This is one of those books that make me doubt my own taste, but in a good way? Maybe? It was so hype-y and I’m always so eye-roll-y about hype-y books. And I read the description and thought “I wouldn’t like this book.” And I read reviews and thought “Neh. Not for me.” And then I checked out the e-book one night on a whim–because it appeared toward the top of the “now available” list and two pages in I thought “It’s okay” and then fifty pages later, when I still hadn’t gone to sleep, I thought “Huh. Weird. I guess I really like this book.” I’m not sure what it is about the book that works. Technically it should be boring. If you’ve ever sat in a coffeeshop and listened to other people–who aren’t you–chat with each other, you know that the very concept of conversations with friends (who aren’t you), is boring. Add to this the fact that there’s nothing in this book that is anywhere outside the realm of fairly normal human experience. Confusion about who you love, confusion about morality, lots of talking about politics, fights with friends, tension with parents . . . It’s all very quotidien. But I guess that what makes it work is the extremely well-constructed characterization.
So here’s the love, like, meh-factor breakdown: I loved Bobbi and Frances–their friendship is complicated and golden and if you heard them chatting in a coffeeshop, you would listen, even though they were talking about people and ideas you didn’t know. I liked the story of the affair–the tension–conversational and physical–was well-described; I find most sex in books boring, and this was one of the few that really portrayed the way in which sex is a kind of conversation, without verging into either unnecessary eroticism or pointedly boring flesh-shuffling. I was very “meh” about the portrayal of Women Over Thirty. It wasn’t offensive exactly but I think it’s sort of … lame to paint them into a corner of catty, insecure caricatures, without self-consciously confronting the fact that the main characters who were interacting with them–as well as the author who was writing them–are very much in their twenties. Young women writers, DO BETTER. There’s a lot more to us than being bitter about the “old age” of the mid-thirties.
Hello there! Hope you are all enjoying a warm and wonderful holiday time, sharing good food and good stories with dear ones, baiting Santa Claus with sugar cookies, and maybe cracking the spine of that novel that’s been sitting on your shelf for the last six months…
As for my household, we are delightfully non-mobile this year, and looking forward to a quiet Christmas with no work, lots of time with the kids (our favourite holiday tradition is to remove all limits on sweets and screen time and let everyone pile into blanket-covered mush heaps on the couch for days on end, it is AMAZING), and hopefully some sledding. If we play our cards right, there may even be some time for reading books that don’t have pictures!
If you’re looking for some recommendations, for now or for the new year, here is a little glimpse onto my bookshelf.
A quick update on what’s been going on around here…
I wrote my last post on March 31, 2018, which in dog years is basically a lifetime ago, and in human years is also a pretty long time. While I kept reading (oh, I read so many things) I was also caught up in a very busy chapter of my own life. Which left not a whole lot of time to report back on my findings in the literary field.
Well, my kids are now sleep-through-the-night years old, and I have settled in at the (new) job (I started a year ago), and it seemed like a great time to get back to writing about books which, let’s face it, is the only thing I would do with my time if my time were entirely my own. (Reader, it is not.)
Some info about where life has taken me since spring 2018:
Loves, I haven’t written in a while. I know. There you are, sitting around waiting patiently, in quiet desperation, for me to tell you what to read. And here I am, barely able to make it through a page before I have to get up out of my chair and rush with great urgency to feed, rock, hug, wipe, play with, or find something for one of my kids. Here’s my advice–if you would like to spend the rest of your days in uninterrupted reading, do not have children. If you can deal with going through the same paragraph over and over and over again, by all means, reproduce. And for godsake, get a spiffy bookmark and use it with the gusto of a drowning man grabbing a life preserver.
Loves, it’s the end of 2017. That’s right. We did it! (as my toddler says). We walked through this year and we came out unscathed. But we’re still here, we’re still fighting the power, and if you (like me) are someone who has dedicated yourself to words and reading them, and sometimes even stringing them together, you (like me) think that reading and writing (ENGAGING WITH THOUGHTS) are the most important activities, probably now a bit more so than usual. So let’s keep doing it. And by it I mean this. And by this I mean THINKING. A thing that is done primarily through words.
Hello! Guess what. I quit my job to read novels full time.
Just kidding! Gotcha.
However, I did some time off work in order to prepare for the arrival of bébé numéro deux. As a tremendously awesome consequence, (which almost-but-not-quite makes up for the unbearable HUGENESS of my life right now), I have more time to read.
Here’s what that looks like…
I was very excited to see an English translation of Yanick Lahens’ Bain de lune, English title Moonbath, published by Deep Vellum in August. Since I’ve written a full review soon to be published elsewhere, I’m not going to dish too much here, but it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that this book gets my thumbs up. Read it, y’all.
In other review reading…
I received a copy of Megan Stielstra’s The Wrong Way to Save Your Life (HarperCollins, August 2017), and I have mixed feelings. Her writing is really quite wonderful. And, in a way, I couldn’t put the book down, simply because it flows so well and because her tone is a delight. I may even pick up her other collections. But as essays, I found them a bit disappointing.
Let me tell you something. Between 9-5 in an office, chasing a toddler, producing literary events, and coordinating volunteers at the Blue Met festival this year, I have barely had enough time to breathe lately, let alone read. Let alone write any words about books that I’m reading.
Yet. Somehow (probably in the time I was supposed to be breathing) I managed to actually finish a few books in May. Let me tell you about them.
First, Janie Chang’s Dragon Springs Road. I read most of this book on the train from Montreal to Toronto and back. And it was a PERFECT train book. The story of a young girl–abandoned by her mother, raised as a sort of servant in her adoptive home, the choices that she has, the choices that she doesn’t–was told in a tone that is both tender and matter-of-fact. Not indulging in sentiment, but not brutally realist either.
Of particular interest is the character of Fox, an animal spirit (mostly hanging out in different human woman forms) who lives on Dragon Springs Road and takes care of her various female companions. This supernatural element, rather than being relegated to the realm of a fictional flourish, is actually a major driving force in the novel’s plot.