||[Mar. 6th, 2018|12:14 am]
Red Clocks - Leni Zumas
Disobedience - Naomi Alderman
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit - Jaye Robin Brown
The Wanderers - Meg Howrey
Anatomy of a Scandal - Sarah Vaughan
A History of Britain in 21 Women - Jenni Murray
The Seagull - Ann Cleeves
Utopia For Realists: and how we can get there - Rutger Bregman
Null States - Malka Older
I keep reading about how there is a new wave of feminist dystopia novels coming. Gosh, I wonder why that might be. Red Clocks is set in a US five minutes from now where a president most people didn't vote for and a number of ideologically driven governors amend the constitution to ban any and all abortions and make fertility treatments really hard to come by. The thing I really liked about it is-- Like, The Handmaid's Tale is scary, but it's allegorically scary, it wouldn't happen like that, not exactly like that, and not that quickly; but this, the idea that there could be this huge sweeping reduction to women's rights, and there would be some grumbling, and some protests, but mostly life would just chug on, that's more insidiously frighting, because that's possible in the short to medium term. And because the tragedies that come from it - because you can't force a woman to go through with a pregnancy she absolutely doesn't want, all you can do is force her into taking stupid risks, and come down like the fist of a vengeful God on terrified teenagers - are small and intimate and not a large scale horror movie, people just, kinda, get used to it.
The bit of world building that really fascinated me was the Pink Wall, where the US has somehow strong-armed Canada into turning any woman suspected of seeking an abortion back at the border. It got me thinking about about the Repeal the 8th vote coming up in Ireland, and how my sister who's lived in Galway for years thinks that there would have been a vote ages ago if not for the fact that it's so easy (not easy, no, but there's no one turning you back at the airport) to go to England, allowing people to just... keep not thinking about it.
There are four pov characters: a teenager who's pregnant and doesn't want to be, her teacher who can't get pregnant and desperately wants to, the mother of two young children, and a weirdo who lives in the woods and knows more about the gynaecological uses of plants than the authorities are comfortable with. It's actually a very good literary dystopia, with a dystopia that feels all too possible.
I read two books about religion and lesbianism in quick succession, and my reactions to them probably tell you more about me than it does about the books.
Disobedience I picked up because of the Rachel Weisz adaptation coming out later this year (trailer here), and I wouldn't necessarily recommend it someone on that basis. The trailer makes it look the movie will focus much more on the relationship between the two women; in the book their relationship is pretty incidental to a study of grief and an insular religious community. I also wouldn't recommend it to anyone looking for a book about a happy f/f relationship; the two women don't end up together, and I don't think as a reader you were meant to want them too. But if you're interested in a very quiet, very British, room-with-a-view-with-a-staircase-and-a-pond type novel about the orthodox Jewish community in London then I can quite honestly recommend it.
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruits is a YA novel set in, well, Georgia where the out daughter of an evangelical preacher agrees to go back into the closet for a year at the behest of her father, and then, dun dun dun, meets a girl. It is bright, it is cheerful, it is well written, it has a happy ending where the two girls end up together. And it left me feeling squirmy and uncomfortable and particularly British. Maybe it's the generally hangdog vibe of the anglican church, maybe it's that nothing will cure you of catholicism quite so thoroughly as thirteen years of catholic school, but there's something about evangelical religion, particularly US style evangelical christianity which makes me, well, squirmy and uncomfortable.
Anatomy of a Scandal is a courtroom drama about a disgraced politician accused of rape. With plot twists that wouldn't be out of place in a soap opera and some really questionable punctuation choices I barely finished it.
The Wanderers is about three astronauts participating in a simulated mission to mars for a private corporation, a la space x, to help work out the logistics for a later manned mission. But as the simulation continues and becomes more and more elaborate they start to wonder if maybe they haven't been sent into space for real. It's claustrophobic, and ambiguous, and paranoia inducing, and I really liked it a lot.
A History of Britain in 21 women was by the lady what does Women's Hour on the radio, and I'm not sure who the intended audience was? Each chapter was a precis of the life of one british woman from Boudica to Nicola Sturgeon; it was too much stuff I already knew about the women I was familiar with, and not enough information on the ones that were new to me. I'm just not sure who this book was actually for.
I've never really been able to get into the Vera novels before, even though the the TV show is excellent, with a top-notch line in dramatic shots of the Northumberland countryside, and grouchy upper-middle aged lady detectives. With The Seagull I finally cracked it, you've got to pretend Brenda Blethyn is reading it to you. If they're not having her narrate the audiobooks then they're missing a trick.
In Utopia for Realists Rutger Bregman advocates for a universal basic income, a fifteen hour workweek, and a world without borders. And, look, I am totally convinced by his arguments in favour of a universal basic income. Partly because I work in social care, and my retirement plans are a) universal basic income, or b) that comet that wiped out the dinosaurs, I guess; and partly because you can tell that UBI is what Bregman is passionate about, it's what he's thought most deeply about, and where his arguments are most cogent.
He's pretty good at making the case for a fifteen hour workweek too, and I can't tell if the fact that I was less convinced was because his argument was less refined, or because my lived experience of mcjobs and bullshit jobs has made me a cynic, because that seems to me distinctly more utopian and less likely to happen in my lifetime than UBI. By the time Bregman gets to the section on universal free movement... well, he throws in some statistics in support of his case, but you can tell that he hasn't really tuned his giant, empathetic brain onto the subject with any kind of focus.
So the book starts strong and fades, but there's still lots of food for thought there, and I'd really recommend it.
I'd really freakin' adored the micro-democratic world-building of Infomocracy where people are governed in clusters of ten thousand people, and your government may be totally different from the government two streets over. So I was so disappointed when most of Null States took place outside the world of micro-democracy. This is the second book in a series; murders were committed and then never solved, plot arcs were set up and then barely advanced an inch. It was a second book so second book-y that it made me not want to read the third book.
I will say that the first book, Infomocracy, was really good and didn't feel like it needed a sequel.
I started but DNF'd The Woman in the Window having decided that I'd liked it better back when it was called The Girl on the Train.
(February Graphic Novels:
Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat!: Careless Whiskers
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur: BFF
I have decided to embrace that what I like in comics are bright colours, simple stories, localised happiness, and female characters aplenty. Sorry, dude who's my only rl friend into comics, but I am never going to read The Killing Joke.
AKA Hellcat! was easily my favourite of all the comics I've read so far. I'm bummed that it's finished, but also not bummed because I feel like three trades is a complete story and plenty for me to treasure forever.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur was super lovely, but I feel like I got it and don't need to read more. I shall certainly look forward to the upcoming animated show for mornings when I am hungover and/or sad.
The other thing I've decided I like in comics is things that are off to the side and don't get hijacked by the main continuity. Like, I don't care that She-Hulk got taken out of commission in whatever smash-bang comic book event was going at the time, she should have been able to continue being bffs with Patsy in AKA Hellcat!, goddammit!
This is true of the movies too. I keep saying that I don't care about the MCU, even though I've liked-to-more-than-liked the last three that I've seen (Homecoming, Ragnarock and Black Panther), when what I really mean is that I don't care about Steve, Tony, Infinity Stones, or Thanos.)
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