Wharton and McKay’s Witches in New York

I love my Scary Reads series so much that I read and posted most of the month of October before September was over.  And what a lucky thing that I did.

I got my son’s cough a week before my half marathon, and all the money and time spent training for this event was not going to be wasted on a cough, so I ran it anyway.  I was good for about week until it bloomed into what I am pretty sure was sinusitis, which is bad enough in that it is gunky, but I lost my appetite and my energy plummeted to the point where I did nothing but the bare minimum at home and at work.  I had one more race to run that I didn’t run.  I have a list of house stuff and personal projects I am trying to get through and I have late paperwork at work I have to spend time working on today.  It’s time to make serious holiday plans and prep.  I can’t believe how much energy I normally run on and it’s even harder to believe how fast it disappeared.  I went from putting down 13 mile runs to my chest hurting standing up too long. I might have fallen behind on posting if I had not already been ahead.

But I am on the other side.  I still feel like exercising won’t leave me enough energy to do my day, but I can post on what little reading has gotten done.  I didn’t even have the mental energy to focus on reading.  I binged on Netflix.  I never binge on Netflix.  No offense to people who do so to relax, but I feel it is a waste of time.

I decided to combine these two books that I read for very different reasons into the same post.  As I reflected on them, they were actually about the same thing. They both deal with women grabbing up what power they can inside and outside the confines of their lives and conventions and interestingly have two very different takes on New York City in the late 1800s.  They are both witches in their own right, if we are defining a witch as a woman who influences her world rather than being controlled by it.

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The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton

This was for BookRiot’s book you read for school but hated/never finished.  I finished this one and begrudgingly wrote a feminist critique on it for my senior project in high school. It was begrudging for many reasons:  one, I have never found a Wharton novel uplifting (I’m still not sure how I have read three of them) and two, all the seniors not in the advanced class could do their senior project on whatever they wanted.  Anything.  Any senior even in the advanced class had traditionally done whatever they wanted in other years.  My sister did hers on old time movie stars.  My class was given a list of literature to choose from and then we had to do a literary critique on it.  I don’t still have a copy of it.  I don’t remember feeling it to be, even at the time, my magnum opus.

I was still interested to revisit it twenty years later, to see what my new eyes would show me.  And to fully explain my thoughts I have to spoil the end, so if you are thinking of reading it and you don’t want to know, read it and then come back to this post.

I believe in the paper I said that May Welland/Archer was not the innocent that she would like to project, that her moves were also calculated, despite it looking on the outside that she was the innocent victim, nearly getting the short end of the stick by playing by all the rules, the lovely, quintessential affluent female, the crown jewel of NYC’s gilded age high society.

In my second run through, one almost feels badly for May, playing by all the old rules when clearly the context is changing and women are getting more freedoms, and it looks like she could be bested by a woman who personifies the new world and way of thinking.  Newland proposes to an old school version of the desirable bride, but then realizes he wants a woman who isn’t so sheltered who can be more his equal than marriages that he sees in his contemporaries.  May is the old world and Ellen is the new, and the old world, like it does, finds a way to win out.  May makes all the rules work for her when for Ellen, the old rules very much don’t.  May is powerful in her own right.  May keeps her man and Ellen decides to save her pride by returning to Europe but still living on her own terms.  She almost steals Newland in the process, but she doesn’t.  I can’t say that Ellen ends up unhappy, at least she doesn’t go back to her husband, but if the goal is to keep your man and your status, which is clearly what May wants, May wins the day.   Like she meant to all  along.  Even when she offered to release Newland from the engagement before they are married, even if she thinks it is because of feelings toward an ex.  I didn’t know at what point she figures his relationship with Ellen.  Maybe she tries to release him because of Ellen all along.  But it is a beautifully calculating and self sacrificing move.  How could Newland give that up? Guess what.  He never does.  And through her life, she clings to the conventions that worked out for her in her youth.

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The Witches of New York, Ami McKay

I read this one just because I wanted to.  I didn’t intend on a witches post because I did so many last year, but this was too compelling.  It was my dessert. And it was everything I have ever wanted in a magical novel: ghosts, magic, fortune telling, romance, some madness, NYC in the 1880s.  A young woman striking out on her own to discover a magic in herself that she never knew she had.

