Recent Reading: Novels In Pieces

whistle-darkOnce again the two novels I’ve read most recently have, quite coincidentally, something in common, but this time it’s a matter of form rather than content. Both Emma Healey’s Whistle in the Dark and Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer are composed of assembled pieces — too long to be fragments, too short (mostly) to be chapters, always with a suggestive or quirky ‘headline.’ This structure made me slightly irritable in both cases. Why is this a thing to do? What’s the point–aesthetic or thematic? It seems to me the novelist equivalent of those long essays (we’ve all read them) that have little rows of asterisks instead of actual transitions between their parts. It looks unfinished to me. Go on, write the whole novel! We can wait to read it until then. 🙂



I find I don’t have a great deal else to say about the novels themselves. I read them both fairly fast and with fairly rapt attention, which is something of an endorsement, though to some extent I think it’s also an acknowledgment that small brisk pieces are easier to consume than dense sustained narratives. (Could that be why … ?) Of the two of them, my strong favorite is Healey’s, which is a searching (literally and figuratively) story about a mother and her difficult teenage daughter, who goes missing for four days and then refuses to say where she was or what happened. Like Elizabeth Is MissingWhistle in the Dark effectively captures the stress of disorientation, of not knowing, of grasping at an elusive and also frightening truth. It also seems to me a very realistic portrayal of a mother’s frustration with being shut out and criticized precisely because she wants more than anything else in the world to help someone she loves. Even in situations less dire than that in the novel, that kind of emotional push and pull can be exhausting. Whistle in the Dark is grimmer than Elizabeth Is Missing: it has none of the whimsy and poignancy of Healey’s first novel and it takes us (again, both literally and figuratively) to darker places–even though in the end I suppose it tends in a happier direction, as there’s no escape, no epiphany, that can bring Maud back from her lost state, whereas we are left feeling hopeful about Jen and Lana.

My Sister, the Serial Killer seemed to me a deft piece of rather morbid and mordant entertainment: fast-paced, funny–in that “I can’t believe this is happening” way that isn’t really (IMHO) a particularly valuable form of wit, because it relies so much on shock–and superficially provocative. I think I would have liked and admired a novel that really grappled with the kind of conflict Braithwaite toys with: how far do you stand by someone committing unpardonable acts? What context, what background, what loyalty, what principle is worth more to you than holding someone accountable for murder? (This is a standard tool in the crime fiction kit, of course.) To me, however, Braithwaite’s treatment seemed glib and shallow and her protagonist’s choice morally indefensible without being interesting in any other way. Meh. YMMV.

Recent Reading: War Stories

Over the past week I read two books about World War II, but that’s as much as they have in common. In fact, they are about such different parts of the war, and they treat their subject so differently, that it makes almost no sense to consider them together, except that I read them one after the other!

The first was Lissa Evans’s Their Finest (which I learned from Dorian’s post was originally called Their Finest Hour and a Half, which makes much more sense!). I liked this novel a lot: it is brisk, wry, witty, and self-aware, especially about the will to create a heroic myth out of circumstances that in reality are an uneven mixture of banality, accident, and tragedy. The Blitz is pretty familiar fictional (and historical) territory–I think the best fictional treatment of it I’ve read is in Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which is so good in those parts that I wished she had given up on the novel’s big gimmick and just written the convincing and heartrending book about the Blitz that she is clearly capable of. On the other hand, a convincing and straightforward story (you know, the kind that gets called “old-fashioned”) is harder to pull off than it sounds, and one thing Life After Life and Their Finest have in common is breaking up that potential narrative into parts that diffuse the risk. If the ingenuity comes at a cost, it’s one that Evans at least is clearly paying deliberately as she resists the pull of the romanticizing and potentially dangerous nostalgia with which the Blitz is now so often treated.

Dorian describes Their Finest as “perfect light reading” and then goes on to explain with his usual astute clarity how it is also about the way “hard work underlies effortlessness.” His post is really good and thorough, so if you want more detail about Evans’s novel I recommend you pop over and read it. I think in the end he admires Their Finest more than I did, but I certainly enjoyed it a lot, and I appreciate that Dorian passed his copy on to me when we had the pleasure of meeting in person in Halifax last week! I will definitely look for Evans’s other books.

