Smith, Alexander McCall. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Narrated by Lisette Lecat. New York: Recorded Books, 1998.
As soon as you meet Mma Precious Ramotswe you realize she is a force to be reckoned with. As Botswana’s first female detective she spends most of her time solving mysteries by using her intuition and her ability to read people. She is a good judge of character so while she isn’t always solving major crimes like murders, she is making individual lives better. Take the very first case for example, “The Daddy.” A man claiming to be a woman’s long lost father moves into her house and starts to take advantage of her generosity. The woman has reason to believe the man is an imposter and goes to Precious for help. Precious tells the man his “daughter” has been in a terrible accident and needs a blood transfusion. Only he can supply the blood needed…and that the procedure is highly dangerous so there is a good chance he will not survive. BUT, he will save his daughter! Precious knows a true father will lay down his own life for his only daughter while a perfect stranger will not. Sure enough, the imposter admits he is a fraud and is run out of town. The list of “mysteries” solved grows longer and as a result so does Mma Ramotswe’s reputation. She becomes the number one detective agency for Botswana. The types of mysteries Mma Ramotswe solves range from deadly serious (the disappearance of a young boy) to the downright silly (a father doesn’t want his young daughter seeing boys). Probably my favorite cases are the latter because the daughter pulls a fast one on both her father and Mma Ramotswe but I also liked the time when Mma Ramotswe has to steal back a stolen Mercedes Benz and return it to its rightful owner without anyone knowing how it all happened.
Reason read: January celebrates the female heroine of mysteries. This is the first book in a very long series. I will be reading five more. I can’t wait to read some of the others.
Author fact: Alexander McCall Smith looks a little like John Cleese to me. I have no idea why.
Book trivia: Interesting fact – I heard that HBO made a series out of the books. That’s cool. Now I wish I subscribed to HBO!
BookLust Twist: Nancy Pearl must love this book. It is mention in all three “Lust” books: Book Lust (in the huge chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 123)), More Book Lust (in the chapter called “Ms Mystery” (p 170)),and Book Lust To Go (in the chapter called simply “Botswana” (p 70)). I have to admit I agree. This was a great book!
December 2012 was a decidedly difficult month. I don’t mind admitting it was stressful and full of ups and downs. How else can I describe a period of time that contained mad love and the quiet urge to request freedom all at once? A month of feeling like the best thing on Earth and the last person anyone would want to be with? I buried myself in books to compensate for what I wasn’t sure I was feeling. And I won’t even mention the Sandy twins. But wait. I just did.
- The Wholeness of a Broken Heart by Katie Singer ~ in honor of all things Hanukkah. This was by far my favorite book of the month.
- Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner ~ in honor of Iowa becoming a state in December. This was a close second.
- The Tattered Cloak and Other Novels by Nina Berberlova ~ in honor of the coldest day in Russia being in December. I read a story every night.
- Big Mouth & Ugly Girl by Carol Joyce Oates ~ in honor of Oates being born in December. I was able to read this in one sitting.
- The Women of the Raj by Margaret MacMillan ~ in honor of December being one of the best times to visit India
- Rosalind Franklin: Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox ~ in honor of Franking being born in December
- Billy by Albert French ~ in honor of Mississippi becoming a state in December
- Apples are From Kazakhstan by Christopher Robbins ~ in honor of Kazakhstan gaining its independence in December.
In an attempt to finish some “series” I read:
- Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Vol 3 by Giorgio Vasari (only one more to go after this, yay!)
- Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers
For audio here’s what I listened to:
- The Galton Case by Ross MacDonald ~ this was laugh-out-loud funny
- Bellwether by Connie Willis ~ in honor of December being Willis’s birth month
For the Early Review Program with LibraryThing here’s what I read:
- Drinking with Men: a Memoir by Rosie Schaap
And here’s what I started:
- Gold Coast Madam by Rose Laws
For fun: Natalie Merchant’s Leave Your Sleep.