May Welland Archer lived in the other part of town, playing by all the rules in the center of society, while these women inhabited the fringe.  Growing up half parentless and unconventional themselves, these women are more obviously witches who perform magic and see ghosts and fortunes and help women to take control over their lives in the guise of a tea shop.  They pretend to live in the lines with a respectable business and are patronized by women of means, but they are independent and enjoy being so.

I was intrigued by the world of the very rich when I first read Wharton but I am now more intrigued by the fringes of the world than I am with the circumscribed security of the rich.  I liked the talking bird and the description of how life was lived on Blackwell’s Island, the ghosts who only allude some characters. The darkest of antagonists and more life threatening situations than challenging of the old way of doing things and the possibility of one’s husband absconding to Europe with your scandalous cousin.

We never get a peek into May Welland’s mind but I am assuming that she believed herself to be powerful by being the opposite of these women who also believe themselves to have as much control over their world as possible.  May plays and wins the game from the inside, these witches play from the outside, and even though they have different outcomes, they all are victorious in the way they want to be.   Same time, same place, different witches.  Different definitions of victory and happiness.  I wish I had been able to compare these both feminist texts when I was in high school.

I’m two books away from completing the BookRiot challenge with 8 weeks in the year to go.  The rest of the year is going to sweep right along anyway, with preparing Christmas for a small child.  And then planning my projects in a new year.

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Scary Reads: Demon Possession

I noted in last week’s post that the reads will be darker for the remainder of the scary reads posts.  Some of the books are dark because of the supernatural element and others also take place in a dark time and place in human history.  This week will be the darkest of the supernatural, in my humble opinion:  demon possession.

Briefly, please excuse any post oddities you might come across.  My computer crapped out and I am writing this post on the app with a bluetooth keyboard.  Still learning how to make a post through the app.


The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty

Now, this is far from my first demon possession read that I have posted on here.  Just off the top of my head I can think of three that I read before I read this foundational demon story tome.  I don’t know why it took me so long to loop back around to fit in this basic, but here it is.  And it’s place on my reading list had a definite effect on how scary I found this one.

Demons, or the idea of demons, frightens me to my core.  Don’t get me wrong.  Many of my contemporaries talk about how this was the first horror movie/book they encountered and how it was life alteringly scary.  Since this came out, however, other demon lore has been released that is scarier than this.  By far. I think the next book I will be talking about is an example.

What The Exorcist brings, however, that other books don’t do as much of, is question how real demon possession is in the first place. It takes place in the seventies, which I very much picked up on when reading this book.  Everyone smoked and the prevailing psycholological framework at the time was psychoanalytic. A priest goes to long lengths to get the Vatican’s permission to perform one, trying to prove that the symptoms of the possessed little girl, Regan, cannot be explained away by schizophrenia, while considering for himself if possession could be real.  If this could really be a demon inside this little girl.  He’s not even sure himself.  I can tell you from my own work with people struggling with schizophrenia that the symptoms this girl has deviate significantly from theirs. And while psychoanalysis has its effects on how we do therapy today, I don’t use it, and listening to them talk in those terms in the story it’s amazing how it’s really just the psychology of white people of European descent.  I talk about psychotic symptoms on a near daily basis and I don’t talk about them arising from guilt. And multiple personalities isn’t really a thing.  If someone is having noticeable personality changes and losing time, that’s usually a trauma response and can be helped by working on the underlying trauma. But I digress.

It’s about faith and spirituality as much as it is about getting the demon out of her, and it has that classic insidious nature of possession with the things you notice that are subtle enough to be explained away and then grow to unwieldiness because you didn’t catch them in time. That never gets old for me.  I don’t know why.  I always know where it’s headed and I read with bated breath as it gets there.
So I am going to be critical of a well liked and read book for a moment.  It could get rambly.  I felt it started off rambly and I almost had to put it on audio for it to get its hooks in me, which I didn’t expect with such a highly rated book.  It picked up quickly enough for me, but not before I scanned Goodreads to see if anyone had the same complaint, and they really didn’t, so I pressed on.  I felt like there was too much superfluous detail. Then there was a super rambly character, the police inspector, and it got to the point where I rolled my eyes when he got into the narrative because I knew it would be awhile before we got to the point of what he wanted.  I watched the movie in another lifetime and I didn’t need to watch it again after reading this.  But it was good.  It was scarier in its day than it is now, but it’s also a spiritual work as much as an entertaining one. The other books take the existence of darkness for granted and leap in from there, but this one begs the spiritual question in the first place.

