“Heartburn” book response and March selection!

February. The month of love! I thought the group had picked a light rom-com when I saw that the winning book (Heartburn) was written by Nora Ephron and had a pink cover with a heart on it. Instead what I ended up reading was more of a short novel about the process of falling out of love. The plot was a bit of a downer, but the writing itself was light, funny and cynical.

The book jumps right in with both feet, and the first thing we find out is that the main character, Rachel, has been cheated on by her husband of several years, Mark. Mark does not come off very well in the book, but that could be due to the bitter first-person narrative of The Woman Scorned. Both Rachel and Mark seem funny and successful like many Washington, DC power couples, but we find out they don’t have that much in common. It comes out that Rachel has been seeing a therapist for many years, which Mark doesn’t take seriously (jerk alert). Rachel harbors a lot of resentment against him for this, so I got the impression that their relationship may have been on the rocks aside from the obvious adultery transgression. It’s not a good sign if a person and their spouse don’t respect each other.

So, I think I covered what made it a downer. Here’s what counteracted that: Nora Ephron’s writing shone through in Rachel’s voice as witty and conversational. She used lots of asides (which I like to do, look I just used one), to great comic effect. There was exaggeration, too, and lots of New York and DC stereotypes and unique side characters (like Rachel’s neurotic first husband who sounded absolutely dreadful). The way she worked recipes in seamlessly and conversationally was a nice touch, too.

Oh, and Rachel also resents the fact that Mark (a newspaper columnist) used to turn life events into fodder for his writing. This struck home to me as a blogger. I like to write about my life but I have been conscientious not to write about everything and especially not stuff that affects my relationships with those who have no voice in my story.

Nora Ephron famously wrote movies like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally so I was looking for a show-stopping romantic ending, but instead the book ends somewhat abruptly and leaves the reader pondering what would happen next. I was glad to read something short and I’m not really bothered by non-endings (when it’s a slice of life like this, anyway) so I thought the open-ended conclusion was fine but I rate the book overall as a bit forgettable.


Virtual Book ClubA reminder that we started a facebook group for the book club if you would rather discuss our monthly reads over there instead of in the comment section here. We had a really nice time talking about Heartburn last night and fangirling over Queen Meryl Streep. Message me on facebook to be added. Also, don’t forget to stop by Libby and Steph’s blogs to see their book club responses.

March commences today, and our group chose The Handmaid’s Tale. There’s a Hulu series coming out in April based on this dystopian fiction, and it seems like something Every Good Feminist reading should have under her belt. I’m a bit intimidated though, but here goes!

Advertisements

“The Secret History of Wonder Woman” book response and February selection!

IMG_3021.JPG

Our group decided to go with a non-fiction book for January, and boy did we pick something unexpected. Libby, Steph and I nominated three books and then had our new facebook group vote on which to read. The group chose The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. What a doozy!

Shifting from easy fiction to a book like this was a bit of a jolt for me and it look a little while to get my brain back in the academic game. My first issue with this book is that the title and cover are misleading. Aside from little sneak peeks, illustrations, and clips from comic strips, the creation of Wonder Woman does not happen until almost page 200!

The book is, actually, a detailed biography of WW creator William Moulton Marston, starting his first year in undergrad at Harvard. There are many interesting parts to the book, most of which do not concern Marston himself. His wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston was an amazing go-getter, especially for the 1920s and 30s. She earned as many degrees as she could, matching her husband one-for-one. She was actually the breadwinner for most of their relationship, which is really saying something considering the family was made of 8 (and a half) people, when one adds live-in mistress Olive Byrne, four children (two from each lover) and a sometime-roommate (and probable lover) who at times lived in the attic.

fullsizerender
I mean …

Olive Byrne was Margaret Sanger’s niece so there was a nice deviation off of the main story about the advent of the birth control movement. Sanger’s sister (Olive’s mother) was Ethel Byrne who was arrested in 1917 for talking about the fact that pregnancy could be prevented, and whose hunger strike in prison brought the nation’s eyes to this topic. I love that Jill Lepore included prints of the newspapers distributed by birth control advocates and feminists back in the 19-teens. I was also saddened that we are often rehashing the same arguments 100 years later. “In the end, the judge ruled that no woman has ‘the right to copulate with a feeling of security that there will be no resulting conception’: if a woman isn’t willing to die in childbirth, she shouldn’t have sex.” Yes, I see this argument in facebook arguments daily.