MacMillan, Margaret. Women of the Raj: the Mothers, Wives, and Daughters of the British Empire in India. New York: Random House, 2007.
The title of this book says it all. In a nutshell MacMillan paints a portrait of British women during the 19th century in India under British rule. She covers all aspects of a woman’s life during the Raj from arriving by the boatload to (for some) dying in the Mutiny and everything in between. What you will discover is that McMillan’s work isn’t overly scholarly. It is more of a commentary on the social, economic and cultural dynamics of a slice of history from the perspective of a wife, daughter, sister, mother…
Interesting line, “They had psychological security of knowing where they belonged” (p 52).
Reason read: December is supposed to be a pretty good time of year to visit India.
Author fact: MacMillan has an Indian-born mother and MacMillan wrote a thesis on the British presence in India in and around the 19th century.
Book trivia: The photographs in Women of the Raj are amazing.
Sad but true story ~ I had just started reading Women of the Raj and was barely 20 pages in when I started to doze off. Drowsily I put the book on the end table above my head and settled in for a little afternoon nap. I wasn’t asleep for more than ten minutes before I was startled awake by my husband’s swearing. He had spilled a glass of water on my book. Why? A strip joint two towns away had blown up and the blast was loud enough to make my husband jump.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “India: a Reader’s Itinerary” (p 125).
December is a mixed bag. Kisa and I aren’t traveling anywhere (I think we did enough of that over the summer). We’ll get the tree today. I’ll spend the weekend humming Christmas tunes and decorating the crap out of the house. Not much else is planned except a lot of books, books, books. For starters I am reading a lot of continuations:
- Brush with Death by Elizabeth Duncan ~ a final book in the continuation of the series I started last month.
- The Good Thief’s Guide to Vegas by Chris Ewan ~ this finishing the Good Thief series I started in October.
- Lives of the Painters… by Giorgio Vasari ~ this is the third (and penultimate) book in the series started in October
- Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers ~ this continues the series started with The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club…
Confession: a bunch of these books aren’t “series” per se. But, because they continue a story (same characters, continuation of plot) I wanted to read them in order, especially Chris Ewan.
For the honor of all things December:
- The Wholeness of a Broken Heart by Katie Singer ~ in honor of Hanukkah
- Women of the Raj by Margaret Macmillan ~ in honor of December being a really good time to visit India
- The Tattered Cloak by Nina Berberova ~ in honor of the coldest day in Russia (12/31/76)
- Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegman ~ in honor of Iowa becoming a state in December
For the Early Review Program for LibraryThing I’m back to nonfiction: Drinking with Men by Rosie Schaap (I remembered her last name by thinking Schnapps). This looks really interesting because it isn’t someone’s sob story memoir about being an trapped and pathetic alcoholic.
And, lastly audio – I am planning to drive to work to the tune of Ross Macdonald’s The Galton Case.
So, there is it. Ten books. Ambitious of me, I know. The way I look at it I have ten days of vacation coming up with barely anything to do. I want to spend a great deal of time reading if nothing else.
Firestone, Shumlamith. The Dialectic of Sex: the case for feminist revolution. Tornton: Bantam Books, 1971.
I have to start off by saying something about the cover of this book. For starters, the woman. It is a photograph of a Degas painting called simply Tete De Jeune Femme. The face of this young woman is a subject for scrutiny; her expression, debatable. She looks passive, unconcerned. To the first glance she is an observer and not a feeler. And yet, there is something sad, worrying in her eyes. But, the photograph is not the only thing that makes this cover so interesting. It’s the text. “…a slashing attack on male supremacy…” This had me worried in all sorts of ways. I’m not looking to attack men. Hell, I married one, didn’t I? And then there’s this: “Chapter 6 might change your life.” Is that a promise or a threat? That led me to question things. Wait, does my life NEED changing? Then I read the book…
I have to admit, many different parts of Firestone’s book gave me pause. For example, the concept that war (specifically World War II) was a welcomed opportunity for women to be treated as equals was really interesting. The idea that women hired as the only available workforce during that time allowed them to be and feel necessary and not just in the “female” sense of family and sex. The second concept that feminism and Freud “grew from the same soil” (p 43).
