All the Single Ladies: Book thoughts

Ever since I read Spinster–and probably before–I have wanted to read a book celebrating singleness. I live in two very different worlds–half the time I am working among other career-driven single academics; half the time I am with church friends who got married at 20, immediately had 17 babies*, and are less good than they think at hiding their disdain for my life. This means that I think a lot about singleness in general, and female singleness in particular. A lot of my friends have recently had or will soon be having babies, so I have been thinking about it more than usual just lately. I am extremely happy to be single and am unlikely to be persuaded into a relationship**. However, I am highly irritated by the patronising pity heaped on me by people who have never had the opportunity to be single. Continue reading

Personal Canon

After Jillian wrote her “personal canon” list (the books that have most impacted her), she asked me to do one too. Here it is, Jillian; I hope you like it. You did say that you like reading people’s emotional responses to books—so here I am, emoting absolutely all over the place. (There is a spoiler in here about Tenant of Wildfell Hall, in case anyone is concerned about that). Continue reading

On Mary Bennet, Hermione Granger, and two centuries of progress

I have a sneaking, uncomfortable suspicion about Pride and Prejudice; a dreadful secret, the nature of which I am about to relate. I’ve confessed before that I disliked the book the first time I read it. That is shameful enough for a book blogger. But here is the truth: perhaps the reason I could not stomach Pride and Prejudice the first time round is that I’ve known all along that I am, in form and substance, far more Mary Bennet than Elizabeth—the frump, the prig, the awkward girl in a corner with a book. It is not pleasant to read a novel in which a character I strongly resemble is constantly, viciously skewered by the narrator. Continue reading

On excellent, horrible books.

This is not a professional book review blog. I don’t work for a newspaper or a publisher. I’ve even stopped accepting books for review, because that affected my enjoyment of the whole process. I read, and blog, entirely for pleasure. That said, I still feel compelled to think critically about the books that I read, to consider the quality of the writing and content and not just my own enjoyment. Of course, most of the time, a well-written book will be one I enjoy reading. Even if the content matter is dark, there will be things for me to love in it—beautiful turns of phrase, or superb character development, or unexpected plot twists. (The reverse is not necessarily true—I take huge pleasure in rereading Nancy Drew books, which I am sure only have six plots between all 200+ of them). Continue reading

Lord of the Rings: a love letter

Lord of the Rings holds a place in my heart that will never be taken by any other book. Although I’ve mentioned here and there on this blog that it’s long been one of my favourites, I don’t think I’ve ever unpacked exactly why I love it so much. I thought I’d do so here. Now, in case the title wasn’t sufficiently clear, I am not going to even attempt objectivity here. I am not going to engage with any of the criticisms that could be made of Tolkien. This post is a thank you to Lord of the Rings, and to Tolkien, for having brought so much joy into my life on so many occasions. Continue reading

Jo March: Pioneer and Personal Hero

Caution! This post contains spoilers for all books in the Little Women series, a lot of footnotes containing personal asides, and more extensive use of italics than I intended. Also, I haven’t read Little Women or Little Men since I was a teenager, because Jo’s Boys is my favourite in the series (I know, I know). However, I was really interested by one of the Classic Remarks questions, and I thought I’d give it a shot.

Which March sister from Little Women is your favourite? Do you agree with the way their lives played out? Continue reading

On Sexism and Susan Pevensie

One of my favourite bloggers, Jillian, drew my attention to the Classic Remarks meme over at Pages Unbound. Essentially, this meme strikes me as “essay questions for people who really miss English lessons”. I am definitely one of those. Jillian’s blog is not always up, so I can’t link to her interesting answers at the moment, but I leafed through the questions with fascination. I will probably answer some of them gradually over the course of the next few months, but for one, I have an answer pretty much ready to go (and have done for years–I’m so glad someone finally asked me).

Susan Pevensie’s fate in CS Lewis’ The Last Battle has been criticised for being sexist. Do you think it’s sexist, or is Lewis trying to say or do something else?

Continue reading