Since Emily Bazelon first suggested reading Fleishman is in Trouble on the Slate Political Gabfest (one of my favourite podcasts ever), I have been excited to read it. I both like Emily and the general premise: divorce unfolds and man learns about emotional labour. Explaining emotional labour is emotional labour, so I’ll just let you read about it if you’re not super familiar. Continue reading
Category Archives: Bestseller
I did a lot of reading this summer. The bulk of that reading was Louise Penny novels, and so rather than write one post after the other about Inspector Gamache and descriptions of Quebecois cheese, I’m writing this one post, and it’s fine, because the novels are all the same: a pleasant romp through a picturesque Quebec countryside with characters that make you hope for a better world, even while murder abounds and threats of Darkness loom. I also read a lot of recipe books – many featuring the Instant Pot – of which I will not bore you.
I read The Murder Stone, A Great Reckoning and Glass Houses. My mum rightly pointed out that I’ve done myself a disservice in reading out of order, but let’s be clear that I’m not likely to ever go back and read the others, so finding out that one of the detectives has a drug problem after he’s been to NA and gotten married to Gamache’s daughter hardly ruins the thread for future reading.
So right. If you’ve not encountered Louise Penny here’s the thrust: her novels win heaps of awards. People love them. There are organized bus tours to the town where Penny lives so that people can visit the cafe featured in the novel. They’re incredibly enjoyable while you’re reading them, something entirely comforting like so many wool sweaters and mugs of tea. Inspector Gamache has cult followings who want to know where he ‘actually’ lives (my beliefs about Gilbert Blythe notwithstanding, fictional characters only live in the mind).
So what’s the deal? My guess is that people (and me while I’m reading them) like the security of a man who is kind and who exemplifies the tropes of a gentlemen-masculinity that are all laughable in reality. We want to believe that men can be kind, brave and stand up for principles and values amid a world of corruption, greed, lust and those other sins. Despite All the Evidence to the contrary, and more importantly, despite the reality that no one ever needed men to be the bastions of honour in the first place, Gamache is an irresistible character because of these qualities. We swoon at the idea of a kind and noble man who occupies a place of power because there are so few examples in reality.
I’m not advancing a novel argument here. I’m sure anyone reading the books would come to the same conclusion. That it’s as much the attraction to Gamache and his pastoral perfect life as it is the mystery around the murder that keeps us reading. We want to be close to a life of comfortable chairs, exquisite food (though the descriptions of food are something distracting – like I have to get up and make bread and cheese before I can keep reading) and totalizing romance because such a place and such people are all but impossible to find in the world we occupy. Utter wish fulfillment.
So it’s something of a rude awakening to come back to 2019 and recall the moment we are in. The responsibilities of being flawed after spending so many hours with the flawless is taxing. It almost makes me want to read non-fiction. Almost.
I Let You Go, by Clare Macintosh, is totally silly and totally fun and I listened to it on audiobook and then book an ebook version for the cottage because I can read faster than anyone can read to me, and I wanted to know! what! happens! next!
Oh I get it, it’s plenty flawed with damsels in distress, and deceit, and assumptions about women-and-work. But it’s still… so fun. Like when Patrick-the-vet gets introduced as a character and his blond hair is waving in the wind and sun dappled skin is glowing, you’re just like… romance!
I’d caution ever reading this with expectations to think deeply about anything. And strong warnings about descriptions of domestic violence and the death of children that are difficult and could easily make the book one you’d rather skip.
That said, if you do choose it, I’d hazard a guess you stay up late to finish it because It Has All the Plot! Plot! Plot!
Everyone is reading Where the Crawdads Sing. Like over a hundred person waiting list at the library so I decided to buy it kind of everyone. And I’m glad I did. It was a perfect cottage read, even with a couple of flaws that prevent it from being great or an unqualified go-read-it-now.
Set in the lagoon-swamp of the Carolina coast, the novel opens with a dead body (always an exciting hook) and then moves decades back in time to follow Kya, or ‘Marsh Girl,’ an abandoned child who raises herself amid the wilderness. Pulling at all the appeal that comes with person-versus-nature stories, Kya, must finds ways to both maintain her physical life through trading food and scraping up materials, as well as develop some kind of emotional-social life through relationship with animals and the natural sphere, while also courting – as much as she can – connections with people in the neighbouring town. Even while she always – and deeply – fears that everyone will always leave her. The propulsion of the plot is both in rooting for Kya and some kind of resolution to her absolute loneliness, but more in the understanding of her connection to the dead body, Chase Something-Maybe-Andrews(?) and an explanation of the crime.
Where the novel does incredibly well is in the vivid description of setting and place. Kya’s lagoon and her connection to the natural world is at once detailed and lively – the reader readily accepts along with Kya the magic of the land and its tenuous preservation amid efforts to develop it. No surprise, perhaps, as author Delia Owens was first a non-fiction nature and science writer. It also does well in the characterization of Kya, who we come to know intimately – in part because we feel through the third person limited narration, paired with her total isolation, that we are the only ones to truly know her.
*MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD* Continue reading