I can’t exactly say that I enjoyed Michael Kaan’s The Water Beetles, which follows a young Chinese boy’s experiences after the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong in 1941. Much of the novel is dedicated to literal and often harrowing details of the dirt and pain and suffering and inhumanity Chung-Man endures, first as a refugee from and then as a prisoner of the Japanese forces. The worst of many horrors is the forced “evacuation” of a hospital to make way for Japanese soldiers who have been wounded:

They began shooting the patients. Despite all the gunfire we’d heard over the past several months, Leuk and I started at the first shot. On the top floor a window opened, and the shouting became much clearer as all the windows banged violently open. It was like the rising of a curtain at the theatre.

An old man with a bandaged head appeared suddenly in a window in a tall-backed wheelchair. One of his hands was raised and waving strangely. He lunged forward as the soldier behind him tipped his chair. The old man plummeted to the gravel below. . . . The soldiers disgorged the sick and mutilated into the air, as though unloading bags off a truck.

Kaan’s flat but relentless prose effectively matches the grim endurance necessary to persist and survive in the face of so much brutality.

The war story in The Water Beetles is interspersed with details about Chung-Man’s more recent life: the novel is as much about the lingering effects of his childhood trauma as it is about the war itself. Identity and continuity are recurrent themes: how is it possible to be the same person we once were when so much separates now and then, and what connects us to that former self? For Chung-Man, it’s memories, and family, and also relics such as the tarnished gold belt buckle that during the war is both a secret resource to be hoarded and a fraught link between his past and the future he hardly dares imagine. After the war, the buckle becomes symbolically suggestive: beneath its blackened surface the gold has endured, just as Chung-Man has survived and made something new of his life. Though the old pain and loss remain a part of him, they have not defined him, and this allows a note of hope to soften the novel’s impact.

In Brief: Recent Reading

chasing-christmas-eveWhen you don’t blog for a while, or at least when I don’t, one of the obstacles to getting back into a routine is the clutter of possible things to blog about, which becomes strangely unmotivating because it’s hard to pick one topic and just get started. This is an attempt to clear out some of that clutter!

I have been busy and kind of distracted lately, and I also am just getting over shingles (a relatively mild case, fortunately, but still an intrusion on my general well-being), so I have not been able to focus on much sustained reading beyond what I’ve had to do for my classes. Still, I have managed to putter through a few romances that I plucked more or less at random off the library shelves in search of undemanding distraction. (It’s not that I think romances are always or only undemanding distractions, but one good thing about adding romance to my reading repertoire has been knowing it can offer light diversion when needed.) Two of these were OK but nothing special: Jill Shalvis’s Chasing Christmas Eve, which I enjoyed for its interesting choice of careers for its protagonists, including the inevitably self-referential “successful author” role for the heroine (which, even more self-referentially, involves her ‘discovering’ that her new book is — gasp — a romance!), and Start Me Up by Nicole Michaels, which is blandly predictable but has a blogger heroine who at least raises some mildly interesting questions about online / off-line identities and boundaries. I started but didn’t get far in Sarah Morgan’s Holiday in the Hamptons: this is par for the course for me with Morgan, whose books always sound cute but feel very formulaic once I actually start reading them.

BestOfLuckThe one stand-out experience in my recent romance reading was Kate Clayborn’s Best of Luck, which I did not pick up haphazardly at the library but had pre-ordered on the strength of the first two books in the series, Beginner’s Luck and Luck of the Draw. I liked the first one just fine and then really liked the second one a lot; both have also stood up well to rereading. Best of Luck is a good finale for the trilogy. Like the first two, its biggest strength is its characters, who have both distinct and plausibly complicated personalities and histories and genuinely interesting work to do–something Clayborn gives a lot of attention to. I like that: I have a documented fondness for ‘neepery’ and each of her books offers it in spades. The books are not particularly funny or witty, but they are not ponderous, and they earn their angst rather than piling it on (which is what I thought happened in my one excursion into Alisha Rai). The pacing is good and the alternating points of view for each chapter keeps things interesting as the conflicts develop and then resolve. I realize these comments are sort of generic! But that’s because reading and liking Best of Luck after reading and either not liking or not caring much about a handful of other books in the same genre got me thinking about what makes a romance work for me. Voice has a lot to do with it, and so does freshness, and for me the ‘Chance of a Lifetime’ books get high marks for both.

hobbitThe other book I was reading for a while (inspired by my not entirely successful experience with N. K. Jemison’s The Fifth Season) was The Hobbit. It turns out that The Hobbit (like Little Women) is a book I know so well from my childhood that it is almost impossible for me to really see the words on the page. It isn’t so much that I read it often as that my brother had the marvelous Nicol Williamson audiobook and listened to it often with me within earshot. After the initial pleasure of revisiting the people and places wore off, I found myself easily distracted because I knew all too well what was coming next, and after a while I just stopped going back to it.

