Two e-books today – but that’s all they’ve got in common. After my slightly panicky post about getting stuck, I have been making the effort to finish books I’m half-way through before starting more, and things certainly have freed up a bit now I’ve got “The Heavenly Twins” finished. Having said that, it was a jolly good read and I’m very glad that my friend recommended and lent it to me! I’d been half-reading “Ten Pound Pom” for a while, too, so was glad to get that one done and dusted, and the Kindle TBR has gone down as a result, too!
Sarah Grand – “The Heavenly Twins”
(paper copy lent to me by my friend Laura; e-book downloaded from manybooks.net for convenience)
One of the first of the ‘New Woman’ novels of the 1890s (in fact, according to the introduction in my paper copy, Sarah Grand coined the phrase!), this is a hefty but rewarding tome which explores love, marriage, education, gender relations, moral equality, heredity, sexually transmitted diseases, friendship, goodness and decency, all in the one volume (originally published as a triple-decker, although I’m not sure that would have helped much!). This can make it feel a little ‘baggy’. Added to that, the structure is unconventional, darting between the protagonists, leaving the twins of the title alone for much of the narrative, which centres on them and two young women entering the marriage market and encountering very different forms of bad marriages, with the entire final section narrated by one of the previously somewhat minor male characters. But then, the people and situations that it portrays, from syphilitic babies through abandoned mistresses and cross-dressing heiresses to made wives – are somewhat unconventional for the time, too.
Having made it seem like a worthy tome covering the Issues Of The Day, I will now say that it’s also very readable! It tells a good set of stories with engaging characters (particularly Angelica and Diavolo, the twins of the title), who are not just ciphers imbued with random characteristics and perspectives for dry pedagogical purposes, but are in the main rounded and interesting in their own rights in addition to being representative of various human states and fates. We’re forever darting below the surface of major and minor characters to examine their backgrounds, attitudes, motives and feelings, which makes for an entertaining and thought-provoking read.
It’s not as simple as woman good / men bad, and shows the nascent movement towards women’s education and growth, particularly personified in the character of Evadne, self-educated to a degree and capable of thinking for herself but battered by the limitations of the patriarchal society in which she finds herself and without quite the resources to protect herself. There’s a good introduction which, like the paper edition itself (reproduced smudgily from the original printers’ plates and annotated charmingly with student notes by my friend), is a work of classic 1990s reclamation of women’s narrative works, quoting Showalter here and other feminist writers there – a bit of a trip down memory lane for me in that sense.
Read this if: you like reclaimed women’s writing; you are interested in gender relations and social history; you have read other ‘New Woman’ writers like George Gissing; you like a good story and don’t mind a few lessons and morals planted along the way.
Niall Griffiths – “Ten Pound Pom”
(e-book bought on special offer)
I do tend to download bargain of the day Kindle books, and this was presumably one of those.
A dual narrative of the author’s pre-adolescent trip to, stay in and journey through Australia with his family in the late 1970s alongside his Noughties return to the country with his brother and various companions from their Australian days to retrace their steps and see if anything has been left that they recognise. Interesting contrasts are thrown up and there is much musing on the connection between his childhood and current selves, especially when confronted with buildings, monuments, signs and views which have remained there, unchanged, in the interim between his visits.
The language is informal and I got a little annoyed with the use of “tho” for “though”; there were also a few slightly traumatic scenes from his childhood memories involving animals (nothing unbearable, though) (tho). It was competently done and interesting to a point, but it ultimately left me a bit cold, perhaps because of the masculine drinking culture and preoccupations, perhaps because I read it in bits and pieces.
Read this if: you like travel books, dual-time narratives, books by men.
A quick note for completeness’ sake that I read Tucker Max’s “The Bookstrapper’s Guide to Book Marketing” in pdf format, which was sent to me by the author after I saw an offer in a podcast transcription. I enjoyed this book and found some good tips in it, however there were some issues with links and it’s actually been (temporarily) taken down from bookselling sites, so I’m not going to recommend it right now in case you can’t go off and find a copy for yourself.
I’m currently reading Iris Murdoch’s book on Sartre (yes, I am reading it, finally!) and That Is It for the moment, so then I’ll have a clean slate again.
What are you reading? Have you read the Sarah Grand or any other ‘New Woman’ novels? Do you like my new “Read this if” feature or do the reviews tell you that anyway?