Firestone does not leave any aspect of the case for feminist revolution uncovered. She even delves into the stages of fashion for children in medieval times. For the male child dress was not to symbolize just age but to also announce sex, social rank and prosperity, whereas the female child did not have stages of fashion. She went from swaddling directly to adult garments. There was no need to differentiate social rank and prosperity because women had neither.
Lines that struck me: “We can attempt to develop a materialistic view of history based on sex itself” (p 5), and “This radical movement was built by women who had literally no civil status under law; who were pronounced civilly dead upon marriage, or remained legal minors if they did not marry; who could not sign a will or even have custody of their own children upon divorce; who were not taught to read, let alone admitted to college…; who had no political voice whatever” (p 17). And the line that made me laugh out loud, “She then assuages his pricked ego by assuring him of her undying loyalty to his Balls” (p 123).
Reason read: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. We are in the pink once again. I have a whole slew of books dedicated to honor strong women fighting or surviving cancer. Shulamith is one such influential woman.
Author fact: I was shocked to discover Firestone passed away a little over a month ago.
Book trivia: Thanks to Wikipedia I learned a there is a documentary out there called “Shulie.” I have to look that up.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “I Am Woman – Hear Me Roar” (p 121).
October. What I can I say about October besides it is a yin yang of good and bad. Three different friends celebrate their anniversaries in this month so it is a month of love for some. My cousin passed away October 10th last year. A new dark cloud anniversary for some. Kisa and a friend and I head to Monhegan for a week. It will be good to be homehome. In fact I’ll need to post this early in order for it not to be almost two weeks late. What else is October? Halloween. Pumpkins. A return to cozy knee high leggings. Kisa and I are already talking about buying and burning wood. The stove didn’t see much action last year. Here are the books:
- Hackers edited by Jack Dann ~ in honor of October being computers month. Disclaimer ~ I had to place an interlibrary loan on this one so I’m not sure I’ll actually read it in time.
- Persian Boy by Mary Renault ~ a continuation of the Alexander the Great series. Note: I am not reading the third and final book of the trilogy.
- Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper ~ a continuation of the Leatherstocking series. Nope. I’m just saying I’ll read it when I know I won’t. If the preceding book was “attempted” the following book won’t even get a chance. New rule.
- The Outermost House: A year of life on the great beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston ~ in honor of October being animal month
- Dialect of Sex by Shulamith Firestone ~ in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness month and strong women (I started this last year and didn’t finish it in time).
- Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects by Giorgio Vasari ~ in honor of October being art appreciation month.
- And for audio: The Man From Beijing by Swedish author Henning Mankell ~ as a wild card book.
For the Early Review program on LibraryThing I am reading Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee by Thomas Craughwell. I’m pretty excited about this one. Historical cooking with a Founding Father. You can’t go wrong!
Adams, Alice. After You’ve Gone. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989.
I feel positively silly titling a blog “After You’ve Gone” because the phrase has been so overused in music, television, theater and yes, even books. This review is for the compilation of short stories by Alice Adams and not to be confused with the Nova Scotia novel of the same name by Jefferey Lent or the Scottish one by Joan Lingard. I’m sure there are others…
After You’ve Gone could be described as a compilation of stories with two central themes: relationships and change. There are fourteen short stories in all and every one of them addresses the subject of a change (mostly involving women or from the woman’s point of view). The changes range from divorce, loss, aging…It’s as if Adams rode the train to work everyday and stared at the same fourteen people. Ordinary people. Many of them with underwhelming, ordinary stories to tell. Each story is a moment in time for each passenger. My favorite one was the title story. A newly divorced woman is addressing her ex-husband. It’s the only one of its kind. Her tone takes on different emotions throughout the monologue. Regret is obvious as she recounts the things she misses about him, irritation becomes apparent when revealing his new lover has been writing to her, and a show of defiance when she talks about her new/old relationship and the trip she plans to take with him. It’s brilliant. The rest of the stories are a little redundant. The characters are either academic, artistic or medical. Most live in some part of California. I found reading more than two stories in one sitting was a little tiresome.