The Demonists, Thomas Sniegoski

This one leaps right in with demons exist and spiral down a dark hole from there.  There is a little bit of skepticism about if mediums are real in the prologue, but the author is sure to kill that. It is fantastic, intense and gory, just as I expected it to be.

I put this one on for a long run because I need to get out of my head when I am running sometimes.  I need to think of something other than how much I’d really just like to stop running.  I wanted something with a promise of being engrossing, diverting and fantastical.  It worked.  I remember one part of my run where it was spooling out one of the narratives to be woven back up at the end and being able to visualize the setting more than worrying about my pace and turning around early.

This was written to be action packed, absorbing and surprising.  Purely entertaining. No long narratives over the requirements to prove a true possession and conversations with experts and long winded police inspectors and other members of the cloth.  No internal battles over spiritual matters and what it means to be spiritual. No, intestines were being torn out, men were killing their own mothers, and a woman has to go to lengths to keep under control a legion of demons within her belly. Demons that she put there in the first place. I don’t mind a bit of a refresh from a pure entertainment read after some of the things I read laden with larger implications.  Even if it haunts me a little.

So any true reader knows that we read for different reasons. Two books dealing with similar material but with different purposes.  Both scary and Halloween-y.

Next week I am blogging on books where Edgar Allan Poe is a character.  Does this qualify it as revisionist history?  I don’t know.  Probably doesn’t matter. But if you’d be interested in catching that post,  I can hint that the Poes in these books are true to the facts I gathered on the realities of his life.  That continue to qualify him as everyone’s eigth grade literary hero.

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Riotous September Continued: A Book with a Female Protagonist over 60

It’s my anniversary weekend!  Seven years.  My husband doesn’t seem to be itching and I even left him for a week this past summer to go camping with my son.  He made pickles and ran laundry and went to work, I don’t think he was caught up in a flirtation with a pretty neighbor.

I remember when months seemed significant relationship markers, and then years did, and I think years were significant in the time when things and I were still changing constantly from year to year.  Nobody held on for the entirety of my moving from a teenager to the adult I was when I met my husband, but that’s okay.   For the best, actually. Now that the changes have slowed a little bit seven years is notable but nothing staggering. I have peers who have been married over ten years by this point with children much older than mine and seem to be doing okay together.  So I will take the seven years since that Friday night I got married in a pub in a forty dollar cocktail dress.  Even if marriage hasn’t always been my favorite.  It’s never someone’s favorite all the time.  But I’ll take it.  I don’t mind a quiet life full of love and enough routine for me to explore my interests too.  And have my sweet boy.  I don’t know how people have the energy to carry on affairs while they fully intend on maintaining the marriage they have.  Or the desire, really.

It’s interesting then that this week’s post,then, has a lot to do with a disastrous marriage in a time and place where disastrous marriages could have been the swept under the rug norm.  I didn’t live in China during the Second World War so I couldn’t tell you for sure on that, but it makes a good story for Amy Tan to churn out.

A Book With A Female Protagonist Over the Age of 60:

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The Kitchen God’s Wife, Amy Tan

Now, props to BookRiot for reminding me that the aged are also a marginalized group.  Especially older women.  With the focus right now, in my opinion, moving off color some and onto gender and still some on religion when it comes to being marginalized, I forget that a large chunk of our population here, Baby Boomers, are moving to the edges. They don’t run the world like they did when I was a kid.  I run the world now! Argh!

And this is about a woman who was already pushed off in China for not having her mother around and then further roped into a disastrous (yes I am using that word again) marriage to a man who seems to have struggled significantly with a mood problem, not that that excuses his abusive behavior.