Much more promising, as far as engrossing me even amidst other distractions, is Hans Fallada’s Every Man Dies Alone, which I have just started but am already thoroughly involved in. When I asked Dorian about it on Twitter, he described as “Dickens with fascism,” which is a marketing blurb that would probably always work for me! So far, that seems a fair description, and I am looking forward both to the rest of the book itself and to feeling myself back in a reading groove again.

Recent Reading: Mostly Unfinished

mirror-thiefI’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, which has been reflected in the slow pace of my blogging. I’m not sure exactly what is behind it this time, but I think it happens to all of us occasionally, and it always passes eventually. Still, it’s a disheartening phase when it comes, to be picking up books and putting them down again without much caring!

One book I started that I will definitely try again when the evil spell lifts is Martin Seay’s The Mirror Thief. I think I just took it from the shelf at the wrong time: it wasn’t quite the book I was expecting, or it wasn’t in its first 100 pages or so anyway, and the disappointment I felt about that was getting in the way of my reading it for the book it actually is, which might turn out be great. I was expecting it to feel more like cerebral but heartfelt historical fiction–if not Hilary Mantel, then maybe Rose Tremain–and instead its opening sections read to me more like The Goldfinch–slick, clever, even artful, but a bit coldly superficial. I will come back to it eventually and see it through. It does look really good, and so many enthusiastic critics can’t be wrong–can they? (I know, I know: a lot of them thought The Goldfinch was great.)

Killing_Floor_CoverI also started Lee Child’s Killing Floor, the first of his hugely popular Jack Reacher thrillers. I admit it had never occurred to me to try this series until Stig Abell, the editor of the TLS, sang its praises. I had no particular assumptions about Lee Child, good or bad, it’s just that the books had never stood out to me until Abell said how much he’d enjoyed reading through them all last year–so I picked up a couple at a book sale. I got about half way through Killing Floor before I lost interest. I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with this book any more than there is anything wrong with The Mirror Thief:  in fact, I thought Killing Floor seemed quite good of its kind. But for whatever reason I just wasn’t gripped–I wasn’t even slightly curious about how the knotty plot was going to turn out, and so I eventually stopped picking it up again after I put it down. When I started it, it reminded me of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser mysteries, which I love. It is much wordier, and it may be that I wouldn’t enjoy Parker’s books if it took a lot longer for things to happen in them–or if Parker spent as much more time on the really grim bits as Child does here. I also didn’t bond with Reacher. I was intrigued by Child’s introduction, in which he outlines his own motivations for the style of the series as a whole and for Reacher’s character in particular. Reacher is deliberately both arrogant and hard to like, which are not qualities I’m against in principle, in a main character–but again, I don’t imagine I would like Parker’s books if I didn’t find Spenser’s combination of strength and honor so appealing. Maybe I’ll appreciate Reacher more as a character if/when I get to know him better. For now, though, I’ve put him on hold.

lady-225It’s not as if I haven’t read any books all the way through since classes ended. One thing that works is coercion! I’ve read two books for reviews, one an interesting study of Agatha Christie, the other a new novel by Canadian writer Merilyn Simonds. (My review of the former has been filed; my review of the latter is underway.) I’m also making good progress on Margaret Drabble’s The Radiant Way, which I need to finish for next weekend’s meeting of my book club. Deadlines are useful things. In the interstices of my days I’ve also reread all three of Cecilia Grant’s Blackshear Family romances. They are all excellent–and each has its own distinct flavor, a display of versatility I admire in the author. I think the first, A Lady Awakened, remains my favorite.

