What books by Women Are You Reading Now? --- March 2011
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Figured it was time for a new topic thread as we're in the second day of March already -- can you believe it? Time flys!
I'm not currently reading anything by a female author, but I did see the White House released today the "Women in America" report and thought some members here might be interested, although it's off the topic of literature.
According to the White House's website, the report "pulls together information from across the Federal statistical agencies to compile baseline information on how women are faring in the United States today and how these trends have changed over time. The report provides a statistical portrait showing how women’s lives are changing in five critical areas:
* People, Families, and Income
* Crime, Violence, and Criminal Justice
* Women Veterans
By bringing together data from across the Federal government, the report is one of most comprehensive sources for information on women’s lives today. This is the first such federal initiative since 1963, when the Commission on Status of Women, established by President Kennedy and chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, produced a report on the conditions of women."
I'm new to this group, and am currently reading Hotel Berlin by Vicki Baum.
Also author of Grand Hotel and many others -- hugely popular in her time but currently suffering from a shift in fashion. I'm still reading Hotel Berlin but can strongly vouch for Grand Hotel: a great read, once you adjust to slightly different literary conventions of that era. Film is also very good; re-watched it recently, which read to my current reading.
Hotel Berlin is set during World War Two, seemingly with one or two of the same (secondary) characters from the earlier work.
I'm reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and I'm enjoying the coziness of it!
>2 Let me know what you think of We Were the Mulvaneys. It's been on my to-read list for years. I even have a copy at home; I just haven't gotten to it yet.
#2 - I'm also interested in hearing what you have to say about that one. Joyce Carol Oates is fascinating to me - she has so much to say and I haven't read that one yet, although it is still sitting on my shelf. I have tickets to go to a book reading by her in April and am very excited!
>6 - I went to one of her lectures/book readings once -- it was a great experience! She is a fascinating person.
#5 & 6 - I've never read Joyce Carol Oates, so this will all be new to me. She is a favourite author of one of my good LT friends (Avaland) so I am hopeful. However, I've had this book on my shelves for years and it's never interested me. It's quite large, so now is the time for it to move on out--read or unread!
#3> Welcome 1Owlette! I haven't read anything by Vicki Baum, although I do know the name. I remember enjoying (if that's the right word, I seem to remember some tears were involved) "Grand Hotel" some years ago. It is sad the way some authors just get left behind with changing fashions. (And it's also good, depending on the author, of course. :)
I'm almost finished Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which I have found quite excessively charming.
I just started Women, Culture, Politics by Angela Davis, not too happy about it and I don't see it getting better. The book so far seems to pit white feminists against black feminists. What is the point of that? I don't how she thinks anyone would benefit from such rivalry.
Thanks, Wookiebender! I enjoyed re-watching the film, although the people's heads were strangely stretched by the tv screen.
Speaking of women writers who've faded out and into view (though perhaps this is a topic for another thread), I've been planning to read The Land of Green Ginger, but it's turned out to be quite hard to get hold of. I'll have to settle for South Riding instead...
Hope you enjoy Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell -- I haven't read it yet, but it sounds fun!
(I just tried to post this message once, but the computer seemed to eat it, so I'm trying again -- hope there won't be two identical posts.)
>14: 1Owlette, South Riding is superb! I see you live in London so I suppose you've watched the television programme. It has yet to air here in the US. But the book was one of my Top 5 for 2010.
Recently finished The Maquinna Line: A Family Saga by Norma Macmillan. Loved it as a great historical fiction period piece set on Vancouver Island and posted a review on the book page.
Next up will be two books on the go at once. One by a male author and the other one is The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields for a group read.
Just finished Thomas Hardy: the time-torn man by Claire Tomalin, which was very good, if a little speculative at times. Haven't posted my review yet as finished it last night.
I finished and reviewed another wonderful book by Barbara Comyns, the haunting and disturbing The Vet's Daughter.
I'm starting on Jane Eyre, which I'm hoping to finish before the movie comes out. After that I'm going to read Wide Sargasso Sea. I'm really excited, because I've heard such good things about both.
I just finished The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. I really liked it. It was very contemplative and sad, but somehow also very honest, which I enjoyed. I think it's about 4 stars. I'll be writing a real review soon, maybe tomorrow.
I finished the delightful Seneca Falls Inheritance by Miriam Grace Monfredo about a crime fighting feminist librarian who helps with the first Woman's Rights Convention. Elizabeth Cady Stanton has a small role and there is mention of some other historical figures mixed in with the fictional characters. She has a whole Glynis Tryon Mystery series. I'm looking forward to reading some more of them.