This would have been harder to read if I had not known from the beginning that she got out.  If it had not started from the vantage of her adult American daughter who is married with children of her own.  Since I knew it ended okay I could get through the assault, the infidelity, the numerous lost children who came to be and the ones who were lost before they did.  The fact that her own father was victimized by him too when he had a stroke and they returned to his home to take over and therefore couldn’t, and never did, save her. I knew she had to have grit to wiggle her way out of his clutches, trying all the ways that she did to get away, and I wanted to know how she got out of the puzzle box.

And I don’t even know if this puzzle box was that unusual.  She did live through the war, making her experiences somewhat unique, but how unique was it?  Were many women in China trapped at that time like that? It is easy to forget when she comes to America and blends in with the other immigrants, which is hinted in the story, running a successful floral shop with two children and a husband, that there were layers of a hard life before underneath it.  Yes, BookRiot, I am sure that this was exactly your point in tossing me into an Amy Tan book.

Speaking of Amy Tan, I read The Joy Luck Club 2005-2006 one summer in my boyfriend’s family’s hot tub, and while it was excellent, the toxic mother daughter relationships were hard to get through and sometimes this makes me reluctant to read more Tan, even though I also own The Valley of Amazement and The Bonesetter’s Daughter.  I know she’s a beautiful, skilled writer who helps me see the world through a different set of eyes, but she can be hard on the emotions too.  Which clearly also makes her gifted.  But I was worried about the same mother daughter dynamic in this one, and while there is a mother and a daughter who do not understand each other, which would be hard anyway because they had completely different lives, they find a way to appreciate each other.  They reach out between their cultural rifts toward one another and it’s a satisfying resolution all around.  It wasn’t toxic, it was just a challenge, but both wanted to be better to the other, which made all the difference.  Maybe her other books would be more palatable.

I wanted to lighten up the emotional pull of my reading after this, so I moved to The Master and Margarita, which I reviewed last week, which was challenging for entirely different reasons.  But then I went camping and moved onto the Halloweeny reads while camping, which the reader should know by now includes scary books for all audiences and levels, and isn’t quite so serious.   Reading while camping was awesome but I lost the moment to post on the magic of reading during camping.  Maybe next year if I take my son to sleep in the woods with me again.

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The Importance of Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing

Another BookRiot read this week with a book that was already higher up on the TBR and then BookRiot made it happen.  There was never any doubt I was going to read this one.

That said, I was putting it off some, too.  It’s like the half marathon I have been training for all summer that’s at the end of September. I know it will be good for me and I will be glad I did it, but it might be a little intense in the middle.  It won’t be about white people problems, and it will be based on real atrocities.

A Book of Colonial or Post Colonial Literature:

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Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi

I’ll be honest right now that this book already looked appealing, but when Ta-Nehisi Coates endorsed it right on the cover, I knew I was going to read it. I knew that if he endorsed this story it would be real and not a whitewashed version of the story.  Not that I thought that the author, a Ghanaian-American woman (and in her twenties, no less), would whitewash the truth, but I get concerned about what happens when it goes through the publishing machine to make it more appealing to white people.

Looking over her bio to be sure I have her specs right for this blog I am also intrigued by what an immigrant black woman’s life is like in Alabama, but maybe she’s saving that up for something else of hers I will inevitably buy.

So, here’s the thing that makes this book special.  The slave narrative, in my opinion, has been done.  I haven’t read all the literature I even have on that, but like I said when I reviewed Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, which I very much respect as a well written novel, I felt it had all been done before.  Homegoing includes more of what the black slavery/immigration/”liberation”/existence was like for the dark skinned in America and Africa in recent history.  There are stories of Africans on both sides of the slave ships, men serving as free mining labor due to trumped up prison charges, a woman kidnapped back into slavery, drugs and jazz in Harlem in the sixties.  There is more than the times they were enslaved, and beaten, and apprehended as part of their time as slaves.  When the Civil War changed the laws there was still a long way to go, especially as I have read Toni Morrison’s Beloved (and  some of the books I have read on literary critique I now feel I  missed about half of it somehow) and the immediate implications of a so called ‘freedom.’

The description on Amazon puts it perfectly: “the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in the light of the present day.”

It’s enough of our history to still be playing out today.