I hope I do get my reading mojo back soon. My slump has even spilled over into my book shopping–a rare symptom indeed! I have yet to pick out any books with the lovely birthday gift card I was given, because I haven’t felt more than perfunctory interest in any books I’ve examined while browsing. Mind you, some of that reticence is also guilt about putting more unread books on my shelves when I have so many still unfinished, or not yet begun, on them already! But I think my moood is also part and parcel of the mental reorientation that goes on during the transition from the teaching term to the summer months. I’m going to try not to worry about it too much. I’ll just keep plugging away at the books I have to read, and keep trying to find the book that lights me up again, whatever it might be. If all else fails, there’s always Dickens, who has saved me from slumps before!

Recent Reading: Mostly Romance

I had been feeling unnecessarily guilty (because after all, it’s not as if I’m answerable to anybody about this!) that I haven’t done much reading–and thus much book blogging–for some time. But then it occurred to me that in fact I have been reading pretty steadily; it’s just that it has mostly been what I think of as “interstitial” reading–reading that fills in the time between other more demanding tasks, reading that distracts and amuses rather than demands much in its turn, either because it’s already familiar or because its prose is light rather than dense.

I don’t in any way mean to belittle the books I read in this way: they are a vital part of my reading ecosystem! They used to be mostly mysteries, and Dick Francis and Robert B. Parker still make regular appearances in this role–for instance, not long ago I finished a reread of Francis’s 10-Lb. Penalty, which I decided in retrospect got short shrift in my round-up of Francis’s “Top Ten.” Since I belatedly learned to stop worrying and love romance too, now I also have a pool of reliable favorites in that genre that I reread, and I’m also alert to suggestions for new ones to try. In fact, these days I’m more likely to search up new romances than new mysteries: for whatever reason, right now I find it harder to accept the necessary machinery of detective novels unless I’m already friends with the protagonists – and even then it doesn’t necessarily go well for us.

So while I have been starting and then putting aside other books that demand more concentration than I seem able to apply right now outside of work and deadlines (including Elizabeth Taylor’s A View from the Harbour and Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s The Fatigue Artist, both of which I fully intend to finish eventually), I have read and reread a bunch of other titles. Some quick comments on the new ones (or the ones that were new to me):

I really enjoyed Kate Clayborn’s Beginner’s Luck. Right away I liked that its leads had unusual jobs, meaning there was a fair amount of “neepery”: the heroine is a lab technician with the potential to be a research scientist of a different kind if she saw her life a bit differently, and the hero is a corporate recruiter but also hangs out in his family’s salvage yard, so on top of the science stuff there are also lots of details about things like old light fixtures. The title refers in part to the premise of what is presumably going to be a trilogy about three best friends who have won the lottery, but while Kit’s financial fortune is certainly part of the context for the story, I appreciated that it is a fraught part–it has not by any means solved all of her problems. The story is well told and the relationship (including its “big mis”) is believable.

I’ve also enjoyed the two I’ve read so far from Ruby Lang’s Practice Perfect series. I liked Hard Knocks better than Acute Reactions, and neither of them really delighted me; I think both of those reactions are about my own preferred angst-to-wit ratio–which is probably why I liked Jennifer Crusie’s Manhunting, which somehow I had missed before in my Crusie reading, better than either of them.

Not all of my romance reading has been very successful. I’ve DNF’ed three historicals in the past couple of weeks: two by Eloisa James, including Wilde in Love, and Loretta Chase’s newest, A Duke in Shining Armor. They all felt perfunctory to me, from their starting premises to their characters, and I just didn’t care enough about how we were going to get to the inevitable HEA to keep going. I was trying to put my finger on why Chase’s Carsington novels interest me so much more (they are among my most frequent rereads).  Part of it is because so much more is at stake in them than the feelings of the leads (the dispute over the planned canal in Miss Wonderful, for example), but there’s also something different in the quality of the characterization, and in the pace and wit of the dialogue–something that just seems to be missing in the new ones. As I set these three books aside (and remembered, too, how uninspired I was by recent books by Tessa Dare and Sarah MacLean, who have written other books that are among my favorites), I  found myself thinking with renewed appreciation also of Cecilia Grant‘s excellent historical romances, not one of which has given me that sense of just going through the motions.