I also read and was so terribly disappointed by Women, Culture, Politics. Rather than being a feminist it seems Angela Davis is merely a communist who doesn't hesitate to pit white against black feminists and twist her perception of reality around to promote her ideology. I won't be reading any more of her.
>22: Jane Eyre is my favourite book. Hope you enjoy it! I hadn't heard that there was another movie coming out, I'll have to investigate ...
Currently reading The Taverner novels by Mary Butts, odd but fascinating works from the inter-war period. I'm especially enjoying the vivid descriptions of the Dorset coast.
>23: Joyce, thanks so much for reminding me of the Glynis Tryon series. Read a couple of those several years back and remember them fondly. I might have to look Glynis up again and see what she has been up to. I'm am thinking these are a great read for high school girls.
Just started reading Terry Galloway's memoir Mean Little Deaf Queer and already almost halfway through. Enjoying it so far.
Just finished and reviewed another winner by Barbara Comyns, Our Spoons Came from Woolworths.
I'm reading Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson's debut novel from about 1995. I've enjoyed her more recent books quite a lot and this one is different, but still shaping up as a good read.
I'm about a quarter of the way through We Were the Mulvaneys and I'm liking it more than I expected I would. It's sort of meandering, but pretty interesting. I thought I'd hate it, and I don't, so that's good.
I am reading Dark Flame by Alyson Noel. Just a bit of light reading and romantic entertainment! The books in her Immortal These books are in juvenile literature, but still quite entertaining when you just want something for pure, light entertainment.
#32> Welcome to the group!
I just started Persuasion by Jane Austen. One of my favourites of her works.
>34 I'm wondering why you started a book you expected to hate? I generally start out hoping the book will be good, though there are plenty of disappointments along the way.
>37 Persuasion is tied with Pride and Prejudice as my favorite Austen. I love the way Anne combines sort of a put-upon doormat persona with a stubborn and occasionally quite forward persona. And I love the movie with Amanda Root and Ciarin Hinds.
Have just started Medicus by Ruth Downie, the first in a mystery series for which I've won the fourth, Caveat Emptor, through the ER program.
38 I'm wondering why you started a book you expected to hate? I generally start out hoping the book will be good, though there are plenty of disappointments along the way.
Oh, I know, it sounds ridiculous when you put it that way! I recently finished nine years of schooling, and there were a lot of books that I approached with trepidation. Then there's my book club--sometimes the selected book is something I don't expect to like. And then there are review books that seemed like a good idea when I requested them, but once they arrive, lose their appeal. I feel there is something about all those books that is a little beyond my control (of course I don't have to agree to review books, I can quit my book club, and I could have avoided courses with those sorts of reading lists, so not really out of my control).
As for my humungous TBR pile, not all of the books that found their way there were welcomed with excitement. And some books I was excited about when I got them, but then didn't read them right away and my tastes changed. Also, there are a goodly number that came in under the description "well, it might maybe possibly be good," or "if I'm in the mood I'll give this a try." We Were the Mulvaneys was handed along to me by a well-meaning relative who said "here are some books for you." Not exactly a glowing endorsement, but I thought maybe someday I might be in the mood for it. Well, I decided either that someday was now, or the book was going in the next charity donation box.
I have actually found some real gems this way; conversely, books that I was so excited about turned out to be duds. You just never know. Which is why I continue to invite books into my home even if I think I might not like them. Does that sound a little less ridiculous?
#38> Yes, isn't that a delightful adaptation! I'm toying with buying it, and if I run across it, I might just do that. (I'm also tempted by a recent adaptation of Northanger Abbey with Carey Mulligan as the very silly (and very not nice) Isabella Thorpe. But it seems to be unavailable locally! Bother, should have bought it when it first came out.)
>39 Yes, that all makes sense. I have the same feelings about many of my book club's books--it took me a while to recognize what kind of books certain people were recommending and just refusing to read any book for which the description began with "still grieving over the death of ___," knowing I didn't want to experience that angst (and I don't care how uplifting the end is).
But one reason I belong to a book club is that I read books I might not otherwise and find some lovely gems that way, including the one I just finished (not by a woman, but I'll mention it anyway), Plainsong by Kent Haruf. Loved it.
That was a great explanation of why you'd read a book you thought you'd hate, OtherJoyce. I agree with it all. I've read quite a few books in the past that I thought I'd hate, sometimes with great results. These days I'm not so likely to pick something up unless I think I'll like it. There's a book I got for Christmas that I haven't started yet, it's one of those inspirational books, not my favorite sort of read. It'll sit here for I don't know how long, but I may get to it one day. Even with my book club I've refused to read a recent recommendation, but usually I give it a try.