These narratives of families can get tangled and make bounds through time. I wasn’t always completely sure who the new character belonged to out of the women that were first introduced in the very beginning, but I could trace their more immediate families. It wraps through time the different experiences of hardship, and they are complicated ties.   But it almost doesn’t really matter who these people were tied to back in Africa, their stories are important and poignant.  And as I said before, there is conflict in Ghana with the British as well in the story, not just about the American experience.

I might need to make a post on what would be required reading in high school if I ran the ship.  I have a few in mind to help kids getting ready for the world to shake their ignorance just a little sooner.  This would absolutely be on the list.  I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe and while I enjoyed it, it was a piece of propaganda written for the time.  I think Homegoing is more immediate and relevant to people now than Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that relies on a context we no longer live in.  I can’t fault Gyasi for that, though, seeing as she was about nine years old when I was doing my reading for US History and Government.  If I had read this at 16-17 years old, I might have struggled with knowing how to feel about it, a situation that was terrible and past my control, but it would have been a start.

This is a shorter post today, as the other book I am writing about next is also intense and involved.

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Book Riot: A Book Published Posthumously

Likely it will be a riotous September with the month’s posts focusing on the Read Harder Challenge.  I’m gearing up for October being my usual round of seasonal scary reads because I love a scary reads binge to ease me into the fall.   I’ll try not to wax poetic about my guilty love of fall.  I’ll just read the right books to celebrate hoodies, crisp air and spookiness.

There was never any question that this is the year to read the book I chose for this category.  My best friend had just gotten through it, although he openly admitted that he feels some of the story got past him (so I knew some of it would slide by me, too).  I have read many of the other considered to be classic examples of Magical Realism, with a few detours to eat up most everything by Sarah Addison Allen, and then when I googled book ideas for this category it popped right up to greet me, even with the same cover as the used edition I snagged via Amazon not that long ago:

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The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov

It’s telling in itself that I don’t even know where to begin when talking about this novel.  I could start with the fact that I would probably be a ton cooler if I understood it.  If I wasn’t combing the internet for whatever extra information I could get to make it hold together in my mind any better than it did.  It’s not even my first go at a Russian novel, with having read Crime and Punishment and Anna Karenina years ago.  And yet there was always a feeling that I was missing the context that would really drive this one home for me.

What I gathered, mixed with information teased out of the internet, was that Satan and some compatriots, the cat that is featured on every cover of this novel (and even my post!) named Behemoth being one of them, to wreak random havoc on Soviet Russia in a satirical fashion.  I really tried to read other sources before writing this, but it felt so random to me, the reason for their shenanies being that the whole point was to make fun of Soviet Russia circa 1930.  I didn’t understand why they would just roll into Russia and mess with everyone and then decide they are done and take off.  I spent time in my lovely writing course on the importance of character motives and I didn’t see one for these guys other than being foils and hosting a ball leading to a random adulterous woman getting her greatest wish.  Anyone is free to comment to set me straight.

I may have felt I was missing something because of the paucity of knowledge I have around Soviet Russia circa 1930.  I know that the people were mainly poor and struggling.  I grew up during the last vestiges of the Cold War and I remember hearing in school about how Communism played out in the Soviet Union, as well as having done a presentation on Stalin for sixth grade and how he allowed record numbers of his people to die (freeze/starve if memory serves).  But I had to pick through other sources to understand what exactly was being made fun of.  I didn’t mind this, really, but it’s difficult to spend time reading a novel and wishing when it was done that you had done it through the context of a college course where you didn’t have four other courses to complete.

Also, as I have found with many classics, there is a lot of rule breaking going on as far as all the advice out there on how to write a novel people want to read.  The main characters don’t come into the book until the first third is over.  There is none of this introducing them and their arc within the first page or two.  There is action, with Satan arguing about the existence of Jesus with a man who does not believe as was what the government preferred at the time, and then a predicted and freaky mishap ending in death, and then a chapter telling the story leading up to the crucifixion.  But you don’t meet Master for awhile and then even later, his lover Margarita.  And as I said before, either I am really dense or there aren’t really clear motivations of the supernatural team of the devil and his cronies, and then the Russians find ways after to explain it away and minimize it, which the writer takes pains to detail out.  And you never really know why Margarita is so dissatisfied with her clearly enviable life to the point where she throws it all away to carry out the dreams of her lover.  Like, I understood why Anna Karenina made the choices she did, because Dostoyevsky made her sucky marriage clear, but Margarita has money and a loving husband and takes the first chance she gets to become a witch and fly around and then host a ball with like, no clothes on, meeting some of the darkest souls in Christendom.  I know she does this to be reunited with her lover but she enjoys it, too.

