My first Thomas Hardy novel was simply fantastic. Emotionally poignant but also socially resonant, Tess of the D’Ubervilles provides an intriguing story about Victorian social and sexual hypocrisy through characters with clear flaws to recognize and appreciate. And yet, although it was clearly a commentary on the social structures and sexual morality in Victorian England, Hardy never once lectured or made his novel about those issues. At first and last glance, the book is a tender one about one poor woman and those who associate with her.
Note: this post contains spoilers for the entire novel.
Today’s mashup of Cybils nominees brings us a favorite topic of my son (trains) and some books with surprizes of disappointment. Both of the Oh No! books are unique in art style and memorable in their writing.
But first I have to bring you my son’s favorite topic: trains. The first of these books is a truly silly story that all will love, even if trains are not your favorite thing as they are for Raisin. (more…)
Quicksand, Nella Larsen’s debut novel (published 1928) was not nearly as satisfying to me as her second one, Passing (published 1929), which I found a complex but intriguing look at race and repressed sexuality for a light-skinned “coloured” woman in New York during the Harlem Renaissance (thoughts here). Despite my frustrations with Quicksand, it is still a rewarding read, especially in its historical context as a defining novel of the Harlem Renaissance.
In Quicksand, mixed-race Helga Crane, like other protagonists in the Harlem Renaissance novels I’ve read, struggles to find her place in a racist world. (more…)
As I mentioned when I reread The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson last year, I grew up with fond memories of the plot, characters, setting, and the entire premise of the story. My older brother and I would imagine ourselves conquering the world, pouring over maps and phone books to determine where we’d settle our city and get survival supplies in a world suddenly left without anyone over the age of 12.
When I saw on Netgalley that a graphic novel has been written, to be published in early April 2012 (by Lerner Publishing Group/Graphic Universe), I was more than a little excited. In fact, when I was approved to view the book, I read it immediately, finishing within a few hours of being approved. I’m that kind of a geek when it comes to this book.
Again, because I have fond memories of The Girl Who Owned a City, keep in mind that I cannot approach it, or the graphic novel (by Dan Jolley and illustrated by Joelle Jones and Jenn Manley Lee), with an objective eye. Reading a graphic novel of this favorite kids book was wonderfully fun, the pictures were sufficient for the story, and the story itself was, like the original, a fun ride along with some pretty self-sufficient kids who save the day. (Read my 2010 review of the original for more information about the novel’s plot.)
Suffice it to say that the graphic novel takes away a lot of the awkward gaps that the poorly written original suffered from. There is slight reference to the missing dead bodies of all the adults (they simply turn to dust, which is good, because any illustration of dead bodies would not have been a pretty sight to see portrayed in graphic novel form). There is also less awkward exposition about what people are doing because, let’s face it, in a graphic novel, you literally show those kinds of things. And the story moves quickly, focusing on the action and the agony Lisa, as leader, goes through, without focusing on unimportant explanations. (more…)
Today begins the Second Annual Ghanian Literature Week, as celebrated by book bloggers around the globe. Kinna Reads is the central organizer of the occasion; see her introductory post.
Changes by Ama Ata Aidoo (1991) is about a Ghanian woman searching for her place in a modern world that is steeped in traditional culture. Esi has an advanced degree and she loves her job, but cannot find satisfaction in her marriage, due to her demanding and overly pushy husband. While she loves her young daughter, she resents the fact that she is expected to care for her as well as working and taking care of the house and being there for her husband. She resents her husband and her expected roles. Although Accra is a modern city, the cultural expectations of her society provide only frustration for Esi. Sadly, she is not the only woman frustrated by her situation.
But when Esi decides to leave her husband, no one else she knows, not her best friend from childhood or her mother or grandmother, can understand why. Their expectations for a modern woman are that she recognize her place as a woman and balance everything, even when it is unsatisfying. The life of a woman is, by their interpretation of the cultural traditions, meant to be unsatisfying. A woman is to marry, work for her husband, have a career, take care of her home and family, and be a loving mother. Although Esi wants to follow tradition, she cannot accept that her unhappy relationship is how her life must remain. She seeks change.
As the title indicates, Esi’s story follows her as her life goes through a series of changes through the coming years. With each new change, she struggles to find her place as a woman, her place as a modern woman, and her place within both family and cultural traditions. (more…)