Reason read: Adams was born in August.
Author Fact: Adams is known for her short stories.
Book Trivia: The best way to read After You’ve Gone is a story a day. Digesting the seemingly similar stories is easier that way. There is less redundancy.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “A…My Name is Alice” (p 1). Simple as that.
Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Ivy Books, 1989.
Yeah, yeah. I know what you’re thinking. This should be a reread for me at this stage of the game. Believe it or not, I’d never read it before. Nor have I seen the movie. It bears repeating. I didn’t know this story. At all. Surprised? Don’t be. There are a lot of books I need to catch up to. I have a lot of words to chase. Still.
So. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. In a word, magical. In two words, thought provoking. In three, very well written. In four, impossible to put down. I’ll stop there but you get the point. I liked it.
I feel a little redundant writing about a book that has been around for so long. Everyone knows it either through reading it (hey, it did spend nine months on the best seller list) or from seeing the movie. I’m the only who has been living under a rock! But, anyway:
The Joy Luck follows the lives of three immigrant Chinese women who had started up a Mahjong club called Joy Luck in 1949. (There is a fourth founder but she dies before the book starts.) When the fourth founder dies from an brain aneurism her adult daughter is invited to join the group. Each chapter is a vignette, alternating between the Chinese mothers of the group and their American-born daughters. Through memories, parables, heritage and tragic history the visuals and dialogues make each character come alive.
One of the elements that makes The Joy Luck Club so fascinating is that it is structured like the game Mahjong the Joy Luck Club plays. To be fair, I had to do a little research about mahjong because I wasn’t sure how it is played. After learning how the game is set up it dawned on me it was the identical design of Tan’s book.
Four parts that are divided into four sections totaling 16 different slices of story.
Personal joke: “…Ted introduced me to all his relatives as his girlfriend which, until then, I didn’t know I was” (p 124). Been there!
Book Trivia: The Joy Luck Club was translated into over 30 different languages, was a best-seller for nine months and was made into a movie in 1993 starring Tsai Chin. Chin also starred in Memoirs of a Geisha, another book on my list.
Author fact: Amy Tan co-authored a book with one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, in 1994 called Mid-Life Confidential: The Rock Bottom Remainders Tour with Three Cords and an Attitude .
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Asian American Experience” (p 26).
Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. New York: Scholastic, 1987.
I think it goes without saying that Little Women is a classic. Who doesn’t know the story of Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth? Okay, so female readers of all ages probably know it better than men but either way there is no denying it’s a classic! Plus, they made a movie out of it!
So. To repeat the obvious: This is the story of the March women – Mrs. March and her four daughters. Too old to be drafted into service, Mr. March enlists to be a chaplain in the civil war. While he is away Mrs. March and her girls keep a modest house house in Concord, Massachusetts. The story centers around the four daughters and their four very different personalities. Alcott was ahead of her time when she created the character of Josephine (“Jo”). Jo is an ambitious tomboy who cuts her hair and wants to be a unmarried writer. She is referred to as male by herself (saying she is the man of the house while Father is away) and by her father (who calls her “son”). It’s an interesting dynamic to the plot. The rest of the March women are as Victorian as can be. I try to refrain from seeing them as prissy. They are all very pretty and wishy-washy and have talent. As a aside, the storytelling reminded me of Anne of Green Gables.
Disclaimer: Alcott intended Little Women to the first of a two volume set (with Good Wives being the second). Because Good Wives is not on my reading list I didn’t read it with Little Women.
Author Fact: Louisa May Alcott is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, MA. I wonder if I’ll have time to look her up while I am there in another week?