It was entertaining and I know I’ll need another go at it at some point to gather all of it.  Even reading the summaries shortly after the chapter (which was somewhat interrupted by the fact I was reading it on a camping grip with limited WiFi access) I was like okay, that part was not as clear or I missed something.   n

I also realize this was a lot to say about a book I had to work at for the incomplete knowledge I gleaned.  And it gets its own post being as mysterious and intriguing as it was leading up to reading it and then the baffling entertainment that it afforded.  It was messed up and that’s why people love it.  But I think there is more of a point to the messed up that I sifted out.  And I don’t feel ashamed of that.

Riot list reads continue as we coast into the last quarter of the year.  My last fall was busy and this one is shaping up to be, too, with not having time to set aside to do my pending novel edits.  As I have noted ad nauseum before, however, it is a long, long winter.

 

Comments/Likes/Shares, especially if anyone cares to enlighten me further on this one.

 

 

 

 

 

BookRiot: A Book with a Cover you Hate

Labor Day weekend: the predawn of the school year for us in New York.  My son will be a first grade boy!  I have less apprehension about this year, as there have been glimpses of the mature boy that he is headed toward, but there still is some.  He’s still him, after all.

It’s been a BookRiot binge.  A binge! I think I just love a list, but whatever, it’s guiding my reading appreciably.

A Book With a Cover You Hate:

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My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrarante

So yeah, this cover, bar none, cracked me in the face the first time I saw it.  BookRiot gave examples of books whose covers they don’t like, but it was usually because the cover had nothing to do with the story, or it was part of a series of covers that featured the authors over any other aspect of the book, like Margaret Atwood chilling on the cover of A Handmaid’s Tale.  This cover is way uglier than any author could dream of being. And for clarification, I am only talking about the first novel cover, not the series, but I will mention that in a bit.

It’s ugly to me because it looked so impossibly common and cheap.  I have said before I don’t tend to read books with a shoe, a purse, jewelry or a martini glass on the cover (except a witchy cozy because come on, its a cozy with magic) and a wedding is certainly on that list.  An ugly wedding at that.  An ugly wedding at the top!

Interestingly, the wedding in the book felt to me as superficial and cheesy as the picture on the cover.   This brilliant novel, and I will agree with everyone else who finds her writing brilliant, is about two girls born into a world that neither is really suited for.  One, the narrator, is supported by her parents by distinguishing herself from the usual fates of neighborhood girls by allowing her to attend school much longer and shining at it much more.  The other is not allowed to shine through school so shines by living the most prized existence possible within the confines of her world.  She shines by (spoiler alert) attracting and marrying one of the most desirable neighborhood boys and displaying a wealth and sophistication only dreamed of by others, but as I said, I think her marriage to him is more about beating everyone at their own game rather than being a true source of fulfillment for her. At the end of this first installment, there’s no proof that either is particularly happy.  I feel that both females are at their happiest with one another, even though the relationship has it’s dysfunctional aspects.

There is a little codependency on the narrator’s part.  She chases after a friend who she truly loves, but who can be as emotionally unavailable and even less predictable at times than her own mother, who predictably and pretty consistently hates her.  She also develops real feelings for a boy for the first time who can be focused on himself and unavailable as well. I mean, a mother who hates you will cause you to seek out relationships that are emotionally uneven.   It makes sense.  But I wanted more for both of these girls than the world they were born into, the world that wasn’t for them.  I wanted more for her than (spoiler alert) boy that got her hopes up about being academically recognized and doesn’t follow through.  I don’t know how I’d survive in a world that didn’t have a place for my strengths.