At least I know better now than to assume that a bad run (for me, of course – YMMV etc.) is not a reflection on the genre, which like all kinds of books will have hits and misses for any individual reader. I think I am a bit quicker to abandon genre fiction (including mysteries) if I’m not really enjoying it, whereas I tend to persist to the end of “literary” novels in case the payoff there just takes longer to emerge. Is that snobbery, or a reflection of the different reasons I read, and the different expectations I bring to, different kinds of books? I also read mysteries and romances quite differently when I’m reading them for other purposes, such as teaching. But sometimes I want to read without thinking all that hard–maybe the way to put it is that sometimes I want the book to do all the work, and to carry me along. I’m pretty sure some people do all their reading that way! At any rate, for me the books that serve this purpose for me when I need it are among those I treasure the most.

Recent Reading: the Good, the Bad, and the OK

Image result for the walworth beautyOver the past week I read three novels. Only one, Michele Roberts’s The Walworth Beauty, was for a review! The short version: it’s fine. Some things about it are very good, but overall I wasn’t that excited about it. I’m starting to feel I’ve read enough neo-Victorian novels. This has never been my favorite genre in any case, but it is (for obvious reasons) a reasonable one for me to pitch or be assigned for reviewing. As a result, over the past year or so, I’ve read (and reviewed) Steven Price’s By Gaslight, Dan Vyleta’s Smoke, Graeme Macrea Burnet’s His Bloody Project, Sarah Moss’s Signs for Lost Children, Lesley Krueger’s Mad Richard, Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, and now The Walworth Beauty. I’m never 100% sure what makes a novel ‘ne0-Victorian’ instead of just ‘set in the 19th century’; if I use the broader category, Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder would also count, as would Dinitia Smith’s The Honeymoon and Diana Souhami’s Gwendolen. Some of these have been really good, but there’s a certain sameness to a lot of them–a palpable restraint in the prose, for instance, a lot of short sentences, an artful absence of sentimentality, or indeed any extremes of overt emotion. Sometimes this style works beautifully, but often it leaves me hungry for the qualities I love in novels from, rather than about, the Victorian period. I think this feeling that modern incarnations of the period are somewhat stifled artistically is starting to affect my judgment of individual examples–which is one reason I’m happy that my next couple of writing projects take me in completely different directions.

Image result for we have always lived in the castleFor my book club, I read Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. What a treat that was. It’s like a perverse inside-out fairy tale. In our discussion of it, we got particularly interested in the way it destabilizes our sympathies. There’s the initial instinct to side with the narrator, which of course quickly turns out to be a mistake, except that she is being persecuted–though not unfairly, since after all, she is a murderer.  Jackson evokes the horror of mob violence as well here as she does in “The Lottery”: the scene that begins with the fire chief throwing the first stone unfolds in an equally horrifying way–except that at least one of the targets is in no way an innocent victim, and later on, some of the villagers seem to be horrified, in their turn, at what they’ve done. We puzzled over Merricat’s motivation, or rather, over whether she has one, for killing her family. The suggestion seems to be that she didn’t much like being sent to her room without dinner, or in any way being thwarted or crossed. So the murders may be the act of a vengeful narcissist, a spoiled brat gone rogue. On the other hand, maybe there is no reason, which in its own way is even scarier. It’s a brilliantly written little book. I was hooked from the first paragraph, which is a perfect combination of whimsy and menace:

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

There’s so much else going on, from the intimations of magic to Constance’s cloistered virtue to the predatory character of Cousin Charles — it’s a lot of twisted fun, and followed even better than expected on our last book, Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress, especially the story “Torching the Dusties.” Our next pick is Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes, which carries on the theme of women acting in uncanny ways.

I expected Sarah MacLean’s The Day of the Duchess to be a lot of fun too, but I really didn’t enjoy it and ended up skimming the last third or so of it just to get to the end. I have liked some of MacLean’s romances a lot, including The Rogue Not Taken, the first one in this series, but this book tilted too far towards the “feels” for me: it’s all angst and yearning, without any frolicking. I’m not necessarily saying it isn’t well done. It’s just that my own taste in romance tilts instead towards comedy. Also, more than I remember noticing in MacLean’s books before, The Day of the Duchess is full of the kind of writing that seems meant to force feelings on you, rather than allow you to arrive at your own reactions–lots of fragments, and lots of single line paragraphs, devices which to me almost always backfire: rather than increasing the impact of the line, they make it seem artificial, especially if the trick is used over and over again. I’ve been trying to think if there are any consistently serious romances that I really like. Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm is the only one I can come up with. Blame my inner cynic, which, as I’ve said before, makes me accept an HEA only if it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

I’ve picked Arnaldur Indridason’s Arctic Chill to read next. It suits the weather we’ve had this holiday weekend: two days of dark clouds and heavy rain, and cold and damp enough that I’m in slippers with the heat on, down in my basement office.

