Bummer Summer by Ann M. Martin

When I was young, I loved Ann M. Martin’s books. Of course, I read The Baby-Sitter’s Club, but I also looked up everything else she wrote. The book I received for review consideration seemed eerily familiar as I read it, so I’m pretty sure I visited this once before.

Bummer Summer by Ann M. Martin (Open Road Media, April 2014) was originally published in 1983 and now it is being issued by Open Road Media as an ebook. This book is such a fun summer read. Kammy’s dad has just remarried a woman with a baby and a three-year-old girl, and her life is now turned upside down! She doesn’t want to lose her place in her house and her dad’s heart but they want her to spend the summer at Camp Arrowhead. Can she survive away from home? It is sure to be a bummer summer. Continue Reading

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing in Tender is the Night (published 1934) is impressive. He writes complex sentences with incredible fluidity and rich vocabulary. This seems to give each sentence, each paragraph, and therefore each page a sense of life. Reading Fitzgerald is an exercise in appreciating the complexities and the beauties of the English language. Since I listened to part of the book on audio, I found that as I slowed down my reading, I better appreciated his writing.

However, to be completely honest (because this blog is a record of my honest impressions of what I’m reading), I finished reading Tender is the Night and thought, “Well, what was the point of that?” Even after discussing the book for more than an hour with my book group, I feel no closer to understanding. Although the writing is delicious and satisfying, the characters he creates are nearly unbearable. The story is billed as his most autobiographical, and it is a deeply psychological novel, with occasional action to drive the characters’ inner development.

Tender is the Night is the story of one man’s downfall from greatness into self-absorption, as he loses the drive and the ability to succeed. My problem was that I never felt like Dick Diver was the fantastic man others believed him to be. I felt that he fell from a rather short distance: he just didn’t realize how mediocre he was from the beginning. My book group all seemed to disagree, however. Whether or not Dick was a fallen hero, though, Dick’s story failed to move me to empathy. I wonder what I missed that may have allowed me to really delve in to this classic.

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It’s Hard to be Hip Over Thirty by Judith Viorst

In honor of my 31st birthday on Sunday, I thought I’d find a Persephone book with a title that made me laugh: It’s Hard to be Hip Over Thirty and Other Tragedies of Married Life by Judith Viorst. Being in the USA, however, I only found the non-Persephone edition, the original 1968 publication of Viorst’s slim volume of poetry. Apparently, the Persephone reissue also includes another 50 pages or so of additional poems.

At any rate, I was not blown away by Viorst’s poetry; they left me feeling rather meh. With such a clever title, I had hoped I could relate to the poems of finding a place in a new relationship and so forth. As a married stay-at-home mom in 2012, though, I found the poetry dated. Viorst’s poems dealt with a newly married woman’s struggle to feel like herself in a new role as wife (as in the poem “The Honeymoon is Over”) and other poems focus on the suburbanite mother’s frustrations at being a domestic worker in the home. For example, in “The Other Woman,” the narrator observes that ” The other woman/ never smells like Ajax or Spaghetti-O.”

I just could not relate. This may be because my marriage relationship is balanced and I find personal satisfaction in my role as a mother in a suburban community. I don’t feel threatened by the “working women” my husband may associate with. And although my marital role is to take care of my child and clean the house, I don’t smell like “Ajax or Spaghetti-O” nor do I discuss brand names of detergents with my friends as a poem indicates. Seriously, does anyone do that?

Maybe that is the point. By reading Viorst’s 1960s perspective of her stifled marriage, I can see how far we’ve come? Okay, I admit it, I feel I’m reaching here, trying to figure out why this is classic. I know that Persephone Books reissues neglected feminist works (usually by women) from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Maybe recognizing that some women don’t find satisfaction in their domestic duties, especially in the changing 1960s, is an important feminist observation.

Personally, I like being a stay-at-home mom. I find satisfaction from it. My husband and I don’t bicker (and I don’t recall ever doing so) as the characters in “The Honeymoon is Over” do. And I certainly don’t find myself constantly mopping the house as many poems mention. I guess I’ve never been “hip” and I don’t care. Add to my frustrations with Viorst’s volume the fact that each poem seems wordy (I’m a fan of careful worded poetry, spare and succinct), and I must say that this poetry collection simply was not for me.

Maybe you’ll enjoy it more. Also, please note that the Persephone edition has another 50 pages of poetry over this one; maybe I would have enjoyed those additional poems more. As it was, this was one Persephone I’m certainly glad I didn’t spend money on.

Changes by Ama Ata Aidoo

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.Continue Reading