I finished the wonderful North Star Conspiracy containing appearances by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, and Mathew Brady amongst other notables. Miriam Grace Monfredo puts so much research into her books and expresses it so clearly she's a delight and an education to read. This book was about the Underground Railroad and the Fugitive Slave Act, and of course the fight for women's rights. It seems no matter where women worked, whoever they supported thanked them for their efforts then ultimately ignored the worth of their struggle. Even Frederick Douglass turned against their needs in the end thinking women's rights would follow along in their own good time. Look what's happened in Egypt. Women support a revolution then get pushed right back into the kitchen and bedroom where they belong.
I'm currently reading a collection of little bits by Margaret Atwood called Good Bones and Simple Murders, and I have to share one of those bits with you. It's from a piece titled "Women's Novels":
"Men's novels are about men. Women's novels are about men too but from a different point of view. You can have a men's novel with no women in it except possibly the landlady or the horse, but you can't have a women's novel with no men in it.
Sometimes men put women in men's novels but they leave out some of the parts: the heads, for instance, or the hands. Women's novels leave out parts of the the men as well. Sometimes it's the stretch between the belly button and the knees, sometimes it's the sense of humor. It's hard to have a sense of humor in a cloak, in a high wind, on a moor.
Women do not usually write novels of the type favored by men but men are known to write novels of the type favored by women. Some people find this odd."
I've read it four times today, and still find it so amusing. And brilliant. Brilliantly amusing.
35> I have to admit, I REALLY hated Special Topics in Calamity Physics.I just don't like books that make an obvious attempt to manipulate readers.
44> Two of the novels I've read with my Honors students nearly exclude women: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde an Kim. If women appear, they tend to be plot devices or stereotypes--prostitutes, wives focused on mothering sons, bitchy widows, etc. I'm glad they got to read Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours!
#45 - I thought of jekyll and hyde as soon as I started reading the Atwood piece!
OtherJoyce, I think I need to embroider that on a pillow or something. What a perfect quote.
#44> It's hard to have a sense of humor in a cloak, in a high wind, on a moor.
I have often thought about this. The novels of Joseph Conrad come to mind: I found Lord Jim unreadable in three attempts.
One of my pet peeves has been the belittling of women's literature as "just" being about topics such as love and marriage, as though these are not extremely significant parts of anyone's life, but especially so for women in much of the past, in which one's choice of husband determined nearly every aspect of one's future.
Instead, we are supposed to believe that trekking through the forest or hunting a giant whale are deeply significant but choosing a mate is trivial.
I'm glad times have changed, anyway.
It's reminding me of the recent conversation that when a woman writes about family, she's writing a domestic "women's" book. But when Jonathan Franzen writes about family, he's America's greatest living novelist.
(Speaking of which, Freedom has come in at the library for me. I'll soon be able to make my own judgement! But I think I'm a bit biassed by that Bad Sex in Literature award, I may not be able to get over that...)
Well said, ejj.
Let us know how it goes, wookiebender. I don't have any desire to read it yet.
when a woman writes about family, she's writing a domestic "women's" book. But when Jonathan Franzen writes about family, he's America's greatest living novelist.
Sounds like an extension of the traditional view that man = (fully) human and so when men write their experience, it reflects/applies to the universal human experience; but woman = Other, so when women write their experience, it only reflects/applies to women. Seems like we ought to have grown beyond that in the 21st century, but these ideas are still around. :(
I just finished Olive Kitteridge for my RL book club. Why isn't this the great American novel? Too many women? Too many older women? I loved it.
I also just read an interesting article about the misogyny of fairy tales:
I bought Medicus at the second hand store, haven't got to it yet. Maybe I should.
Whoops, deleted my other message instead of editing it.
>54 Thanks for the link; interesting article. You might be interested in The Maid from the North. There's other feminist folk tale collections out there, but this is the only one I've read and so can actually recommend :)
I've nearly finished Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed. It's a fictionalised account of the author's Somali father's early life in the 1930s and is pretty harrowing - it starts off with him in Aden, Yemen as a 10 year old then follows him through Somaliland, Eritrea, Abyssinia, and Egypt (and more to come). A bit too much happens, but it's still a very interesting read.
Thanks for the recommend. I've wishlisted The Maid From the North. I've also read one by Angela Carter and think I need to read more.
Cariola, I don't know what you mean by manipulating readers as far as Special Topics In Calamity Physics goes, but I'm pretty early in the book. I know there is a haughty, intellectually superior tone that is heightened by the fact I'm listening to it on CD's. If the book were the story of the father I wouldn't read it because he's quite obnoxious, but I am enjoying the story of the protege daughter. From what I've heard about the Tiger Mother book, it seems that poor Blue has a Tiger Father.