So about the cover. Other sources suggest that the covers were chosen to look ‘domestic’ because Ferrarante wanted to suggest that the details of domestic women’s lives are important as a literary topic.  She was hiding relevant/resonant material in covers that made it look the opposite. She was being ironic.  She was pointing out my condescending attitude toward books geared at women, which I already demonstrated with my previous paragraph regarding cover no fly zones. The cover eventually didn’t deter me due to the intrigue surrounding the covers and her secret identity, and because I knew they were highly rated and regarded.  The contents promised to outshine the trappings, and they did.  And a brief perusal of the other covers shows me that that first cover, that first face smack, is still the worst of the series.

This won’t change my reliance on a good cover.  Or my attraction to a book based on the cover.  I have a hard time turning away something darkly magical.  Some people wrote that they still haven’t made it past the covers.   But I did.  I made it.  And I ached for the characters in this depressing novel.  And I’m sure this was Ms. Ferrarante’s goal.

Another BookRiot post is coming up next, but there has been a list drafted of my creepy read downs for the impending fall.  And it’s not fall yet, lest anyone think that Sept 1 signals the acceptability of pumpkin coffees, because it does not.

I am ready for another creepy season without having to buy any books, insert wide eye emoji here.

Plus noveling continues. More about that at some point.

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Re-tellings continued: Austen Project #3

I can hardly believe that I have arrived at the end of my son’s kindergarten year.  It felt like eons before he could even enroll in public school, even though I did so as soon as he was old enough, on the cusp of turning five with some behaviors that were equally on the cusp.  I had a few weeks of concern over his adjustment, but then, after he turned five, he was magically fine.  Something clicked.

My son appears to experience distinct leaps in growth.  The first one involved two night terrors a night apart, after which he emerged sleeping through the night, walking, and never having another night terror at fifteen months.  Every August I feel that he has turned the next age in his maturity, when his birthday hovers around Halloween.   Facebook reminds me every year with bringing back posts on different years where I captioned, “a lot of growth this month!”

And now here he is with a kindergarten musical this upcoming Friday and here I am talking about the Jane Austen re-telling that I feel is the most about growing up than all her major novels…

 

Emma.jpg

Emma (The Austen Project #3), Alexander McCall Smith

I really liked this one. Emma might be my favorite Austen novel now.  I loved Pride and Prejudice first, once I had gotten enough understanding of the plot. At the time in my life I fell in love with the story I was hoping for some secret rich guy to fall in love with me from the wings.  I needed it to happen back then before I met my husband when I was floundering around in relationships that were frustrating and confusing in the impecunious years of youth and school and very little stability.  Pemberley?  Just because I am my feisty self?  Whaa?  I watched my favorite Pride and Prejudice movie after I got married and it didn’t give me the same hope.  Because I didn’t need it anymore.  I had created my own stability.

Anyway.

The author beat me to the punch on this one with the age difference.  Mr. Knightley is is established early on as being already established in the world and a bachelor to boot, but he specifically discusses how a fourteen year age difference didn’t impede the couple’s growing regard.  He talks about how they care about each others opinions and slowly begin to find the other interesting. I think them ending up together was less of a surprise in this one than in the original.  Also, with my own writing instruction and my love of  and familiarity with this plot, which extends to the movie Clueless, I could easily spot the setup in the conversations Emma had with her governess that set up the growth that she was about to experience through her actions in the rest of the novel.   Maybe it isn’t that I am better at picking these things out, it might just be Smith’s artistry.  But I liked it.

This one felt truly modernized, not just the same plot with some cell phones, texting and social media tossed in there, like Sense and Sensibility felt like.  There was the classic useless parent, this time a father, who doesn’t move her growth along nearly as much as her governess.   I like that she makes the active choice to stop being idle and trying to arrange people’s lives from her pedestal and learns that truly helping others more than just telling them what to do is the true fulfillment. This combined with having her own occupation and contribution also helped make it seem more modern to me.  Her contribution in the original one is just to get married, which a happy marriage is the highest they can aspire to back then, but with her choosing a real direction with her life was much more modern and satisfying.

So, Emma grows up, and my boy is at a milestone.

I don’t know where my next post is coming from. I need to re-read a classic for my novel and I have a BookRiot book post waiting for use, but neither of those go on my retelling streak and I have not completed all my books that are re-tellings of classics.  So, I am not sure.  And being that it is summer, I need to start posting every other week again, to give me time for other writing.

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