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Three-Hanky Reads” (p 236). Of course Pearl is referring to the part when Beth dies.
Bradley, Marion Zimmer. The Mists of Avalon. New York: Del Rey, 1982.
The first time I read The Mists of Avalon I was in high school. We were studying literature written by women; literature that made an impact one way or another. Marion Zimmer Bradley was in the company of women like Margaret Atwood, Robin McKinley and Ursula K. Le Guin. Guess my teacher liked fantasy.
The Mists of Avalon is a retelling of the story of King Arthur, only King Arthur isn’t really a major character. It’s all from the point of view of the women in his life – King Arthur’s sister, mother, grandmother and wife, among others. The battle isn’t over the throne or with warring neighbors, but rather the differing religions. Patriarchal Christianity is locked conflict with Matriarchal Druid magic. It’s an interesting twist of politics and feminist rule. But, Bradley also explores other conflicts in society like fate versus free will, and magical powers versus realism.
Probably the thing that took me by surprise was the subtle use of incest, rape and other sexual situations within the text.
Book Trivia: While The Mists of Avalon has garnered much praise it is also been criticized as being “feminist propaganda.” It is the retelling of King Authur from the perspective of the key women in the story; namely Morgaine, Gwynhefar, Igraine and Viviane.
Author Fact: Marion Zimmer is a New York woman, born in nearby Albany. She died of a heart attack in 1999.
BookLust Twist: Pearl dedicates a whole paragraph to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon in Book Lust in the chapter called “King Arthur” (p 137), although King Arthur plays a very minor part in the story.
Middleton, Dorothy. Victorian Lady Travellers. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1965.
It is apparent almost immediately the genuine admiration in Middleton’s voice as she describes the lives and accomplishments of each “Victorian Lady Traveller.” Each chapter is dedicated to a different prominent adventurer between 1830 and 1936, seven in all: Isabella Bird Bishop, Marianne North, Fanny Bullock Workman, May French Sheldon, Annie Taylor, Kate Marsden and the ever-famous Mary Kingsley. Middleton dedicates approximately 22 pages to each woman (including considerable chunks of quotations from each explorer’s book or journal, if she has authored one). Granted, it’s a short book so I wish Middleton had written more and quoted less.
But, speaking of quotes – Quotes from the sections on my two favorite travelers, first Isabella Bird Bishop: “In her seventieth year she ordered a tricycle because she needed more exercise” (p 53). Second, Mary Kinsley: “Avoiding the hippos, the ran into crocodiles, and the scene took on a striking resemblance to the pictures of intrepid explorers in the story-books of her childhood” (p 160).
My one other “criticism” is that I wish the photographs could have been as carefully organized as the text. For example, chapter one is all about Isabella Bird Bishop. The reader is drawn into her adventures, immersed into her life and no one else’s, so it is a little unsettling to come across a picture of Marianne North in the same chapter.
Interesting side note: out of the seven travelers covered in Victorian Lady Travellers four of them were born in October. Very cool.
Author Fact: Dorothy Middleton died on February 3rd, 1999.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Lady Travelers” (p 142). Duh.
McMillan, Terry. Waiting to Exhale. New York: Pocket Books, 1993.
Unfortunately, I saw the movie before I read the book. This embarrasses me because I hate picturing the movie characters while reading. It traps me. I don’t like having someone else’s imagination dictate what I see in my own mind, but it can’t be helped this time around. Lela Rochon (who reminds me of Robin Givens), Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Gregory Hines have all been cast for me and there is nothing I can do about it.
