||[Aug. 31st, 2018|12:04 am]
Give Me Your Hand - Megan Abbott
Dear Madam President - Jennifer Palmieri
Leah on the Offbeat - Becky Albertalli
I'll Be Gone in the Dark - Michelle McNamara
Future Home of the Living God - Louise Erdrich
Unhinged - Omarosa Manigault Newman
A Study in Honor - Clair O'Dell
Give Me Your Hand revisits Abbott's favoured topics of female friendship and female rage, this time set in a research lab studying severe PMS. And if you've liked previous Megan Abbott books you'll probably like this one too. I must admit though, I keep picking up her books thinking I'm going to like them more than I do, and I can't put my finger on exactly why they don't entirely work for me, because they're all technically brilliantly written, and about subjects that should be right up my alley. I guess they're maybe that little bit too dark for me.
Jennifer Palmieri worked in both the Obama White House and on the Clinton campaign and her contribution to the ever growing "what that fuck is happening?" genre is a slim volume framed as a letter full of advice for America's eventual first female president. Dear Madam President is a quick read - I read it in a single sitting - and its biggest takeaway is that people hold women to different, and harsher standards than the do men. Not an original observation, to be sure, but a valid one, and one that a lot of people seem weirdly reluctant to accept.
I didn't read Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda but I did really love the move adaptation, and there was a bit (the bit where all the kids are meeting up in costume to go to Bram's party) where it seemed like they were hinting at Leah having a thing for Abby, so I jumped straight into the second book Leah on the Offbeat where that is indeed the case. God, if I'd read this book as a teenager teen me would have over-identified like whoa with nerdy, overweight but not bothered by it , never been kissed Leah Burke. And thirty-five year old me really loved the book too.
I don't read a lot of true crime. It's like Gillian Flynn says in her introduction to Michelle McNamara's I'll be Gone in the Dark, you have to accept that you're making yourself a voyeur to the worst thing that's ever happened to another person. And the fact that McNamara died suddenly while writing it added, for me, another layer of ick to it. But there had been a lot of buzz about this book looking the golden state killer, a serial rapist and murderer who terrorised Californians for a decade during the seventies and eighties, not least because not long after its publication he was finally caught. McNamara is a brilliant crime writer, a brilliant writer full stop, which is never more obvious than in the places that her collaborators have had to fill in the blanks to get the book ready for publication. And it is darkly fascinating. But, still, ick.
Future Home of the Living God is a reproductive dystopia (there's lot of them about lately) set in a world where evolution has stopped, and in some cases started running backwards. The scene where a sabre tooth tiger eats a chocolate lab while our protagonist watches out her kitchen window illustrates the premise well, but, darn, I could have lived without it. Pregnant, and later on fertile women, are expected to turn themselves into the government to see if they can produce quote normal unquote babies. It was brilliantly written; it was also meandering, bleak, and ultimately unsatisfactory.
Okay, I'll hold my hands up. As part of my continuing addiction to the soap opera/prelude to the end of the world that is US politics, I read Omarosa's book. I am not proud of myself. I also felt like I needed to shower after finishing it. If asked to summarise it I would do so thusly: Holy revisionist history, Omarosa!
A Study in Honor is a near future, pre-cyberpunk, political dystopia set in a US riven by a second civil war. Janet Watson is a PTSD riddled veteran with a malfunctioning cybernetic arm who through circumstances ends up sharing an apartment with undercover federal agent Sara Holmes. It is a perfectly acceptable pre-cyberpunk, political thriller. But the weakest thing about it, the very weakest thing, is pasting on the names Holmes and Watson. Look, just because Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain and you can use it, doesn't mean you should. Watson's PTSD was really well done, and making her black and a lesbian was an A+ choice. Although I did have some quibbles about the way the book leaned into its portrayal of race, which as the whitest person in the world second only to Benedict Cumberbatch I am utterly unqualified to comment on; I'll just say I was not surprised to discover that the author was white too, and leave it at that. But Sara had nothing in common with Sherlock beyond a last name; she was a spy not a detective, and her "deductions" were the result of cybernetic implants and high speed wifi. She was also a blank slate; the name Holmes obviously being meant to stand in for any depth, personality, or characterisation. It was really disappointing.
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