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review 2018-06-19 17:15
Dora Doralina / Rachel de Queiroz
Dora Doralina - Rachel de Queiroz

"What kills you today is forgotten tomorrow. I don't know if this is true or false because all that's real for me is remembrance." In her old age, Dora reflects on the major influences in her life: her mother, her career in the theater, and her one true love. Set in Brazil in the early part of the century, Dora, Doralina is a story about power. Through her fierce resistance to her mother and her later life as a working woman and widow, Doralina attempts to define herself in a time and culture which places formidable obstacles before women. Married off by her mother to a man she does not love, told what to wear and eat, Dora's reclaiming of herself is full of both discovery and rage. For her, independence is the right to protect herself and make her own choices. From a life confined by religion and "respectability," even her passionate attachment to a hard-drinking smuggler contains an act of free will previously unavailable to her. Dora, Doralina is an intimate, realistic, and vivid glimpse of one woman's struggle for independence, for a life in which she owns her actions, her pleasure, and her pain.

 

I read this book to fill the Q position in my quest to read women authors A-Z in 2018. I will honestly tell you that it is not a novel that I would naturally pick up so I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as someone who regularly reads literary fiction.

This is a character driven story which reads very much like an autobiography. It is basically a window into the world of women in Brazil in the first half of the twentieth century. Brazilian society, as in many societies at the time, is extremely macho and women don’t have all that much latitude.

The book is divided into three sections, representing three stages in the life of our narrator, Dora. The first section is Dora growing up and struggling with the control of her domineering mother. Dora refers to her as Senhora, not mother, and seems to be one of the only people in the household who longs for freedom. Dora ends up in a marriage which was more-or-less engineered by Senhora, and while she doesn’t mind her husband, she’s not desperately fond of him either. When he is killed, Dora takes a page from her mother’s playbook and uses her widowhood to give herself more freedom in the world.

The second section is Dora’s adventures in the world outside her mother’s farm. She finds employment and eventually ends up on stage, despite her shyness. She is both fiercely independent and highly reliant on her friends in the acting company, a duality that she freely acknowledges. And it is during her travels with the company that she meets the love of her life.

Part three is her life with The Captain. He reminded me of her first husband in several ways (his drinking, his macho possessiveness) but Dora’s feelings for him make the marriage an altogether different experience from the first.

Documenting women’s lives is an important pursuit, filling in the blanks of previously ignored reality. The novel also shows the particular barriers that many South American women are up against culturally.

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text 2018-05-31 17:50
Women Writers Bingo / Project: Tracking Post

 

Read:

A - Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley, Mystery Mile, Look to the Lady, Police at the Funeral, Sweet Danger, Death of a Ghost, Flowers for the Judge, The Case of the Late Pig, Dancers in Mourning, The Fashion in Shrouds, Traitor's Purse, and The Tiger in the Smoke (all new); The Man With the Sack (revisited on audio);

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Half of a Yellow Sun (new);

Margaret Atwood: The Penelopiad (new) and The Blind Assassin (both audio)

B - Anne Brontë: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (revisited on audio)

C - Helen Czerski: Storm in a Teacup (new);

Agatha Christie: The Moving Finger, One, Two, Buckle my Shoe, Murder Is Easy, They Do It With Mirrors, and N or M? (all revisited on audio), Crooked House (revisited on audio and DVD) and Destination Unknown (new)

D - Margaret Drabble: The Red Queen (new)

E -

F -

G - Elizabeth George: For the Sake of Elena, Playing for the Ashes, and Well-Schooled in Murder (all revisited on audio);

Elizabeth Gaskell: Cranford (revisited on audio)

H - Radclyffe Hall: The Well of Loneliness (new);

Mavis Doriel Hay: Death on the Cherwell (new);

Patricia Highsmith: The Talented Mr. Ripley (revisited on audio);

Kathryn Harkup: A Is for Arsenic (new)

I -

J - P.D. James: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories (new), Original Sin, Death of an Expert Witness, Unnatural Causes, and The Skull Beneath the Skin (all revisited on audio)

K -

L -

M - Val McDermid: The Distant Echo and Trick of the Dark (both new);

Ngaio Marsh: Death in a White Tie, Off With His Head (aka Death of a Fool), Clutch of Constables, Death at the Dolphin (aka Killer Dolphin), Hand in Glove, and Death in a White Tie (all revisited on audio)

N -

O - Emmuska Orczy: The Old Man in the Corner (new) and The Scarlet Pimpernel (revisited on audio)

P - Anne Perry: A Dangerous Mourning and The Whitechapel Conspiracy (both new);

Ellis Peters: The Sanctuary Sparrow and Dead Man's Ransom (both revisited on audio)

Q -

R - J.K. Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith): The Cuckoo's Calling, The Silkworm, and Career of Evil (all new);

J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (all on audio)

S - Dennis McCarthy & June Schlueter: "A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels" by George North -- A Newly Uncovered Manuscript Source for Shakespeare's Plays (new);

Dorothy L. Sayers: Unnatural Death (revisited on audio)

T - Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar and The Franchise Affair (both new);

Amy Tan: The Chinese Siamese Cat (new)

U -

V -

W - Ethel Lina White: The Lady Vanishes (aka The Wheel Spins) and The Spiral Staircase (aka Some Must Watch) (both new);

Patricia Wentworth: Miss Silver Intervenes, Latter End, and Poison in the Pen (all new)

X -

Y -

Z - Juli Zeh: Schilf (English title: Dark Matter) and Unterleuten (both new)

 

Free / center square:

 

On the card, I am only tracking new reads, not rereads.