This is the ultimate chick lit story. Four women, all in their mid to late 30s, all searching for something, have a friendship in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s that friendship that gets them through all the different circumstances they deal with. Okay, I’m being coy. The circumstances mostly involve men. They all want a man to call their own. That’s the one thing they all have in common (besides age and race). Sex and the relentless chase. They all want to be in a relationship solid enough to breathe easy in. Savannah is independent and a little jaded by men. She definitely reminded me of someone I know. Bernadine (Bernie) has been left by her husband for a younger woman, a white woman. Speaking of the movie, she has the scene we all can’t forget: torching her husband’s belongings in the back seat of his expensive vehicle, then selling everything else for a dollar at a tag sale. Robin’s story is told from her perspective. She is a little naive when it comes to men. She believes in the power of astrological signs and smooth lines. Gloria is my favorite. Single handedly raising her teenager son, the father of her child has just told her he is gay. Despite all that she has a good head on her shoulders.
Lines that made me laugh: “He needs to suffer for a while, long enough to realize that a woman’s love is a privilege not his right” (p 46), and “I would have loved to say “Let go of me and go home, you tub of lard,” but you just can’t say that kind of thing without hurting someone’s feelings” (p 55).
Author Fact: McMillan has a really cool website, but what’s even cooler is that she was influenced by libraries at a very young age.
Brook Trivia: Waiting to Exhaleis a best seller that was made into a movie in 1995.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in two different chapters. First in the chapter called “African American Fiction: She Says” (p 12) and later in the chapter called “Women’s Friendships” (p 248).
Miller, Sue. While I Was Gone.
My mother borrowed this book from a house she manages. For that reason I needed to finish it before leaving the island. Piece of cake. I was able to read this, start to finish, in two days. Mostly because I found myself thinking about it long after I had put it down.
While the plot was amazing Jo Becker wasn’t a likable character for me. Which is probably what Sue Miller wanted from me. I found her to be deceitful, conniving, and more than a little self centered and selfish. Jo is a woman of lies; an easy liar. So much so that her everyday relationships are tinged with half truths and falsehoods. Even her daughters recognize her deceit and are sensitive to her phoniness. When an old roommate from Jo’s past resurfaces more lies are uncovered.
But it’s not her falsity that hangs like sour fruit. It’s her selfishness that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. She misinterprets the intentions of the old roommate and begins to fantasize about an affair with him. When she thinks about how easy it would be to commit adultery she barely gives thought to whether or not her husband has ever thought about straying. When a terrible secret stands between Jo and having the affair she expects her husband to support her and not be upset by the turn of events.
The best part of While I was Gone was the character development of Jo’s husband. Watching Daniel struggle with jealousy and anger was like a metamorphosis. He emerges a different man.
This book made me question secrets. Which is worse? A half truth or a half lie?
Best line: “With the closing of the door I felt released from the awareness of his sorrow that had held me in his orbit” (p 8).
Author fact: Sue Miller has connections to Western Massachusetts.
Book Trivia: While I Was Gone was made into a 2004 movie starring Kirstie Alley.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Wayward Wives” (p 232).
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Signet Classic, 1982.
Who hasn’t read Jane Eyre? Who hasn’t fallen in love with plucky, adventurous, moral, Jane? It’s a story everyone knows. When we first meet Jane she is ten years old and living with her deceased uncle’s family. She is despised by her aunt and cousins and considered lower than a servant (at least a servant earns her wages). As a result of Janes’s disharmonious and sometimes violent relationship with the Reed family Jane is sent away to a boarding school. From there Jane is trained as a governess and sent to the employ of Mr. Rochester. Because this is a romance it is obvious Jane and Mr. Rochester will fall deeply in love. Because this is a classic romance it is obvious there will be conflict. The conflict is Mr. Rochester is already married to a mentally ill and violent woman he keeps locked in an attic. Ever virtuous Jane leaves Mr. Rochester until telepathy steps in and Jane feels the need to rush back to Mr. Rochester. She arrives in time to see that Bertha has set the Thornfield mansion on fire and committed suicide. Mr. Rochester is blinded and loses a hand in the blaze. Jane promises to never leave Mr. Rochester again. Their love is triumphant and they live happily ever after. Of course, this is the much-condensed version!
