Well, an interesting pairing tonight as I continue to whizz through my TBR and post as many of the reviews as I can in the correct month. We have one book about confirmed spinsters who are happy with that state, and one about marriage and the un/happy state that that engenders. In good news, though, I’ve managed to fit all those Christmas books and the cheeky ones from yesterday onto the TBR shelf. It did involve some horizontal book piles, and there are of course two full shelves, one in front of the other, but they’re all on there reasonably tidily, and that’s all that matters, right?
Pagan Kennedy – “Spinsters”
(20 January 2015)
I read Pagan Kennedy’s book, “Zine” back in June 2014, so I was thrilled to spot this novel in the Oxfam shop in Moseley on a book-buying expedition (when I wasn’t supposed to be buying books because it was almost my birthday).
This is a classic, short, road trip novel, starting off when sisters Frannie (the narrator) and the more enterprising Doris decide to branch out after their father’s death, first of all going to live with an elderly spinster aunt and her housekeeper, and then visiting a cousin and taking her precocious daughter on a trip to Arizona.
Set in 1968, the sisters’ flowering – on their own terms and taking things at their own pace – is set against the vivid backdrop of their and America’s growing consciousness of the Civil Rights Movement. The transformation of their physical appearance, shucking off the stockings and buns, is as important an upheaval as the one America herself is going through, and the prose is shot through with change, dynamism and hope. A great little read.
This book would suit … anyone who likes road trip and coming of age novels, feminists, people interested in 20th century American history.
Anne Tyler – “The Beginner’s Goodbye”
(21 January 2015 – from Jen)
As you’ll know if you read about me buying “A Spool of Blue Thread” yesterday, I’ve read all of Anne Tyler’s novels except that one. This was the previous one, and I have to say that I’ve not been enjoying her novels so much since “The Amateur Marriage”, published in 2004 (which I don’t seem to have reviewed online, although I did enjoy “Digging to America“, which came after that. I really didn’t think much of “Noah’s Compass” and actually had to check back to see if I’d read it, so I wasn’t coming to this one with huge expectations. I’m not sure why I’ve been so disappointed recently, as I have absolutely adored her books in the past … and I’m hoping “A Spool of Blue Thread” comes up to scratch.
So, this one depressed me, basically. It’s a quiet novel, doing what Tyler is good at, precisely delineating the small moments and spaces in marriages and sibling relationships. I did enjoy the scenes at the vanity publishing firm where the main characters work, with its dreadful autobiographies and authors, saved by a series of fairly trite and profit-orientated how-to guides, and I liked the relationship between Aaron and his sister.
But it’s quietly devastating, starting with the sudden end of a marriage (that much is signalled on the back of the book and the blurbs), and taking us through the story of Aaron and Dorothy’s somewhat unconventional in some ways, conventional in others, relationship and marriage. I was particularly struck by the image of (all?) marriage(s?) being like two rodents trapped in a cage, fighting for supremacy: shuddersome stuff!
From reading the blurb, I thought Aaron and Dorothy, who famously rematerialises in a quiet way after her death, were older, but in fact Dorothy is Exactly. My. Age. when she dies (urgh – and we’ve been here before, with Another Book whose title I won’t share here because it gives away a huge plot feature). This does mean that there’s the promise of new life and rehabilitation in many ways – but in some respects, the last section seems like a bit of a cop-out to give us a positive outcome that Tyler’s books don’t normally reach for, and in fact which this book mocks when it appears in a self-help book earlier in the novel, which is a bit odd. Oh well.
This book would suit … well, it does have flashes of humour, but another for the Tyler completist, I fear.
Currently reading … well, I’ve just finished the first volume of Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” series, reading along with a few other book bloggers. It was much less hard than I remembered, and once I’ve done some more thinking about it, I’ll be reviewing that one tomorrow. I’m currently reading a book about not buying anything which I hadn’t realised was very firmly shot through with religious underpinnings (which is fine, but was just surprising) and “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” which is OK but seems to be spending a lot of time saying a) that it’s OK to be an introvert (yep, I know) and b) let’s talk about the shy, sensitive introverts, not the other ones. So although I had it on my wishlist and was v glad to receive it, the jury is still out at the moment.
I don’t think either of those will be Book Of The Year, so it’s almost safe to do my Top Ten of 2015 … have you done yours yet?