 

Read, to date in 2018:

Books by female authors: 68

- new: 41

- rereads: 27

 

Books by male authors: 33

- new: 31

- rereads: 2

 

Books by F & M mixed teams / anthologies: 1

- new: 1

- rereads:

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review 2018-05-30 17:04
The Borrower / Rebecca Makkai
The Borrower - Rebecca Makkai

Lucy Hull, a young children's librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, finds herself both a kidnapper and kidnapped when her favorite patron, ten- year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home. The precocious Ian is addicted to reading, but needs Lucy's help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly antigay classes with celebrity Pastor Bob. Lucy stumbles into a moral dilemma when she finds Ian camped out in the library after hours with a knapsack of provisions and an escape plan. Desperate to save him from Pastor Bob and the Drakes, Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian. The odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets, an inconvenient boyfriend, and upsetting family history thrown in their path. But is it just Ian who is running away? Who is the man who seems to be on their tail? And should Lucy be trying to save a boy from his own parents?

 

I’m not sure yet why I didn’t love this book as much as I expected to. Perhaps it’s because I never have read Mary Norton’s The Borrowers , and therefore couldn’t appreciate the parallels that Makkai was making.

The main character, Lucy Hull, is a children’s librarian, who becomes overly concerned with the welfare of her favourite library patron, Ian Drake. Being in library work myself, I usually adore books involving libraries and librarians. This one also references many books of childhood, another characteristic that I generally appreciate.

Although I tend to prefer ambiguous or realistic endings, I had problems with the wrap-up of this novel. The whole plot line of a run-away boy with the librarian who aids and abets him just didn’t work for me as it has for other readers. Your mileage may vary, perhaps I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to enjoy it right now. At any rate, I had to really push myself to finish the book and was left less than satisfied when I turned the final page.

But I truly did love some passages in the book, such as Lucy’s description of The Wizard of Oz:

And second, everyone is so weird, but they’re all completely accepted. It’s like, okay, you have a pumpkin head, and that guy’s made of tin, and you’re a talking chicken, but what the hell, let’s do a road trip.


That is one of the great pleasures of literature, its ability to make the unusual seem absolutely normal.

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text 2018-05-18 18:07
The Country Girls / Edna O'Brien
The Country Girls - Edna O'Brien

Meet Kate and Baba, two young Irish country girls who have spent their childhood together. As they leave the safety of their convent school in search of life and love in the big city, they struggle to maintain their somewhat tumultuous relationship. Kate, dreamy and romantic, yearns for true love, while Baba just wants to experience the life of a single girl. Although they set out to conquer the world together, as their lives take unexpected turns, Kate and Baba must ultimately learn to find their own way.

 

I have absolutely no idea how to rate this book. Can I say that I enjoyed it? Yes and no. Can I say that I appreciated it? Yes indeed.

It was an important book for its time—published in 1960 and showing an Ireland that doesn’t exist anymore. One where the Catholic Church and patriarchy reigned supreme and women had extremely limited choices. You could get married or become a nun. That was pretty much it, at least for the country girls. Women weren’t admitted to be sexual beings and weren’t supposed to criticize how their society worked.

Edna O’Brien writes beautifully about the naiveté of the two rural girls when they come to the big city. Kate is the artistic, romantic, intellectual girl who has idealistic visions of what life should be like. She wants to discuss literature with her dates and they only value her sexuality. She becomes involved with an older married man from her village because he offers a window into the more sophisticated world that Kate longs for. Baba, on the other hand, is far more earthy—she wants to smoke, drink, and enjoy the company of men. The two women couldn’t be more different from one another, but small communities make for strange friendships. With few people of the right age to choose from, you bond with the most compatible person available and these relationships rarely withstand leaving home.

The poverty, the alcohol problems, the repression of women--The Country Girls reveals them all. No wonder this book was denounced and banned. It was hanging out the dirty linen for the world to look at.

Ireland is a country that is definitely on my “to visit” list. I love reading books which are set there and I will definitely read more of O’Brien’s work.

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review 2018-05-14 18:46
The Bloodbound / Erin Lindsey
The Bloodbound - Erin Lindsey

A cunning and impetuous scout, Alix only wishes to serve quietly on the edges of the action. But when the king is betrayed by his own brother and left to die at the hands of attacking Oridian forces, she winds up single-handedly saving her sovereign.

Suddenly, she is head of the king’s personal guard, an honor made all the more dubious by the king’s exile from his own court. Surrounded by enemies, Alix must help him reclaim his crown, all the while attempting to repel the relentless tide of invaders led by the Priest, most feared of Oridia’s lords.

But while Alix’s king commands her duty, both he and a fellow scout lay claim to her heart. And when the time comes, she may need to choose between the two men who need her most…

 

Another one of the authors who will be featured at When Words Collide this August. She has attended before, at the point where this book had just been published (as a panelist, but not a featured guest). Gotta like a book cover which features a woman with a big-ass sword!

Alix Black is an engaging main character, as she scouts for the army, fights when necessary, and sorts out her feelings for the men in her life. She has a bit of a tendency to act first and think later, which causes some complications! It also keeps her from being entirely a Mary Sue character—she makes enough blunders to keep her grounded.

For those who detest love triangles, you may want to give this book a miss, but if you have tolerance for such plot devices, this one resolves itself before the end of the volume. A bit predictably, but very sweetly.

I was impressed enough that I immediately put a hold on the second book at my library and I’ll be looking forward to hearing the author at this summer’s conference.

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