I just finished and reviewed Louise Erdrich's latest novel, Shadow Tag, a perceptive if depressing look at a failing marriage and troubled family.
I just got Shadow Tag at a second hand store. I'm looking forward to it, though not to the depression.
>54: Citizenjoyce, I loved Olive Kitteridge as well. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009, which I was really pleased to see.
The people in my book club generally liked Olive Kitteridge, some as much as I, but some were surprised it won the Pulitzer. I think it was completely prize worthy.
Now I'm about to start on my second L. J. Sellers book, Secrets to Die For. I like her very much because of her strong lead female character, though the detective is male. This one is about a serial rapist so probably won't be a barrel of laughs.
I'm reading February by Lisa Moore and loving it. It was on the shortlist for the Booker Prize last year (or maybe the long list...) and it's the first Canadian novel I've read in ages.
I finished Secrets to Die For, it's a very issues oriented mystery that I enjoyed. Now I've started Doubt: a history : the great doubters and their legacy of innovation, from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Michael Hecht. I've been meaning to read it for a year, but the 600+ page length scared me off. Time to pull up my big girl pants and head on in.
I just read both Reality Shows by Karen Finley and Rape New York by Jana Leo. I can't say that I really enjoyed Rape New York (who can enjoy reading about somebody's rape?) but it was very well written and I found it eye-opening.
#51> Well, CitizenJoyce, you did ask for my comments on Franzen's Freedom. I'm nearing the halfway mark, and I have to say I'm enjoying myself. The people are all horrid, but it's like hanging out with an amusingly bitchy acquaintance, pointing and laughing at people. It's great while it's happening, but you feel a little grumpy with yourself afterwards for being mean, as some of these horrid characters are perfectly normal people. (And you hope that your acquaintance isn't now being witty at your expense with someone else.)
I'm yet to read the scene that got him the Bad Sex in Literature nomination. But I think it'll work better in context. We'll have to see...
Taking a short break from it for a shorter book (carrying too much stuff today to want to add a 500+pp hardback to the backpack!; plus I have to read one more bookcrossed book this quarter for a reading challenge over on bookcrossing.com, and I'd hate to miss my goal by one book). I picked up The 10PM Question by New Zealand author Kate De Goldi which came highly recommended by another bookcrosser, and am having a great time. Very enjoyable YA novel (that's neither dystopic, nor fantasy).
Thanks for the halfway commentary, wookie. I'm feeling better and better about the decision not to read it, at least not any time soon. A book populated by nothing but bitchy people doesn't quite grab me. I'm having a hard enough time with the people in Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and they're not completely obnoxious, well, not all of them.
I'm reading Witness the Night, by Kishwar Desai. It's about a social worker in India who is trying to help a 14 yr old girl who has been accused of murdering her entire family. So far it's very good. It won the Costa First Novel award.
I'm quickly and avidly zipping though The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore, which basically consists of life lessons that Blakemore gleaned from my some of my favorite literary heroines.
I am so loving revisiting my favorite characters, and am loving Blakemore's take on them, which generally resonates strongly with me, and which sometimes also causes me to look at a favorite character or author in a new light.
Blakemore's witing resonated with me even from the introduction. So many times while reading this I was mentally shouting "Yes!"
I guess it's redundant to say that I highly recommend The Heroine's Bookshelf.
Just finished Krik Krak, a collection of short stories mostly set in Haiti. It was my first work by Edwidge Danticat, whom I've been intending to read for some time, but possibly this one wasn't the best choice. I had the feeling -- possibly entirely inaccurate -- that this was one of those transitional works, put together between more driven early material and more consolidated later fiction. That being said, I was impressed by it, and intend to read more of her other works, which I should probably have started with.
The Heroine's Bookshelf definitely looks interesting, from what I read on the Amazon preview, and is one for my wishlist.
>77 Many people love that series; I read Outlander but wasn't driven to continue with it.
Finally finished Medicus--it was a slow start for me, probably more to do with me than the book, as I liked it and will be continuing with the series.
But first . . . back to Anne Perry's Monk series with Silent Cry. It's the 8th in this series, so you know I like it!
I got The Heroine's Bookshelf for my Mum for her birthday this year, as it got a great review here on LibraryThing (sorry, I can't remember if it was a Girlybook participant, or one of the other forums). She really enjoyed it, although is slightly peeved at her extended wishlist now. (That reminds me, I've now got to find my copy of The Colour Purple to pass on to her...)
I finished The 10 PM Question and really enjoyed it. A very good coming-of-age novel, with fabulous characters. Worth checking out.
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