Recent Reading Roundup

Once again, you wouldn’t know it from this blog but I have been reading a lot! Quite a bit of it, though, has been for writing projects — including both reviews I know will be published elsewhere and essays I hope will find good homes. It’s not so much that I don’t want to “scoop” myself; it’s that I have some concerns about repeating myself, particularly if I say something here that I then wish I could put the exact same way somewhere else. Would it matter if I did? Probably not if it was just a phrase here and there, but it is still an inhibiting factor. If there’s just a bit of overlap, surely nobody would care, but it’s something that I do try to keep in mind.

Anyway, I can at least report on some of what I’ve been reading, and why, and (more minimally) with what results. Last week, for instance, I read Gillian Best’s The Last Wave, which is coming out from House of Anansi in August. My review will be in the fall issue of Canadian Notes and Queries (my review of Lesley Krueger’s Mad Richard is in the current issue). Spoiler: I really liked this novel a lot! It’s not formally adventurous, but it is a smart, well-written, and touching story about families and ambition and identity.

Today I finished reading Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, which I will be writing up for the July issue of Open Letters Monthly. My initial impression is that it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, or to the hype, but I thought it had a lot of good ingredients — both stylistically and thematically — so my task over the next few days is to articulate what I think they added up to. Sometimes during this process my estimation of a book rises: it can take a little time to discover or understand the kind of whole the parts make. This was certainly my experience with Sarah Moss’s Signs for Lost Children, which I wrote about for Numero Cinq: I grew more interested as I thought more about it (and its ‘prequel,’ Bodies of Light).

I just reread Daphne Marlatt’s Ana Historic, a book that meant a great deal to me years ago when I was an undergraduate just discovering some of the questions it explores about women and history. Today some of the ideas Marlatt plays with seem much more commonplace than they did then, and there are other ways in which the book struck me as very much a product of its time (it was originally published in 1988), but it is still sharp and provocative and intensely evocative of B.C. I wrote a little bit about it at the very end of my monograph on 19th-century historical writing (1998), but I have never written about it since, and I would like to, with a bit of a personal angle about my own “awakening” as someone interested in feminism and historiography: this is one of the summer projects I have set myself, just because I want to do it.

Another rereading project is the complete Lymond Chronicles, which I have arranged to write about for the TLS on the occasion of the new editions being released this fall. I am both very excited and rather nervous about this project. For one thing, it is very odd reading books I have loved so passionately for so long with pencil in hand — one of my ambitions is not to let the reviewer get in the way of the lover too much, not to let the critic crush or even crowd out the fan. Of course, I also don’t want to just gush! I don’t have a lot of space, considering there are six long books in which a lot happens, so one of my biggest challenges will be choosing, from all the things I could say, which few things I will say. Although I do feel somewhat daunted at the prospect, I am absolutely loving having an excuse to reread the books.

Finally, last night, for no reason besides personal interest, I started reading Susan Bordo’s The Destruction of Hillary Clinton. I’m about two-thirds through and actually finding it a bit of a disappointment. It’s certainly lucid and, on its own terms, persuasive, but those terms are basically “here’s what the 2016 election looked like to a Hillary supporter.” Though of course I did not follow the election as closely as Bordo and also don’t have the background she does in following U.S. politics or Hillary’s career, what she describes is pretty much how it looked to me too; though the book goes over a lot of ground, it doesn’t seem to me to offer any particular revelations or any deep analysis. I think that’s deliberate (sometimes there’s more detail in footnotes, for instance, as if the aim was to keep the main narrative brisk and easy to go along with, which it is). It’s political commentary, which is fine, of course: I’m not really sure what else I expected.

I have been rereading Dunnett in the intervals I would usually be reading “just” for myself, to make sure I get through them in time and also because it’s such a treat! I do have a lot of books around that I want to get to, though. My book club will be meeting in a couple of weeks to discuss Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived In the Castle, for one. I brought N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms back from the library yesterday on a whim: fantasy has never been my genre, but I was wondering if I might have learned something from watching Buffy about playing by different rules. And there’s my Vancouver book haul, most of which is still unread. Good thing it’s summer!