img_3022

Changing the topic, I have this minor fascination with the turn of the century and some of the kooky stuff that happened pre-Great Depression. People had so many ideas then. I feel that rich white people were always up to something strange. Global exploration, countless inventions, the birth of Psychology as a science (which was explored a bit in this book), the beginnings of science fiction (Verne, Wells), and even political explorations, like Russia’s communist revolution! My work campus sits on the former site of a utopian cult so I have been down that rabbit hole many times. The past is often sanitized, so the idea of free love experimentation before the 1960s really surprised me, but at the same time, totally made sense. What I really didn’t get was—what did these women see in Marston? Was it simply the desire to be different? In my eyes he was an entitled, semi-successful psychologist who routinely borrowed his women’s ideas and passed them off as his own, usually blatantly denying them credit. Not much going for him, but he certainly was different from men of the day.

There is a lot to get into with this book, but writing about it one-sided is not doing the topic justice. Our virtual book club had an online discussion group last night and I very thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m glad that others had the same reactions as I did to aspects like, what did all these women see in Marston? What is he bringing to the table here? 

More reading:

The Free-Love Experiment That Created Wonder Woman, Noah Berlatsy, The Atlantic

The Surprising Origin Story of Wonder Woman, Jill Lepore, Smithsonian Magazine

As always leave your comments below or link me to your review if you’ve already posted it on Goodreads or Amazon. I would love to read your take.


Virtual Book ClubA reminder that we started a facebook group for the book club if you would rather discuss our monthly reads over there instead of in the comment section here. Message me on facebook to be added.

For February, our group fittingly picked a light rom-com by queen of the genre Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, etc). Heartburn promises to be less cumbersome than January’s book, so please join along with Libby, Steph, and the rest of our group as we read together.

“A Man Called Ove” book response and January selection!

Virtual Book ClubTo finish out the year we picked A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, a book that has been making its way around many book club circles especially in the latter part of this year. The blurbs on the cover of this book pitched it as touching and heartwarming. I am generally a fan of Swedish things, so I was looking forward to reading this Swedish best-seller.

I will admit that this book did not win me over until the last couple of chapters. I’m not one to not finish books, but if I wasn’t reading it for book club, I might have set this one down and moved on to something more exciting. I found that Ove reminded me too much of people in my life who’ve let the process of following rules to the letter, and sticking to rigid principles instead of practicing flexibility, rob them of so much joy. I understand that is the point of the book, the word “curmudgeon” is right there on the cover, and yet when I dove in I really underestimated Ove’s curmudgeonliness.

[Spoilers in the next two paragraphs, I guess]
Ove’s preoccupation with ending his life really rubbed me the wrong way. Yes, his wife died and he doesn’t know how to adjust to the world at large without her. Suicidal tendencies are not out of the question when the most important person in the world is taken away. I know that depression is a crushing and inescapable feeling and I think the author treated the protagonist’s three failed suicide efforts (one serious, two more half-hearted) too lightly, as “day in the life” episodes instead of life-shattering moments which they would be.

It is revealed bit by bit that Ove has had a hard life. Growing up very poor, losing his house, his wife’s accident, losing his wife: these are all things that can make a person’s heart hard. However, the way the story is presented, it seems like Ove’s heart has always been hard even from childhood. In this way it is not like Ove’s diverse group of neighbors are helping him rediscover a version of himself that was lost long ago, but instead totally change his whole personality. Of course, the end where he does change himself to being open to his new neighbors and knits himself into the lives of those in his cul-de-sac is the best part of the book, and once we reach that point, it feels more like an epilogue than part of the story itself. So, aside from the fact that an elderly man changing his whole personality seems far-fetched, the end is by far the best part of the book and it does live up to the “touching” and “heartwarming” blurbs on the back. But it’s kind of too little, too late.

A Man Called Ove

There have been one or two book club reads that I’ve been “meh” about but this was the first one I actively disliked as I was reading it. Looking forward to what my fellow readers have to say in their responses! I know Libby will be posting one up and Steph might be posting one too so make sure to check out their blogs.

As always leave your comments below or link me to your review if you’ve already posted it on Goodreads or Amazon. I would love to read your take.


The Secret History of Wonder WomanA reminder that we started a facebook group for the book club if you would rather discuss our monthly reads over there instead of in the comment section here. Message me on facebook to be added.

To start the new year, we decided to read a non-fiction book since the majority of what we tackled in 2016 was fiction work. Our facebook group voted on three choices and picked The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Havard professor and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore. This book was Steph’s choice, which I voted for over my own nomination! The Amazon synopsis sounds really great so I am very much looking forward to this glimpse of feminism in the comic book industry.