The story of Jane Eyre has been widely criticized for its unrealistic episodes of ghosts and moments of 6th sense. Critics find it unbelievable that Jane is able to travel from one place to another as quickly and as efficiently as she does and it is downright miraculous that she finds a cousin who coincidentally has family wealth to bestow on her. Despite these criticisms Jane Eyre remains a lasting favorite. Obviously, there is a fan base willing to see the value of the suspension of belief.
Author Fact: Charlotte Bronte was one of six children born in the Bronte family. She tried her hand at being a governess (for ten years) before giving it up to write. She died at age 39 in pregnancy. Bummer.
Book Trivia: Jane Eyre has been transformed into movies, plays, operas, symphonies, ballets, and operas no less than 35 times. It has inspired countless retellings, spin-offs and songs. Its popularity resonates with young and old, men and women making it one of the best-loved classics ever.
BookLust Twist: Jane is very popular with Ms. Pearl. It is mentioned four different times between Book Lust and More Book Lust.. From Book Lust it is mentioned in the chapter called “Companion Reads” (p 64). I was to read Jane with Wide Sargasso Sea (of course) by Jean Rhys and The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Also in the chapter called “Romance Novels: “Our Love is Here To Stay” (p 204). From More Book Lust in two different chapters. First, in the chapter called “Brontes Forever” (p 34) and then again in the chapter called “Fractured Fairy Tales” (p 94).
Campbell, Bebe Moore. Brothers and Sisters. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 1994.
Discrimination is discrimination. When asked about Brothers and Sisters Campbell said if a person of color is ignored by a white waitress it is just as psychologically damaging as if the person of color is made to sit at the back of the bus. I see her point but there is a small part of me that has to ask two questions. One, is the person of color being ignored because of skin color or is the person of color being ignored by a really bad waitress? Two, does a book like Brothers and Sisters bring attention and awareness or fuel the fires of racism? I was talking to someone yesterday about the holocaust. Being German he was complaining that his country, “beats a dead horse” when remembering and making up for the atrocities of World War II. He feels that the constant reminders actually keep hate alive and if the powers that be let history slide into hazy remembrance “it wouldn’t be such a big deal.”I disagree but I have to admit it is an interesting point.
It took me a few pages to get into Brothers and Sisters. The introductions of the characters is exaggerated ; their personalities are inflated beyond reality. I found them to be too stereotypical. The need to illustrate the main character, Esther Jackson, as perfect is overdone. In the first chapter Esther is described as “efficient, tall, large breasted, slim hipped, strong, coordinated, powerful, smooth cocoa-colored skinned, muscular legged, pleasant faced, professional, congenial, full lipped, beautiful, meticulous, painfully perfect, impeccable, devoted to duty, well-enunciated, precise.” Yet, it is hard to like her because when it comes to dealing with white people she has these attributes, “rage, anger, venomous, hostility, violent, frowning.” She becomes wild-eyed and shaking at times. The opinions and racism Esther demonstrates are so vehement I have to wonder if they aren’t a reflection of the author’s feelings.
Esther Jackson is trying to make a career for herself at a downtown Los Angeles bank right after the April 1992 riots. She currently works in middle management but dreams of climbing higher. She knows that because of the color of her skin she must work twice as hard as her white counterpart to climb the corporate ladder. Despite the unfairness of the situation Esther herself practices prejudices when it comes to relationships and friendships. Beyond skin color she screens for financial status. Her motto is “no romance without finance.” But, when she allows herself to become friends with a white woman and finds herself dating a poor man things get complicated. In Brothers and Sisters you meet all kinds of characters with personal problems with society. The politics and backstabbing of all involved was fascinating. The entire story was a game of cat and mouse but exactly who was chasing who keeps you guessing.
Author Fact: Bebe Moore Campbell died at the age of 56 from brain cancer.
Book Trivia: Brothers and Sisters was written to encourage discussion about discrimination.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust twice. First, in the chapter called “African American Fiction: She Say (p 12). Then, in the chapter called California, Here We Come (p 50).