Book Review: Rebecca Solnit, The Mother of All Questions

It was, and still is, a sort of blame-the-victim framework, this insistence that women modify their presence in public space, or just give up and stay in, rather than we transform public space (or men) so that women have the right to walk down the street unharassed. The same blame has been applied to women in nearly every situation in which they are attacked by men, as a way of not blaming men.

Thank you Elle for letting me know of Solnit’s latest work, another slim volume of powerful feminist essays to follow last year’s impactful Men Explain Things to Me. From addressing that mother of all questions to celebrating a turning point in the women’s movement to an insightful review of the movie Giant, Solnit offers her usual thoughtful commentary on current feminist issues today. Witty, humorous, and yet sobering all at the same time, Solnit is the rare author who can make you laugh out loud and burst into tears all in the same paragraph. I can never wait to read what she offers next.

Love is a constant negotiation, a constant conversation; to love someone is to lay yourself open to rejection and abandonment; love is something you can earn but not extort.

Book Review: Helen Dunmore, Talking to the Dead

On the surface, Nina and Isabel appear to be like many close sisters, finishing each others thoughts and sentences and, above all else, fiercely loyal, despite many betrayals over the course of their relationship, big and little. After Isabel’s difficult birth of her first child, Nina, a traveling freelance photographer, goes to her older sister’s aid at her country house outside of Brighton, England. There the past confronts the sister’s as waves crashing on the shore as they struggle through the hottest summer in two hundred years, each consumed with their own savage version of the truth of the defining moment of their childhood, while betrayal takes on new levels and meaning. Excellent, compelling story with a riveting narrator that I was unable to put down much of Sunday.

Book Review: Anna Gavalda, Someone I Loved

After Chloé’s husband leaves her for another woman, her father-in-law takes her and her two daughters to his country house. As their days together unfold Chloé finds that the misconceptions she had about the man are too simple to be acceptable, as their relationship changes into something more complex just as it seems as if it’s about to end. While I read this short novel in one sitting, the questions their similar though different and ultimately human situations raised about love, selfishness, selflessness, and, indeed, the self will remain with me for some time.

Book Review: Daphne du Maurier, Hungry Hill

One of my favorite kind of books: a long family tragic saga spanning multiple generations. When Copper John opens a mine on Hungry Hill in the town of Doonhaven against pretty much the whole community’s will he invites a curse from a rival family, the Donovan’s. Passed down through each generation of successive John’s and Henry’s, one horrible thing after another happens to the family that extends to those brought into the family by marriage also, not just blood. The opposition to the mine as a main plot point was fitting to read now with the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline happening right now. A fantastic novel. She’s quick becoming one of my favorite authors.

Book Review: Daphne du Maurier, Jamaica Inn

While a dark enough movie, we are talking Hitchcock after all, the book is much, much darker. Perhaps it’s why most books are better than their movie counterparts, even when those movies are very well done: a good author can just get into a character’s head so much more, and in a different way. Right from the opening paragraphs du Maurier sets a sinister tone that refuses to let up until the very last paragraphs. And she does almost as good a job as Shirley Jackson at making a building one of the scarier characters. Although I was just as scared on the moors….

Book Review: Derek B. Miller, Norwegian By Night

By the end of this novel there were tears in my eyes and I had white-knuckled hands. Well-deserving of the Crime Writers Association John Creasey Dagger Award, awarded for a first crime novel published in the UK by a writer of any nationality, this plot-driven book is gripping from the start. Centering around the ghosts, past and present, of Sheldon Horowitz, a newly widowed 82-year old living the last of his days in Norway with the granddaughter he raised and her husband, and a fine work of crime fiction, the novel also explores what it means to be one of a thousand Jews in a country that declared itself neutral during WWII. After witnessing a brutal murder in a land with few, Sheldon flees the scene with a young boy, trusting his former marine’s instincts to aid them in their escape from the perpetrators of the crime as Horowitz also tries to escape his past. Fast-paced writing with good attention to character development that crime and mystery lovers will enjoy.