery and male-dominated environment.

 

I found it bittersweet and lovely, and ended up with a huge bunch of quotes saved and a lump in my throat that I know not what to do with. There is so much wrong with this planet, so much hurt, and yet... it is so hopeful. I guess forgiveness is a kind of hope. Another chance. Much like love; another thing that permeates the book and is ever-present in every story.

 

I have closed it, as so many stories close, with a joining of two people. What is one man’s and one woman’s love and desire, against the history of two worlds, the great revolutions of our lifetimes, the hope, the unending cruelty of our species? A little thing. But a key is a little thing, next to the door it opens. If you lose the key, the door may never be unlocked. It is in our bodies that we lose or begin our freedom, in our bodies that we accept or end our slavery. So I wrote this book for my friend, with whom I have lived and will die free.

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review 2018-01-31 01:22
Meeting changes those that meet
The Word for World is Forest - Ursula K. Le Guin

This was gorgeous and bittersweet take on the clash of cultures, colonization, slavery. I get why it's some people's Le Guin's favorite. I actually finished it the same day I started, it so gripped me (just happened that my connection swallowed my first review and I've been sulking... I mean, one time, ONE, in about fifty, that I do not backup before hitting "post", and of course Murphy says it's the one that fails).

 

I guess it's the amount of win that is packed in so few pages:

 

Davidson being such an archetype of male, white supremacist. He calls himself a "conquistador" like an accolade. His every though chain is like a slap (he's got all the flavors: chauvinistic, racist, dismissive of scholars), and the part that makes it so grotesque is identifying actual, real people in them. Even this gung-ho attitude that he considers heroism, where I could see what passed for badass in westerns and Haggard's novels, and read in context turns into GI fanatism of the Napalm loving type *shudder* The less said about his mental juggling on not considering the natives "human", therefore not slaves, but good to rape the better (the part where it is pointed out that if he does not consider them human then he's indulging in bestialism was fucking awesome).

 

The friendship between Selver and Lyubov. This on-going theme of Le Guin of one single, personal tie across species that changes the tide, bridges culture. The first pebble of the avalanche. The hinting of irrevocable change while Lyubov is worried, right before the camp goes up in flames. The actual naming on the gift exchange scene between Selver and Davidson. The bittersweet knowledge of permanence when Selver says Lyuvob will stay, and so will Davidson. The good with the bad.

 

Real life parallels abound, but it's more than that. It has heart. It makes you think, but at the same time, it makes you feel, and question. I loved it. 

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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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text 2018-01-24 01:49
Reading progress update: I've read 65 out of 512 pages.
The Shuttle - Frances Hodgson Burnett

"It is really not exactly a fault. But she is not of his world.”
“But if he does not like that,” said Bettina coolly, “why did he let her buy him and pay for him?”

Mic drop.

 

I'm loving this chapter on Bettina. There was some commentary on how outsiders group foreigners, and how it irks those, and the phenomenon of feeling your birth-place is more important than what everyone else perceives it as that was as spot on if less savage.

 

On NY on the turn of the XX century, I find interesting the rosy tinted view of the underlying family politics. I'm more inclined to believe Wharton's take.

 

Edit: No, wait, THIS is the mic drop

“Well,” she went on. “What I see is that these things are not business, and they ought to be. If a man comes to a rich American girl and says, ‘I and my title are for sale. Will you buy us?’ If the girl is—is that kind of a girl and wants that kind of man, she can look them both over and say, ‘Yes, I will buy you,’ and it can be arranged. He will not return the money if he is unsatisfactory, but she cannot complain that she has been deceived. She can only complain of that when he pretends that he asks her to marry him because he wants her for his wife, because he would want her for his wife if she were as poor as himself. Let it be understood that he is property for sale, let her make sure that he is the kind of property she wants to buy. Then, if, when they are married, he is brutal or impudent, or his people are brutal or impudent, she can say, ‘I will forfeit the purchase money, but I will not forfeit myself. I will not stay with you.’”
“They would not like to hear you say that, Betty,” said her father, rubbing his chin reflectively.
“No,” she answered. “Neither the girl nor the man would like it, and it is their business, not mine. But it is practical and would prevent silly mistakes. It would prevent the girls being laughed at. It is when they are flattered by the choice made of them that they are laughed at. No one can sneer at a man or woman for buying what they think they want, and throwing it aside if it turns out a bad bargain.”

Holy shit, Betty is a Mary Sue to the hilt, but I freaking love her stance.

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review 2018-01-23 18:52
Left me melancholy
Eugenia Grandet - Honoré de Balzac

The title for the grouping of these Balsac's novels is proper indeed. There was this mix of drama and farce, character study and social critique that entertained as it pained me.

 

I quite liked the style, and found it easy to read. I shall be attempting Pere Goriot soon, and might add Scenes from a Courtesan's Life to my tbr pile (yeah, it never shrinks *grin*)

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