slemslempike: (books: slemslempike)
[personal profile] slemslempike
The Girls of Canby Hall: Roommates: Emily Chase
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Internal Affairs - Jill Tweedie
Travels with a Pram and Hot Flush and the Toy Boy - Sara Yeomans
The Lovers of Pound Hill - Mavis Cheek
Domestic Arrangements - Norma Klein
The Fault in our Stars - John Green
The Diaries of Jane Somers - Doris Lessing
Bluestockings - Jane Robinson
Mostly Good Girls - Leila Sales

I have heard people mention The Girls of Canby Hall since my first days on the Girlsown mailing list (which I occasionally miss, but if I want to read discussions of hair-washing I could easily go and post to a community for it), and wondered what an American school story series would be like. And now I have read one, I know. I rather enjoyed it, though I don't remember very much about the plot - I remember that one of the girls was there because her parents wanted her to have some distance from her boyfriend, and her boyfriend was, predictably, rubbish and didn't really respond to her calls or letters. The same girl said something racist towards her roommate, but it all got forgiven. I forget anything else. I rather liked it, though it is not traditionally schoolstoryish. More like a very strict version of university books like SVU and the Freshman books.

I really loved Wolf Hall. The opening bit from his childhood where his father is stamping on him rather put me off - less because of the violence but because it wasn't very interesting. But after that I couldn't get enough, racing to get to the end while never wanting it to finish. I was properly sad when his daughters died, and his wife died, and found all the intruiges and court business fascinating. I never studied the Tudors at school, so lots of it was very new to me, but obviously I knew that Katherine wasn't going to last.

Internal Affairs is a satirical feminist novel about a white British woman who gets sent by her BPAS/Planned Parenthood-a-like office to do an evaluation of a contraception organisation in a made up "third world" country. Some of it is about Charlotte (for that is the white British woman's name) failing to cope with the heat, flora, fauna and other such problems, some of it is the difficulty of actually getting any information out of Ministers and local managers about the programme when all they want to do is tell her how amazing it is at length again and again, and some of it is about the ethics of forcing women into contraception and sterilisation.

Travels with a Pram and Hot Flush and the Toy Boy is not quite as horrendously zany as the title suggests. It's classic women's press original fiction - unfulfilled middle-class housewife struggling with being an authentic self while cleaning things and children, but rather funny and sweet (occasionally a little like Letters from a Fainthearted Feminist in tone, though not style). Travels with a pram are her various ideas to Do Something while raising her children, and Hot Flush and the Toy Boy is her unlikely band with whom she appears on Top of the Pops in the sequel.

I think The Lovers of Pound Hill was another bookswap table book, as I don't think I'd have bought it. When Nuala was here she said that the characters weren't likeable, and that's rather true. They seem quite brittle and unreal even to the author. Pound Hill has one of those "ancient" priapic pictures on it, and the man who owns the hill wants to shut it off and charge admission. An archaeologist comes with an agenda of her own, and sort of liberates various people while doing it.

Domestic Arrangements is not Norma Klein's best work. I found a Goodreads review that sums it up pretty much:

"Tatiana" is a 14 year old of other worldly beauty and blatant pre pubescent sexual attractiveness. She is adored to the point of worship by her parents and her parent's friends. Her dad is especially agog over his perfect daughter's attributes. She is faultless. A Brooke Shields like beauty of monumental proportions but at the same time innocent and sweet to the bone, a great student, a good daughter and a talented actress. [...] The other egregious part of this book is the fact that Tatiana has an older sister, Delia, who is ugly and therefore completely unimportant to their parents or anyone else in the book other than her dad reminding his pretty daughter that her ugly sister is pitiable so treat her kindly. Poor Delia is described as having glasses, a huge nose, cystic acne (which is untreatable even by the top doctors in NY), and frizzy tufts of mousey brown hair. Tatiana has a perfect complexion, a chimeric mane -unparalleled in life or fiction - of crimson hair, giant, wolflike gray eyes, a tiny nose and a perfect body. Unbelievably, Delia is not even a better student than Tat, she doesn't even have the ugly yet smarter sister thing going for her. She has nothing. Needless to say Delia is not the parent's favorite and is largely ignored. She is, rightfully, resentful of her sister but not to the point of slashing her face and hacking her hair, which no one reading this book would fault her for.


Given all the hype I had somewhat assumed that The Fault in Our Stars would be an inevitably disappointing read. Not so at all! I wept in all the right places.

The Diaries of Jane Somers is a pair of novels that Doris Lessing released as an experiment - they were originally published as being by Jane Somers, with attempts made not to connect Doris Lessing to them. She wanted to see if they would get the same reaction without her famous name attached, according to the foreword. She was expecting people to catch on quite quickly, but I think she said that very few people did until the second book - and more people in the US did than the UK. I enjoyed the books for themselves as well, incredibly depressing, but interesting.

I would probably have enjoyed Bluestockings anyway because I like reading histories of women's education, and I was sorry I couldn't include more in my PhD. This focuses on university education, and although I could have wished for more, I was pleased that it included universities other than Oxbridge. There was a lot of fascinating information on how the foibles and preferences of the great personalities affected how the women's part of universities were run. Much of the stuff about the pettyfogging rules of appropriate comportment I knew, but were still enjoyable to read about.

I bought Mostly Good Girls almost by accident in a booksale in Mechelen. It looked like fairly standard teen fic about girls, which is what I like. Two girls go to a swish private school with heavy emphasis on academia in America. One is from a middle-class family and attends on scholarship - her parents are really into academia but generally quite laid-back, and the other is effortlessly beautiful, intelligent, and from a very wealthy family. They are friends. But the scholarship girl is more and more resentful that the rich girl finds things so easy, and the rich girl is disenaging from school and life, hooking up with a frankly dreadful boring boyfriend. In the end rich girl goes to a state school because she doesn't want to have this easy life, and tells scholarship girl that she misses her, and they haven't been hanging out, working on projects like they used to. So she asks scholarship girl if she wants to work on a project, and scholarship girl replies that she would like to do anything, as long as it's with her. LOVE.

I wish I hadn't got my book posts out of order. When I manage to get my old laptop's hard drive out I can retrieve those posts.
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